Pema started her career in consumer interiors PR before making the move to corporate and brand communications. During that time she worked with clients from sectors including technology, retail, travel and tourism and financial services, all the way through to UK Government campaigns.
In 2015, Pema was seconded to TUI Group where she supported the internal restructuring of its five airlines and launch of a new internal division.
More recently, she was one of the team that relaunched the Department for Education Apprenticeship in 2019 and Legal & General’s ethical investing campaign ‘Own Your World’.
For the past 3 years, Pema has been the co-chair of the diversity network for the PRCA. In this period she launched the Diversity guidelines and worked as part of a think tank to encourage and support diversity within the industry.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Bristolian Sherpa living in London.
● How did you get into PR/communications?
Embarrassed as I am to admit it, the first time I heard about PR was watching Sex and the City…I loved Samantha’s glamourous lifestyle. The parties, the power outfits and how she made things happen.
Fast forward to thinking about my future, I loved fashion and wanted to be a production manager on high end fashion shows, so I choose to study events management with the option to do double honours so I picked PR as an add on. I had two amazing lecturers who went to great lengths to get me excited about corporate communications and what PR really is.
● What do you love about your job?
The amazing and varied opportunities that it’s given me that I genuinely believe I wouldn’t have had from other jobs…I’ve been in meetings planning a reverse take-over strategy, through to getting on a private flight with Jason Derulo.
● What are you most proud of?
Recently, I caught up with an ex colleague I used to line manage and she said to me how much she had learnt from me during our time together and how much she missed working with me. There are lots of things I’ve done in my career but it’s not often you get feedback like that. I learnt early on that investing your time in people is one of most important and powerful things you can do and it’s amazing she had noticed. I did cry.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Things don’t always go my way and I need to suck it up, bite my tongue and think of the end goal.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Sorry, I don’t have one and I won’t pick one either! I’m a firm believer that as you progress through your life and your career you meet lots of people and you learn something from all of them. I’ve spent my whole life cherry picking the best bits from everyone to make myself better.
Kirsty Leighton – she was my first proper boss in PR. I learnt the tools of my trade from her but more importantly, she’s one of the most caring people I’ve ever met. She showed me the difference between managing and being a leader. She’s now a friend and partner in crime…
Howard Kosky – he is extremely creative and commercial. It’s hard to understand how these two extremes exist in one person. His work ethic is second to none and demands the best from everyone around him.
Alison Clarke – PR’s wonder woman. She mentored me during a period that I was finding quite difficult navigating due to lots of internal change in my workplace. She was always kind but straight talking and to the point. She has the ability to pull your head out of you’re a** in the nicest way!
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Cliché but being organised. If you’re not organised then you won’t get far!
● What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram – it’s my visual diary.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I listen to a lots with varied levels of commitment but my favourite at the moment is ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class’. I was always a history nut at school and I love learning about random things that have happened as I think it helps to explain some of the present.
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
I went on a press trip a few years ago and since then he’s moved on and no longer works as a journalist but Jamie Dickenson. I haven’t laughed so hard, for so long, with a complete stranger, until I met Jamie.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
No idea who told me this saying but ‘in a storm the bamboo reed always survives whereas the oak tree won’t…simply because the bamboo reed moves with the wind’. For me, this translates to try and learn to be less stubborn and to go with the flow.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
My favourite of the year is Project #ShowUs by Getty Images, Dove and Girlgaze.
I’m sick of seeing women who don’t look like me trying to sell me stuff. I never want to see or hear the young girls in my family feel ‘less than’ because the definition of beauty has been put into a very narrow box. This campaign is a big step in making everyone feel they have a place in this world and telling anyone who disagrees to f*** off.
Missguided’s’ £1 bikini was a fail. Fronted by a Love Island contestant – that’s lazy PR at its best and fuelling a throw-away fashion culture when the green and sustainable agenda has never been higher on people’s radar.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
When it comes to diversity – everyone wants to do the right thing and there’s loads of chat about it but that’s it – bar a few people and organisation it remains largely just that…chat. What we need is people to put their money where their mouth is and dedicate some proper time, instead of patting themselves on the back for just talking about it.
Pema 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.