Janelle Feliciano is an Associate Creative Director in London. Originally from San Francisco she came to London in 2007 to study Graphic Design and Art Direction at Central Saint Martins. After her studies she started her career in the advertising industry and over the years has worked across multiple communication disciplines specialising in social and digital.
She recently made her first step into PR by joining Weber Shandwick joining their successful globally award-winning team led by ECD James Nester. Prior to Weber Shandwick Janelle was at ad agency Deep Focus London, where she launched Amazon Fashion in Europe with the body positive campaign, “I Wish I Could Wear”.
Prior to Deep Focus, Janelle was at social agency Jam where she worked on a suite of clients including Unilever, Nestle and Samsung. While at Jam she was behind “Tap to Give” –the world’s first charity turnstile which raised funds to provide clean drinking water for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Janelle was chosen by global creative leader Bob Isherwood to participate in the 2014 Cannes Young Lions Creative Academy and has won awards such as New York Festivals, One Show, Creative Circle and Campaign Big Awards. On the side she mentors young creatives for The One Club bootcamp and BIMA’s Digital Days.
She launched her career at digital agency Weapon7, with the UNICEF campaign “Pinning their Hopes” – the very first innovative charity campaign on Pinterest.
Describe your background in 5 words?
Filipina, American, Londoner, Female Creative
How did you get into PR?
My background is definitely not PR and if you asked me a 5 years ago I would have been guilty of a bit of sector snobbery. I went to Central Saint Martins and got a degree in Graphic Design, then moved straight into becoming a creative for above the line, digital and social agencies. But as I went through the different agencies, I realised that every sector helped me at my next job. I started added more strings to my bow and that was a good thing. After learning a lot around influencers and social, PR and Weber Shandwick became a logical and perfect next leap.
What do you love about your job?
Being a creative is perfect for those who are a master at being a jack of all trades. Just last week I was sake master, a documentary maker and a skin sensitivity specialist. A great creative lives and breathes what they work on.
What are you most proud of?
Taking leaps into the unknown. I love how uncomfortable it makes me feel. From moving to the UK to taking a risk and going to art school. To changing sectors and types of agencies. I’m a firm believer in not getting too comfortable; get too comfy and your work reflects that. Challenging yourself reenergizes your mind and soul.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Embrace the choices you make. I don’t come from a family of ad-men or parents who are barristers. I come from a family of immigrants and I myself am one as well. And because of this I have worked extra hard to make sure I became a creative. But choosing to work extra hard in a faraway country for the past 10 years has meant I have missed out on relationships with friends and loved ones. For many years I would beat myself up, questioning if I was selfish to place my responsibility as a sister, a friend, a grand-daughter on the back burner as I put my career first.
But at one point I had to let go of this guilt and embrace my choices. So instead I channel my energy into giving back tenfold. If I am going to be a creative I am going to be the best that I can be while helping others. Whether that is creating work pro-bono or inspiring young people to this industry.
Who are your favourite people in PR?
Having spent the past 7 years in advertising, PR folk are still relatively new to me, but in the first 6 months I can say my team here at Weber Shandwick have been nothing but inspiring. Coming from a male dominated industry it is refreshing to be surrounded by fellow successful women leaders.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sector?
As a creative I have entered PR in a unique time. People in PR traditionally have worn many hats and a lot of agencies are adopting a model closer to traditional ad agencies of working with specialists, like Creatives. Unfortunately, this means PR still has a bit of time before other sectors and clients trust and believe in the power of creativity in PR. But the great thing is that PR has amazing if not more opportunities than a lot of other sectors, so bring on the briefs!
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
See last question.
Who is your favourite tweeter and why?
I’ll be honest, I don’t use twitter but I do enjoy Instagram. My favourite instagrammer has to be @hawkeyehuey, a 7 year old analogue photographer. It’s important to keep learning especially from those younger than us. It’s their unjaded perspectives that helps us stay fresh.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram. I’m a visual lover and learner, so this is how I research the audiences that I need to create work for.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Super simple– Be nice and work hard.
Biggest PR fail and yay of 2017? (i.e. best and worst)
Best: When the Miss Peru pageant turned into a gender protest.
Worst: Trumps twitter account.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Encourage and embrace empathy. Empathy encourages us to take a step into others shoes. It encourages us to discover other points of views that are different from ours. Empathy wouldn’t just encourage hiring diversity but also diversity in the work that we create. I believe the best solutions happen when you understand genuinely what your audience needs and wants.
Janelle is one of 15 mentors for the 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 16 February 2018.