Esther Akinola Is ambitious and driven with a zeal for creative communication and pop culture. She started her freelance social media career in early 2018 and has rapidly proven herself to be a smart and creative business woman. She has racked up a number of small business clients to date and currently works as the freelance content planner and editor for Phillip Morris. As a freelancer, Esther has successfully completed a number of digital projects, including working with Twitter UK to launch their West African Moments news content in January 2019. As well as being a social media enthusiast, she’s also an avid baker – not a great one but she endeavours regardless!
Describe your background/yourself in 5 words max?
Nigerian, Yoruba, oldest child, well-travelled, artist
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
I started off as a graphic design student at university but fell in love with editorial and content during my ‘print and writing’ module in my second year. After achieving a first-class grade for my African-themed magazine project, I was offered an internship at BBC Immediate Media for two months. The news curation and editorial meetings inspired me to pursue communication through other mediums apart from image. So, after graduating, I landed my first job as a multimedia journalist at The Sun and my career has been a journey ever since.
What do you love about your job?
There are a lot of things I like about my job… and some things I dislike. I love the novelty of starting something from the ground up when conjuring new ideas for a creative project. As a freelancer, I love it when I get to pitch my ideas to a client and win an account. But, in all honesty, I also love/hate dealing with fussy clients who refuse to cooperate with me when they have a specific idea in mind – I’m a social media specialist, not a god (sort of). It’s both frustrating and challenging when it comes to working with such people, but I love a challenge. And most of all, I like getting paid.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the person I’ve become over the last year. In early 2018, I resigned from a comfortable job, stumbled and then brushed my shoulders off. I dived into the world of self-employment at quite an early stage in my career and I have no regrets. Being a black person in the communications industry is tough but being a black woman in the industry is another ball game entirely. Once upon time, I’d have panicked at the idea of pitching to a room full of white men in suits but now I own my position with confidence. I’m proud of myself – a young black business woman.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That not everyone will like you, your ideas or what you stand for. And that’s okay.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Can I mention my favourite business person instead? Patricia Bright – she’s not in PR but she is in the business of social media marketing! I’ve been following the Brit Pop Princess (if you know, you know) for almost eight years and her journey to success has been an inspiration. She started off making YouTube videos about her hair and has progressed to writing books, selling hair products and even marketing for big brands such as Coke. Also, she’s Nigerian. Win win!
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
You really need to be a people person. Comms, in any form you choose to practice, is for human beings to consume. If you do not understand people or enjoy studying the culture of being a human, then you’ll struggle to understand or enjoy the communication industry. Not everyone is naturally an extroverted people person, but it helps to develop your skills in conversation, pitching and networking. The more you study people, the easier it will be for you to excel in your field.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram, obviously. Instagram is like Facebook for people who can’t be bothered to read their friend’s boring status updates. Me, I am that person who doesn’t want to read your Facebook updates. I do, however, want to see a cute picture of your dog. Double tap!
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Although she doesn’t consider herself to be a journalist anymore, I am a huge fan of her work. Oloni – a British Nigerian sexual health blogger. She’s an advocate for safe sex, women’s health and feminism. The sex-positive blogging community is saturated but few of these bloggers are people of colour. Oloni is one of the few black women whom I discovered, and I have since been impressed with her genuine passion for safe sex and her open discussions on Twitter about sexual assault.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum always says, ‘E?in iwájú ni ti ?`yìn nwò sáré’. Which means, it’s the lead of the horse in front that those behind follow. This basically means that a group is defined by its leader. So, if I seek to inspire people, run my own business or lead in any way, I need to be mindful of the kind of leader I choose to be.
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign featuring Serena Williams.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
I don’t think enough young people of colour are applying for jobs in the communication field, especially those with first generation immigrant parents. Encouragement starts from the home – helping young BAME students to navigate their creative career with a smart strategy. More BAME parents need to be open to the idea of their children pursuing a creative career. Not everyone is destined to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. The more we encourage young people of colour to confidently pursue creative courses in GCSE, A level and undergraduate, the larger the number of BAME applicants we’ll have.
Connect with Esther on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Esther is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. She will be mentored by David Levin, Creative Director, That Lot (social media agency).