Kat joined Taylor Herring in June 2019 as its first Head of Brand Strategy; she has been in consumer PR for over 11 years. She has worked for an array of different types of agency, from Burson Marsteller to Iris, via Unity. She began her career in-house at Yellow Pages (yep she’s that old) running its CSR programmes, and quickly realised that she wanted to work in an agency in London, as opposed to behind the Argos in Reading.
Kat has worked on and led some award-winning campaigns from some incredible brands, including launching the ultimate Christmas toy (a cardboard box) for Ribena, proving that teeth are worth more as a commodity than petrol for Aquafresh and delivering a Christmas campaign via clickbait for ActionAid.
Kat’s strength is her ability to look at a brief strategically, unpicking the right insights and cultural levers to connect a brand with its audience, and uses storytelling skills to build an engaging narrative that sells and shapes campaigns. She’s also clearly good at using PR jargon.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Punjabi and English, pink hair.
● How did you get into PR/communications?
I actually fell into PR – I originally wanted to be a secondary school English teacher. Then when I did my PGCE and didn’t have my ‘Dangerous Minds’ moment I realised I was perhaps not the best educator, and instead did a Masters in Sexual Dissidence & Cultural Change.
While pondering what to do next, I happened upon a few weeks’ work experience with a consumer firm in Brighton and I realised that I could probably be quite good at PR. They offered me a job but on the wages they were paying, I’d have to sleep on the beach and live on Pot Noodles. So I packed up and left to return to the bosom of my family (read: my childhood bedroom) and nepotism kicked in as my mum got me a job at Yellow Pages. I was comfortable but not challenged – and when the bright lights of London called, I hopped on a First Great Western (as it was then) and the rest is still being written.
● What do you love about your job?
I love that my incessant interest in the world is a bonus in this job. I also tend to think in patterns, and look at the world in terms of recurring themes – which could be why I’m good at strategy because I’m constantly connecting the dots.
On a more prosaic level, I love the fact that I can have pink hair, multiple tattoos and not always dress like an adult and I’m still respected for my skills.
● What are you most proud of?
That I’m respected by my peers.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That presenteeism is not a good thing. People who work the longest and shout the loudest are not always the most useful. It took a long time of not putting myself first to painfully realise that being present is not always the same as being valuable.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Nik Govier – she was on my side when I wasn’t. Can never repay what she did.
Davnet Doran – an inspirational colleague, mentor and friend
Laura Oakley – just one of my favourite friends and wine companion
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Storytelling. Building a narrative is an essential skill for everything from press release writing to new business development and pitching.
● What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter because I’m not on Instagram and I only go on Facebook to untag photos of myself. It’s also good channel to complain to brands on – you get much better customer service this way!
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I have many. My podcast interests are broadly split into three:
True Crime – The Murder Squad, Casefile, They Walk Among Us, Crime Junkie
Diseases – This Podcast Will Kill You
Erotica – My Dad Wrote a Porno
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Jane Hamilton from The Sun – she’s a friend, an ex-client, a supportive and amazing woman.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Just because your reaction differs to someone else’s, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s your
experience and no one can tell you that being you isn’t right. No one else gets to dictate your
Very wise words from my old counsellor when I was having a tough time, feeling like I was constantly being told I was wrong, that I react wrongly, that I’m somehow put together wrongly. Really helped me to stand up for myself and understand myself.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
Yay – anything to do with bees. I love the bees. Papa John’s, McDonald’s, B&Q. I just hope that these brands commit to supporting native wildlife as a legacy piece too, and haven’t just jumped on the bee bandwagon never to return.
Fail – gonna be a popular one but the knife crime chicken shop. Tone deaf, top down and full of lazy ssumptions. And the chicken didn’t even look nice.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Show, not tell. People love brands – and agencies – they can see themselves in. If all they see are people who don’t look like them – we’ve lost already.
Kat 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.