Kemi Bamgbose has worked in PR and Communications for the last 12 years working in the public and not for profit sectors. She has held various roles in different organisations working across different policy areas including disability, youth, faith, international development and the arts.
She is a highly creative, intelligent, dynamic, strategic, and entrepreneurial professional, passionate about using communications to achieve change at local, national and international levels.
Kemi’s particular areas of interest are in campaigns, media relations, content creation, and public affairs.
Kemi has managed several mass-mobilisation campaigns resulting in the delivery of multiple petitions to Number 10 Downing Street, featuring more than 100,000 plus signatures at a time – attracting national and international media coverage, cross party support from politicians, celebrities, faith leaders and more.
From organising hustings for disabled people, to training young women to speak to politicians and the media – Kemi is particularly passionate about empowering marginalised groups to share their own stories and speak truth to power.
For the last four years, she has led communications for a global faith campaign – with a presence in nearly 90% of countries worldwide – led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and involving His Holiness Pope Francis.
Kemi holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Birmingham in English and Philosophy and is also an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Family historian, love people & God.
How did you get into PR/communications?
Sort of by accident!
I wanted to work in journalism and was sufficiently naïve to think they – PR and journalism – were basically the same thing, so I jumped into PR believing I would eventually end up in journalism. At the time, PR / communications jobs were easier to come by than journalism roles, so this seemed the best way forward. I had no idea that 12 years later I would still be held hostage by PR!
Jokes aside, I fell in love with PR. I love the freedom, creativity and diversity of comms approaches (i.e. media relations, content creation, marketing, digital); love the strategic thinking involved, the planning, the execution and influencing for positive change. I did eventually train to be a journalist when I turned 30, 7 years ago following my dad’s death, which has been incredibly helpful.
From time to time, I do a bit of freelance journalism, usually writing features on things I am interested in such as family history, travel, food, and interviews.
What do you love about your job?
Working on an annual global campaign – which happens from Ascension to Pentecost, in nearly 90% of countries worldwide, across different streams of the Church… it is a huge project to manage – but I love it! I love that we work with churches in different parts of the world & different denominations and how this is reflected in the comms we produce and the reports we get back.
I also love that a huge part of my work is content creation – helping to source & tell stories based on the daily themes of the campaign using a range of different voices, that are compelling and will appeal to our very diverse audiences. I love working with filmmakers to bring these stories to life – whether it a young person talking about the environment and their relationship with God or a couple talking about how their faith helped them to forgive their son’s murderers, to sharing the story of the CoE’s first Black female Bishop – it is a privilege to do this work.
I also work with an amazing group of people!
What are you most proud of?
I know we can only have one, but I have two…
Proudest moment was delivering 2 x 100,000 plus signature petitions to Number 10 Downing Street and making it onto the front of the Daily Mail (opinions aside it has a wide readership.)
Another highlight was media training a young woman who ended up holding the Prime Minister to account on the televised debates with party leaders and making the national newspaper!! I love seeing people share their own stories and speaking truth to power.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Don’t short-change yourself and let fear dictate your decisions. I have regretfully turned down some amazing opportunities because of low confidence, imposter syndrome and self-sabotage. I wish that I would have just said yes and given it a go – not being afraid to fail or make mistakes. Just say yes to the daunting, big, wonderful, scary things (as long as it is not illegal) – there is usually something beautiful waiting on the other side.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
I really like Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix. I like her vibe and follow her on Instagram. She is confident, highly skilled and sought after and is unashamed about knowing her worth as a supremely talented, exceptional Black woman in PR / Marketing. Also love that she is unapologetically Black, stylish (love her style) and fabulous.
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
To be a good communicator. It’s a fairly obvious one. If you are not, then you are not going to be able to ‘sell in’ the story, idea, and influence others. You don’t need to be the most articulate or super well-spoken, but you do have to be able to communicate clearly, with authenticity and conviction.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Sometimes that place can be a fount of knowledge, breaking news, profound conversations, diverse insights & opinions and source of joy. Other times it can be a complete cesspit!
I like the pithy nature of it (140 characters) and that it is instant and ever changing (new tweets every second.) I also like that you can get a real sense of someone’s personality on Twitter i.e. influencers but this has it’s risks especially from a PR perspective. Also love how organisations have used it to respond quickly to PR opportunities such as the recent Caterpillar-gate incident with Marks & Spencers’ (Colin the Caterpillar) and Aldi (‘Free Cuthbert’).
I am not so keen on the unforgiving nature of Twitter as once a message has been released in the atmosphere, unless you delete it it’s there forever and you can’t edit the tweets. Also, if you are sufficiently high profile, even if you tweet and delete, there are the secret screenshot-ers who are stalking your every tweet and saving them for later (which I recently found and think is quite odd.)
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I don’t really listen to a lot of podcasts but from time to time, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday – love the range of guests and conversations.
I also love the Property Strategist – a group of young black men who are property developers interviewing others. They have great chemistry, banter and the shows are always informative & funny etc.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Jon Snow Channel 4 News. I love Jon Snow. I love his socks, love his presentation style, that he is not afraid to ask awkward questions yet still remains professional and personable. I also love that he has had a life before journalism as a housing campaigner – just seems down to earth and great. I also met him and his wife in real life and they were just as lovely and nice as I had hoped.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Be solutions focused – very early on learnt – if you are going to point out problems, you better make sure you have some solutions in mind for it. No one likes a nit picker – even if it is helpful – try and come up with a way to solve the issue.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Put your money where your mouth is! Hire diverse talent, and if you are not attracting diverse talent or retaining them, you need to ask the honest questions as to why. Is there something that needs fixing with the organisational culture so that it attracts diverse talent? Are you recruiting and advertising in the right places? Do you need to do an audit with an external agency to find out where your organisation’s blind spots are? Do you really want diverse hires – at all levels of the business including senior levels – or do you want to appear as though you do? Do the hard work. There are a lot of resources available to help organisations / businesses that genuinely want to make changes to be more diverse such as specialist recruitment agencies etc. Pay for their time and expertise.
Kemi was awarded a place on The Xec. Leadership Scheme for UK-based Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority PR and comms pros. She will be mentored by Preena Gadher, Co-founder & MD, Riot Communications.