Martha Nahar has four years of experience working in PR and Communications. Over the last few years she has held a range of positions, including her first PR role at one of the largest British charities, Macmillan Cancer Support, working as a Communications Assistant and learning the basics of PR.
Continuing her work in large organisations, Martha left her role at Macmillan Cancer Support to join West London NHS Trust, which is known for managing one of three high secure mental health hospitals in the UK. As Communications Officer, she worked in a busy and dynamic press office and gained experience in crisis communications, stakeholder management and writing effective communications plans for media management. Martha’s efforts saw West London NHS Trust gain press coverage in the BBC, Happiful magazine and local radio.
Martha currently works as an Internal Communications Officer at Imperial College London – a global top ten university with a world-class reputation in science, engineering, business and medicine. As part of her role, Martha coordinates internal campaigns, writes engaging news stories and manages content for Imperial’s staff newsletter. One of her biggest achievements so far was launching Imperial’s first-ever undergraduate student newsletter to great feedback and high open rates.
Martha’s passions including writing, media relations and social media.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
Londoner with strong Indian roots.
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
After graduating with a degree in English Literature from Brunel University, I was offered my first PR role at Macmillan Cancer Support as their Communications Assistant. It was my first taste of PR and where I learned the basics, such as how to answer media enquiries from journalists, monitoring and logging media coverage, and writing press releases and statements.
I really enjoyed hearing about the inspiring stories my colleagues were working on with journalists, and hugely admired the way in which the media was used to convey messages about the charity’s fantastic work. At Macmillan, I was asked to promote a small charitable event called Carols by Candlelight within London media, and remember enjoying updating the press release from the previous year and sending it to journalists. Hitting send on an email with a press release gave me a real buzz. I knew from there that I really enjoyed the thrill of working in PR.
What do you love about your job?
I love telling stories of the inspiring and remarkable work of staff and students. I enjoy giving people prominence through the power of internal communications and helping them to realise how much their day job and presence matters to an organisation. It could be a simple piece of communication, like writing a news story about someone or profiling them in a campaign, which can help them to feel empowered.
One thing I’ve learned from working in internal communications is that it’s a form of internal PR, which is equally important as external PR for any organisation. It should matter to a company what their own staff think of them and what their reputation is like internally too.
What are you most proud of?
During my time at the NHS, I surprised myself by getting the Trust’s CEO featured in a mental health magazine, Happiful. It was a double page spread which was written perfectly. I simply reached out to the magazine’s editorial team and pitched the idea, using a press release we’d issued prior to that. Although I was quietly confident, I still had a little voice in my head telling me the idea wasn’t good enough.
Fast forward a month, and the Happiful magazine issue featuring our CEO was posted through to me. When it landed on our CEO’s desk, our CEO was very pleased and personally came to thank me. It was a massive confidence boost and it made me proud to have followed my gut instinct and used my own initiative to carve a feature into a mainstream magazine.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
The hardest lesson has been accepting that even in this day and age, BAME individuals have to work much harder to prove that they are in a role based on their merit, and not because of their ethnicity.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Asia Manzoor, PR and Social Media Manager at the National Federation of Builders, who became my mentor during my time at Macmillan Cancer Support. I remember her teaching me about taking enquiries from journalists and writing good press releases when I was very new to the PR sector. She always reassured me that I would be fine. I will always appreciate that she gave me space to ask questions. Asia has also inspired me as she’s a working mum and has returned to work in PR with full force. She is ambitious and I hope to be like her someday!
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
Writing. I’m not too fussed about grammar on most days, but I love a good story that really makes you feel something. We’re all human and we connect with emotion and authenticity. If your writing isn’t emotive or compelling, you’ve lost your audiences’ attention. Storytelling plays a huge part in this, and I think that anyone who works in the creative sector has to have the ability to make any piece of content sound amazing, no matter how dry the subject.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram is my absolute favourite! I think it’s the most creative, fun and captivating social media network, and I love that it has constantly reinvented itself over the years to stay on top and keep users engaged. From the funky Instagram stories feature to the newly launched shop and buy function, I honestly believe that Instagram is here for the long run. I spend a lot of time scrolling through Instagram getting inspired by travel content and staying updated on all things fashion and Bollywood, so it’s a great way for me to know what’s trending. I would be lost without it.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Victoria Sanusi. I worked with Victoria on our student newspaper at Brunel University and I have seen her soar to success since then. Not only is she absolutely hilarious on social media and generally a wonderful human being, Victoria has also done a lot of work to represent Black women in journalism and write about issues that matter to her community. As someone of a minority ethnic background, it’s inspiring for me to see someone so fervently represent their culture.
Victoria also started a podcast on pop culture that tapped into a lot of topics affecting the Black community. I was very inspired and started my own podcast, ‘The Martha Mindset’, to speak about issues affecting British Asians and the wider BAME community, covering subjects from career struggles to beauty standards.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“First rise to the top, then bring more diverse people into your team.” A former colleague gave me this advice when I had concerns about the lack of diversity in PR, and it really stayed with me because she made me realise that my career journey is important, not just for me, but for others I might give a chance to along the way. It was a real reminder of the change that still needs to take place within the PR and Communications sector, and the fact that my generation are the trailblazers leading the way, even today.
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
Without a doubt, it has to be Mothercare’s #BodyProudMums campaign, which I think really captured the spirit of female empowerment and was very well-received on social media. It was bold, refreshing and put Mothercare back in the spotlight after a period of negative stories about store closures and job losses. I really liked their powerful use of imagery and that the photographs were shot by a London-based photographer. I think it helped the campaign feel very localised and normal.
I also love how the photos looked on social media – in a world where we’re constantly applying filters and editing our photos, it was brilliant to see a brand present imagery that was untouched and real. I really like that they partnered with Transport for London as well – again, it rooted the campaign as being London-centric and showcased a range of diverse women too, which acted as a reminder of how multicultural our city is. I think this campaign helped to position Mothercare as a trusted brand after some bad press. It was progressive, creative and very effective.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
PR agencies or in-house press offices need to have at least one member of the interview panel that is from a BAME background, and they need to focus on removing unconscious bias through targeted training and workshops for hiring managers. These organisations need to invest in resources towards this effort and seriously look around the room at how diverse they are. I also feel that where there is budget, companies should also invest in positive discrimination schemes for BAME individuals, offering them experience in the sector, but then also seriously consider taking these employees on full-time and giving them the roles that they deserve.
Connect with Martha on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Martha is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. She will be mentored by Roopa Ramaiya, Head of Global PR and Communications, Luno.