Frances is an account director at Four Travel, travel specialist team at Four Communications. Frances has more than ten years’ experience in destination, consumer and corporate PR, and has worked in event management organising high profile events for Elton John AIDS Foundation, private clients based in Monaco – and even a Royal Wedding.
Frances started her PR career as an intern at Talk PR before landing a role at business and corporate agency Kinross & Render PR.
Whilst working at Kinross & Render Frances was fortunate enough to promote the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, ‘The Alternative Nobel Prize’ and in particular highlight the work of Laureate Jacqueline Moudeina.
Her courageous campaign for justice truly inspired Frances to work with charities dedicated to assisting destitute asylum seekers, as well as homeless and vulnerable adults in London in her recreational time.
Since joining Four in 2013 Frances has managed a range of clients including Caribbean Tourism Organisation, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Cambridge Airport, Air France-KLM, Hand Picked Hotels, Sotheby’s International Realty, and Holland America Linecruises.
A highlight of her career includes setting up a BAME group at Four Communications, which resulted in her being awarded Four Communications Diversity Champion in 2018.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
London born, Ghanaian jollof-raised
● How did you get into PR/communications?
I didn’t know PR was a thing until my year abroad. I was in Berlin when then presidential hopeful Barack Obama delivered his foreign policy speech in front of the Victory Column –the same place spot that Presidents Reagan and Kennedy delivered their speeches. I was amazed that a PR team had been so instrumental in taking this senator out of obscurity and thrust him into the limelight; finding the right opportunities for him and had successfully advanced his political campaign. From that moment I wanted to understand more about PR and how it could make or break someone’s reputation or brand.
● What do you love about your job?
I’d consider myself a people person so love that I get to work with some great, creative minds in this industry. Working in the travel sector I love that I get to travel for my job to some gorgeous locations such as Florida’s Fort Myers & Sanibel, Italy, and Croatia. It’s definitely a nice perk! My most memorable trip was my first press trip where I hosted journalists in Ypres, Belgium. We visited Tyne Cot Cemetery and Menin Gate as part of a WWI commemoration. It was a very poignant and unforgettable experience.
● What are you most proud of?
I’d say that I am most proud of interviewing Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera, and Chineke! Orchestra founder, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE. When I was first approached about interviewing these incredible people I wanted to say no because I was afraid but I’m so glad that I said yes instead. I was afraid because I didn’t think I was good enough or qualified enough to interview anyone yet alone two very creative people. I had to remind myself that I’m my worst critic and that sometimes I need to silence the negative thoughts. Seeing the end result and the response to the interviews made me realise I had no reason to be afraid.
These were two of the greatest opportunities in my professional career to date. I’m also most proud of this because I did this as part of the BAME group and it piqued a lot of interest and conversation from all my peers, not just BAME colleagues.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
One of the hardest lessons to learn is that you can’t please everybody. I find this extremely difficult as a people person (or should that be pleaser?), but sometimes it’s best to do nothing more than your very best and leave it at that. This is something that I have learnt quite recently managing a project and working with a large team and different personalities. It’s not an easy lesson to learn but finding a happy medium is very much a necessary one in order to navigate one’s way up the professional ladder.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
I know she’s not real but Olivia Pope. She goes the extra mile for her clients leaving no stone unturned. Her methods can be questionable at times!
On a more serious note I would say that my favourite people in PR are Alastair Campbell and Yvette Noel-Schure. Believe it or not I also got into PR because of Alastair Campbell. I studied French and German so initially wasn’t sure if I could go down the PR route with my degree – until I learnt that Alastair Campbell had also studied languages. I’m also a fan of Yvette Noel-Schure. Amongst other celebrities she is Beyoncé’s publicist – need I say more?!
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The most important skill to master is to have integrity; be a keeper of your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. I’m always surprised when I chat with my journalist friends who tell me the number of PRs that do not follow through. Relationships are important in our industry so it’s best nurture them by doing the basic things – doing what you say you will do!
● What is your favourite social network and why?
My favourite social network is easily Instagram. I like that Instagram is very visual and captivating. It’s a great marketing tool and can be easily digested. On a personal level, I have a tendency to scroll through posts and have been known to wile away the time in the comment section. I’ve also recently returned to using my Twitter but tend not to use Facebook at all for anything work related.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
At the moment I really enjoy W Talk podcast. I love the topics discussed and that there are some take away points that I can meditate on in my own time. I also like listening to The Receipts, and I listen to Three Shots of Tequila vicariously through my husband. I find Three Shots particularly entertaining and it gives quite a good insight into the male perspective.
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
My favourite journalist is Christiane Amanpour. She has interviewed some of the world’s greatest and infamous leaders, and she does so with such flair and great poise.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I have ever been given is not to take myself so seriously; it’s PR not ER! Our
industry can definitely be fast-paced but it’s supposed to be enjoyed not endured.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
I have to say that the biggest PR campaign fail for me has to be H&M’s campaign where the focus ended up being on the young girl’s hair. For me it was a fail on H&M’s part because as a global brand the communications and marketing team should have had a stylist on hand that was able to work with Afro hair textures. I think that this lack of preparation resulted in unnecessary backlash as well as negative comments and responses to the brand. In terms of biggest PR campaign yay it has to be everything Nike. The company has recently launched a campaign with BIGKID Foundation and the London NFL Academy that I just love. It’s great that the campaign has highlighted the great work that BIGKID Foundation has done in helping young individuals escape gangs, drugs and a life of crime, and helping them achieve a sporting career. This follows from Nike’s very successful ‘Dream Crazier’ project and launching its plus size mannequins earlier in the year. Female athletes were celebrated rather than tolerated and, for me, these campaigns show Nike as market leaders and pioneers in their industry.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
First and foremost I think it’s important that diversity in our industry doesn’t become a tick box exercise in so far as companies just hiring BAME people to fill quotas. I think the best way to encourage diversity is for us in the industry to make more noise about why it’s such a great industry to work in – and it really is! We also need to educate our colleagues about the sensitivities and differences within the BAME community such as why a colleague may not want to celebrate a success in the pub. This is important for every level of a company.
Frances 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.