Nana Anto-Awuakye is the Head of our CAFOD’s World News Unit, and has worked at CAFOD since August 2005. She has previously been a BBC radio producer, producing programmes such as Woman’s Hour on Radio 4, and Outlook on BBC World Service radio, and ran the United Nations radio operation in Kosovo.
Nana has travelled extensively with CAFOD. Her trips have included: Pakistan earthquake 2005, Kenya drought (2006) Democratic Republic of Congo (Goma refugee crisis 2008) Haiti earthquake (2010) South Sudan (2011 & 2012) Sierra Leone Ebola crisis (2015) Syrian refugee crisis – Lebanon (2015), Ethiopia Food Crisis (2016), Northern Kenya food crisis (2017).
Nana was born in South East London, but spent her formative years in Wiltshire, before returning to London. She is married, and has a 12 year old son.
Describe your background in 5 words?
Resilient, hardworking, community-driven, listener-first, passionate
How did you get into PR?
Great careers officer at Uni who said I had a nice voice! Helped me apply for all sorts of bursaries and courses including in those early days a Channel 4 Busary – I was interviewed by the Late Darcus Howe and Tariq Ali.
What do you love about your job?
The variety – from Africa to Latin America, with Asia and Middle East in between – listening to people, hearing stories, witnessing the awful, being inspired by amazing people/communities.
What are you most proud of?
So many things – but for me it’s always about being in the field (working overseas) witnessing development, humanitarian response and talking to communities and local partners. It’s humbling. And then being able to tell those stories more widely.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Perfection doesn’t exist.
Who are your favourite people in PR?
So many, so chucking out a few names – Karen Blackett MediaCom, Doreen Lawrence – Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, OBE, Sharon White Ofcom Chief Exec, Lorna Clarke – Six Music.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sector?
Those of us in the sector need to keep talking about the issues, how we see things from where we sit, and not be scared to challenge our organisations/ or others – as well as support in how they (organisations) can make the change to reflect diversity across the board.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Exercise grace at all times.
Who is your favourite tweeter and why?
I don’t have one!
What is your favourite social network and why?
I don’t have one! I use social media mainly because my role in communications demands it, I have a twitter account for my local community in SE4 and an account that reflects issues that I work on for work. If I let social media rule my life I wouldn’t get anything done.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
My Dad always told me and my siblings to be proud of your name – it tells a story, you will stand out. Of course as a kid with a long foreign name growing up in Wiltshire first, then South London, I didn’t want to stand out. Today I completely understand what he meant.
When starting out as a researcher in the BBC, I was told, by another black woman – if you are not sure about something – politely say, you’ll get straight back with the information. In meetings, only speak if you truly have something to add – don’t speak for the sake of it. And be on time!
Biggest PR fail and yay of 2017? (i.e. best and worst)
Fails: Dove ad, lupita nyong’o Gracia cover.
Sort of yay – Meghan Markel – has got media talking again about diversity, and more importantly, for the first time in quite a while I’ve seen a flurry of great black female commentators on mainstream TV talking about the issue.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
First of all just be visible, and support the good stuff, and call out the bad stuff.
Not being a policy wonk or strategist on this issue, I can only speak from personal experience: look at how you recruit, where you recruit, how you conduct interviews/ who you put on the interview panel, what you ask of candidates on application forms – qualifications first? Career experience? Or tell us why you think you’ll be good for this job. Question your unconscious bias, be willing to do surveys on the make up of your staff, work out where the gaps are.
Nana is one of 15 mentors for the 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 16 February 2018.