Jahanara has been working in the B2B world of PR for over a year now and has a current client list consisting of Google Cloud, Ocado Technology and Canon UK B2B.
During her time at Nelson Bostock Unlimited (NBU), she has participated in and organised many events. She joined the 2019 Unlimited Pride Panel, where she spoke particularly about the LGBTQ+ spectrum as an Asian woman, which was live-streamed to New York offices. Jahanara also leads on diversity and inclusion work within the agency, where she has organised panel events for International Women’s Day 2020, hosted students from Into University for an “Intro to PR” day and given a presentation at BlackRock offices to students in collaboration with Into University. Alongside this, she has also fundraised for the agency’s charity partner, Mind. Through numerous fundraisers, educational sessions, and mindfulness sessions, Jahanara has pushed for the acceptance and understanding of mental health issues throughout her company.
Jahanara has a keen interest in social impact projects, languages, traveling and assisting people from underrepresented backgrounds. One of her goals is to work in rural Pakistan supporting women’s education. Similar to the work she has done for international charities based in Zambia.
Jahanara has a BA in Social Anthropology with a focus on technology.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Pakistani! Youngest. Tea maker.
How did you get into PR/communications?
In 2013, I had a small communications role for a charity based in Elephant and Castle. It gave me experience within the PR/communications industry that I don’t believe I would have been able to gain through a traditional role. After that I studied social anthropology at SOAS University – not exactly a PR degree, but it connected me to different aspects of media and communications. Once I graduated, my friend recommended I apply for a role at Nelson Bostock Unlimited. It wasn’t something I was entirely confident going for, but over a year later, here we are.
What do you love about your job?
For a large part of my dissertation at university I researched technology at the intersection of human lives. At NBU our client base is so varied within the technology space, I get to explore the reality of how technology is being weaved into our everyday habits. It feels like a natural fit to be in a role where I can really delve into the technical bits around different AI/ML machines to the consumer-facing aspects of app development.
In terms of media relations, I’m really interested in what grabs peoples’ attention. What is it about this article’s headline or content that made somebody want to share it? What is it about this announcement that makes journalists want to write about it and have briefings? I love being in a job that lets you build relationships with journalists, own announcements and news, and build your own networks.
What are you most proud of?
I was always a high achiever but around the ages of 17-19 my mental health wasn’t the best. I tried many times to get through college so I could get to university but it just never seemed to work out for me. So, at 20 I decided I was going to push through one final time and take control of my future.
I worked part-time jobs and struggled through college to finally get a place at SOAS University. It was the kind of place I daydreamed about attending but I never really thought it was going to become a reality.
For three years, I fought against mental health barriers and imposter syndrome to finally graduate on what felt like the hottest day of my entire existence (June 2019 if you recall the heatwave). I really don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud knowing that at 24, I finally had the degree I fought so hard for. I still really enjoy reading about new and old anthropological studies. I may not work in the field, but it will always hold a very special place in my heart.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Sometimes you won’t get the recognition you deserve. Sometimes you’ll have to be your own cheerleader. I would remind you though, that there are definitely people in your corner wherever you go – don’t let a lack of recognition hold you back from achieving your goals. The right people will see you, just let your work speak for you.
Who are your favourite people in PR/comms and why?
One of my favourite people in PR is Brad Pogson. I met him at NBU last summer, where our first interaction was being on the Pride Panel together. As a longstanding ally of D&I efforts, I’ve always respected his work ethic and drive to create change for the better. Since leaving NBU this year – he has launched his own PR firm, Press Office, based in Auckland, New Zealand. Through an entire pandemic, he has worked hard and maintained professionalism, something I have seen many people fail to do. He is getting front page and broadcast coverage. I imagine it must have been a very scary move, but I have all the faith that Brad and his company will only continue to succeed.
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
Honestly, for me, it’s managing expectations. Be real and open – if you can’t deliver on something within a specific time or date, then say it. Delivering high-quality work, consistently, is so important – make sure you give yourself the time to perform to the best of your ability without rushing and submitting something half done.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Reddit. It’s not the usual one most people look at in this industry, but it has so much untapped potential. From developers to chefs, to academics, it has a space for everybody. You can speak to people from all over the world and there really isn’t that much of an expectation to have X amount of followers or Y amount of likes (or upvotes in this case) on a post. Being on the internet, you will of course come across some people you’d rather not interact with, and luckily, they can be easily hidden on Reddit.
I find it to be so useful for when I just want to zone out in bed and read obscure facts about a plant in the mountains of some faraway place, although more often than not during lockdown it’s mainly been just looking at animal videos. During my dissertation research, I even reached out to some anthropologists on Reddit to help with my research – I even ended up citing them in my final piece. It’s most definitely a network I would encourage people to check out.
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I love Lore by Aaron Mahnke (if you know the podcast, you read that in his voice). It’s a gentle sounding podcast that looks at the almost philosophical side of folklore. I listen to it as I sleep and sometimes, I’ll have a dream about whichever story I’m listening to at the time. It’s very interesting to me, how over time folklore has evolved to translate the world around us in a more palatable way.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
I would say Charlotte Jee from MIT Tech Review. The relationship between media and PR teams can sometimes be fairly tense, however, I find her personality to be rather open and really lovely. She is responsive and honest with her feedback, which I know many PRs would love to have from journalists! Her work is also super interesting and very critical, which I think gives fair perspectives on the news. I do also love her willingness to be upfront about her opinions, especially on Twitter! Also, she likes my tweets which is always a bonus in my books!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
You don’t have to sit there and take anything. If you really aren’t enjoying something or feel like it doesn’t work for you – then speak up and move on. People will do their best to get to you, but you have the power to remove yourself from that scenario and dictate how you want to be treated. Speak up, flag concerns, record interactions, don’t let things build up – stand your ground. I’ve been in places where I’ve let things build up and eventually had to leave entirely. I wish I’d stood up for myself and been vocal – it also sets a precedent for whoever comes after you in case they go through the same issues you have or did.
How would you describe 2020 in one word?
Who is your coronavirus comms hero and why?
PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN. I have loved her for so long – she is a shining example of how to be a feminist and an actual human in politics. She handled the crisis in her country so well while maintaining realism, professionalism, and compassion.
Finally… Which brand impressed you with their response to Black Lives Matter and why?
Brand image is something that can make or break a brand, and so often brands choose to be neutral or passive when faced with criticism from their customers. While it was a small and simple gesture, I was really impressed with Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips’ response on Twitter to customers who felt the brand stances did not align with their own.
It was the “heat” they brought when making it clear that they are happy to lose racist customers in order to support their black customers and colleagues that really stood out for me. It’s not often that you see a brand directly telling customers to not buy their products! Furthermore, when a competitor is brought into the conversation as a “screw you, I’ll buy X brand instead”, you would easily assume the competitor brand would be happy to take on the new customer! However, in this case, PG Tips also backed up Yorkshire Tea in #Solidaritea.