Maria is Senior Account Manager at Wimbart, an independent public relations agency specialising in Africa and emerging markets. With six years’ experience across consumer and corporate public relations, specialising in African entertainment and technology.
Prior to Wimbart, Maria began her career as PR Executive at IROKO and in 2013 became Press Officer at YouGov. Maria’s expertise lies in developing communications strategies, planning and rolling out proactive social media campaigns, audience development, event management and working across international teams.
Maria has worked with some of Africa’s most exciting start-ups including Andela, IROKO,Kobo360, mSurvey, YOCO, PiggyVest [Previously Piggybank Ng] and more.
• Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Nigerian twin with five names
• How did you get into PR/communications?
After university, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I saw a job opportunity at a Nollywood [Nigerian film] media service provider and joined as a Nollywood evangelist. Shortly after, the company’s Head of Communications, who is also my boss at Wimbart, asked if I’d be interested in joining her team as a PR Exec. With zero PR knowledge, I said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history.
• What do you love about your job?
I love working in the Africa tech sector. I find joy in telling the stories of great companies that are doing A-M-A-Z-I-N-G things on the continent. For so long, Africa has been portrayed as a poverty-stricken continent; it’s about time the rest of the world got to see some of the amazing developments happening over there.
• What are you most proud of?
My proudest moment was securing a Bloomberg piece for a client. This took months of relationship building and a lot of resilience – in fact, the story almost fell through at a point, but I was super determined to make sure that story came out – and it all worked out in the end.
• What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That negative news stories spread faster than the positive ones.
• Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Claudine Moore of C Moore Media. She’s a leader in the African PR space and I admire her
• What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The ability to stalk. I’m always discovering new journalists who are relevant to my clients. It’s my job to get to know what would pique their interest and that does require a bit of stalking on social.
• What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter. I’ve slipped into some journalists’ DMs and it has yielded results.
• What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I don’t listen to podcasts; I consume content visually
• Who is your favourite journalist and why?
I have so many, but I have to show some love to Tobi Oredein, Founder of Black Ballad. She’s built an awesome platform that caters to black British. She is also a prominent voice in mainstream media and is not afraid to speak up on behalf of black women. I’m obsessed with her weekly editor newsletters too.
• What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Someone once shared this Richard Branson quote with me and it has been my motto ever since: “If someone offers you an opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later”
• Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
The anti-knife crime chicken campaign – major fail and tasteless. Yay would have to be Nike’s World Cup kit. The launch of the Nigerian collection was very youthful and cool; I ended up grabbing my own jersey even though I can’t stand footy.
• Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
We need more BME thought leaders in this sector. It’s challenging to encourage diversity when we can’t see BMEs in the sector who we can model our career on. Initiatives such as the BME PR Pros are doing an amazing job to promote diversity, however, we need to proactively put ourselves out there in the spotlight – this includes more speaking engagements, op-ed pieces and interviews. We need to see more BME leaders.
Maria 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.