Jermaine is a writer and broadcaster with a background in print journalism. Currently a Senior Copywriter at Edelman, Jermaine is responsible for written content for some of the largest and most exciting global brands in technology and beyond. Jermaine is a trained journalist who worked on business and consumer magazines based in the North of England. He moved to London in 2011 to begin life in PR/comms where he used his writing expertise in a new arena. He’s been enjoying this challenge ever since.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Proud Sheffielder, Londoner, Jamaican blood
● How did you get into PR/communications?
I came into comms via journalism. I’ve always loved writing and telling stories and after spending a few years doing it in magazines, I realised I quite fancied telling stories for brands as well. So the inevitable call of the ‘dark side’ beckoned.
● What do you love about your job?
I love the fact that I don’t need to check the clock every five minutes out of sheer boredom. I’ve done that in the past. Never again. I also love the fact that I’ve been with the same company for six years and it doesn’t feel like I’m serving a life sentence. I love the variety, the people, the laughs and being in an encouraging environment.
● What are you most proud of?
A complete ‘hail Mary’ that resulted in us getting a quote from the Prime Minister in a press release. Consequently, the story did quite well in terms of press coverage and business impact.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Sometimes you’ve got to believe your own hype, even when others don’t or won’t. I’ve worked in environments where I never received positive feedback. It wasn’t because I wasn’t good at my job, it’s because it wasn’t the culture to do so. But we all need that encouragement and positive reinforcement to do well, it’s just how we’re made as humans. So I had to make it my mission to recognise my hard work and achievements. Eventually, others will have to as well.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Someone whose story I’ve heard through BME PR Pros is Jessica Hope, the Founder of Wimbart. I’m a fan of people who do something different in a new way. Jessica is a go-getter who does both of those things and is an inspiring woman in the industry as a result. And she’s a down to earth professional, which is a bonus.
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The ability to have a conversation. Face to face. Yes, not just on social media or
email. Imagine that!
● What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram is by far my favourite social network. I like the fact that it has a more positive outlook than the others. I’m much less likely to see unfruitful arguments, beef and fake news there. Plus, I’m a fan of beautiful imagery so I feel at home there.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I really love Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review. I’m not much of a film buff but those two are such great broadcasters that they just draw you in anyway. It’s a masterclass in broadcasting that I’m in awe of.
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Steph McGovern is my favourite journalist. There was a time when you could listen to all of the BBC News output and there was very little by way of vocal diversity. Steph was a breath of fresh air and made it OK to broadcast serious news output with a regional accent. I hope she will inspire others to report without the fear of what people will think about the way they speak. I’m also hoping we’ll eventually get to a place where we all have a ‘BBC accent’ no matter where we’re from and irrespective of the way we pronounce bath or grass.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve been given was to relax and not get caught up in the corporate speak, just be myself. I used to think I had to talk in this code that I heard some people use (I don’t even think they understood it themselves a lot of the time). And in actual fact, it’s a very real possibility that you can say a lot and say nothing of real substance at the same time. I feel freer now as a result.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
While I don’t subscribe to the ‘no such thing as bad news’ philosophy, I do think a major PR fail was subsequently dealt with really well and humorously. My award for PR fail in 2019 goes to Innocent Drinks when they announced they had created a drink using conker milk, only to find out that conkers are poisonous if eaten. They did turn things around slightly with their follow up activities on Twitter. On the other side of the coin, I was really impressed with the Female Company’s Tampon Book. It ticks all the right boxes by dealing with an issue that most would find unfair and irrational and addressing it with a very good idea. There are campaigns that are good but when you can cleverly exercise that level of creativity and defiance, it’s fantastic. I just wish I’d have thought of it.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
We can talk about talent pipelines all we want but if we don’t acknowledge as an industry the fact that diversity needs to improve, it never will. And I’m not talking about paying lip service, I’m talking about taking real action. If agencies have to wait for their own clients to give them a kick up the backside on diversity, it’s far too late. We should be leading the charge because it just makes sense.
Jermaine 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.