Pakistani-born, British-bred, Darain is a seasoned PR & marketing pro whose love of social media is nourished by his career choice! Graduating in Psychology & Media from Leeds, he launched his comms career with a boutique PR agency in Milton Keynes. In the early noughties he relocated to Sydney, Australia, driving PR and Events programs for a B2B PR agency. After a stint in Doha (Qatar) working on The Asian Games 2006, he got his big break by securing Head of PR at the original social media darling – MySpace. Darain started at the company as its popularity was soaring and it became the fastest growing website of all time.
Over his 5-year tenure, Darain had to work hard to both rally support from the media and defend MySpace against them. The corporate and B2B work was balanced out with a raft of consumer activations; launching Myspace Music in Australia as well as crafting comms for the legendary MySpace Secret Shows program. This saw collaboration with some world class musicians such as The Cure, Florence & the Machine and Lily Allen. He then took on a 6- month gig with the WWF – heading up global comms for their Earth Hour initiative.
Soon after that wrapped, Darain returned to his homeland and landed a regional comms role at the world’s largest professional network – LinkedIn. Very much in start-up mode in 2011, Darain opened LinkedIn offices and launched the platform in new languages across the EMEA region in his first few years.
His remit evolved into global consumer comms where he developed a raft of Award-winning initiatives along the way. In 2018, Darain joined LinkedIn’s Brand Marketing function, which he now heads up across the region. He was responsible for formulating their local ‘jobs’ strategy which culminated in the creation of LinkedIn’s first ever UK TV ad in late 2019.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Politics geek. Social media whore.
● How did you get into PR/communications?
I was skint at university and needed to make some money – fast. One of my favourite bars (The Queen’s Court) was closing for a refurb – they ran a rather amazing ‘quids-in’ Monday night event (pound entry, all drinks a pound). Patrons were aghast at the loss of this most sacred of nights. I seized my chance and quickly cobbled together an alternative event. Without money for advertising I had to beg, schmooze and bribe journalists (with free drinks) to come to this fledgling club night. Turns out my PR career had started without me even knowing it.
● What do you love about your job?
I love that even after 8 years at the same company I’m excited to come to work every day. I love the career opportunities it continues to throw my way. I especially love all the amazing people I work with – not only are they some of the best PR/marketeers in the business, they are kind and warm too.
● What are you most proud of?
My son ☺
Professionally it has to be our recent UK TV ad – full of heart, warmth and humanity.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Life’s too short to stress about work when you’re not at work.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
“Favourite” is a bit of a stretch… but I find Dominic Cummings’ approach to comms both fascinating and frightening in equal measures.
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Measurement. Measurement. Measurement!
● What is your favourite social network and why?
Is this a trick question? LinkedIn. Obvs.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
Will you judge me if I tell you that I’m not a podcast listener?!
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Tony Grew. He’s a political writer for The Sunday Times and parliamentary journalist. He’s
also a very dear friend.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s PR not ER!
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
PR campaign fail: Home office chicken shop knife swap. Well intentioned, but utterly tone deaf.
PR yay: ASOS really nailed their reactive PR after one of their customers photos was trolled. They leapt on the opportunity by using the very photo in their own marketing for the dress in question. Bravo ASOS PR!
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
I love the work that organisations like Taylor Bennett Foundation are doing, they were quick to recognise the woeful underrepresentation of BAME people in the comms industry and they are doing something tangible about it. I’m really proud to have supported their efforts for the past 5 years, knowing that their brilliant program churns out some of the smartest new PR pros into the industry (my little brother, Sheeraz Gulsher, included).
Darain is one of 18 mentors for the 2020 BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. Applications for mentees are now open – click here to find out more. The closing date for applications is Friday 14 February 2020.