Perveen Akhtar is a communications consultant and former head of UK comms for Intel where she was responsible for developing PR strategy and campaigns targeting UK consumers.
During her time at Intel Perveen also worked at Intel’s HQ in Silicon Valley leading PR for the firm’s R&D arm – Intel Labs. It was during this time that she began to work with the team that were responsible for the upgrade of Prof Stephen Hawking’s communications system and she then went on to lead the global PR efforts on the project which she describes as a career highlight.
Perveen strengths include creative ideation that executes real results – nothing makes her happier than seeing ideas translate into coverage that effects the bottom line or has significant brand impact for the businesses she represents. Perveen has a strong understanding of brand and how comms, social and marketing work together to get the best possible results.
Prior to her successful PR career Perveen worked as a journalist on local papers in her native Manchester after having completed a post graduate diploma in newspaper journalism.
Outside work, Perveen enjoys pilates and travel and she is currently looking to combine both her passions by planning a return visit to her favourite pilates retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand.
Describe your background in 5 words?
Manchester born, matured in London.
How did you get into PR?
I trained and worked as a journalist a lifetime ago and met Rob Wilson who was a director at agency APlus Group, which later became Brodeur Worldwide. He was standing as a candidate for the Conservatives in the 1997 General Election in Bolton where I lived and worked at the time. He rang the news desk one day lamenting that we never contacted him for comments for any stories. I think I was a little rude in my response and then told him that The Guardian Media Group who owned the newspaper I was working for were closing us down in a months’ time so he didn’t need to worry about being quoted by us. He asked me what my plans were and knowing he worked for a PR firm, but no clue which firm or what they did I jokingly said I fancied trying my hand at PR. Following an informal chat with him in Bolton, he put me forward for an interview at Brodeur. A few days after finishing up at the newspaper I was on a train to London for the interview where I then met Jonathan Simnett, also a director, who grilled me for several hours. As I was leaving having spent the best part of a day going through a host of tests including a writing exercise I thought, I’m not sure I want this job. A couple of days later I got the call with the offer and I still had doubts, as I’d gone from being a reporter on a local paper to facing the prospect of upping my life and moving to the South to start a new life all within a week. Then I thought what’s the worst that can happen – I hate it and return to Manchester. The rest as they say is history and I’ve never looked back.
What do you love about your job?
The opportunities that I’ve had as a result of my career in PR have been phenomenal. Meeting amazing people both in terms of colleagues I worked with on a day-to-day basis to getting to work with people such as Prof Stephen Hawking have made this job an absolute dream. And the opportunities I’ve had to travel working for international clients whilst on the agency side and then whilst in house, particularly during my time at Intel have also been fantastic. I really have been very lucky.
What are you most proud of?
From a career point of view, I think working with Stephen Hawking and getting to spend time with him and developing a rapport where I was trusted enough to pen commentary on his behalf which got global media pick up will definitely go down as a proud and special career highlight.
From a creative point of view, I’m exceptionally proud of the Intel Remastered project where we asked modern day artists to remaster iconic art pieces from the past for a 21st Century audience with the use of technology. Everyone just got the connection to Intel as we were looking to promote the visual computing aspect of Intel’s latest chip technology. The campaign was shortlisted for a PR Week award and also won a number of other industry accolades.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Knowing when to say no, that you can’t do everything, and that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Who are your favourite people in PR?
There are way too many to choose from. But I definitely owe a special thanks to Jonathan Simnett for all his support over the years. He’s continued to be a mentor to me throughout my PR career.
There are others in the industry I do admire for the brilliantly creative work that they are doing on behalf of clients whom I come across frequently when judging industry awards.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sector?
The convergence of communications i.e. ATL and BTL, Social, Comms, marketing disciplines all interlocking.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The PR world has changed considerably in the years since I first started out and at that time for me good writing skills were key. However now as well as that, I think PRs really need to have a good understanding of integration between the different elements of the marketing mix. PR doesn’t and can’t work effectively in silos, so collaboration with colleagues across the different disciplines is essential but also PR’s really need to understand who the audiences are that they are trying to communicate to and what the best method is in reaching that audience.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Difficult to choose between Twitter and Instagram for me. I like Twitter both for work and also good banter with people. However, I also love Instagram. I don’t really post anything work related on Instagram and use it to curate and indulge my personal passions of food, travel, pilates and arts.
Who is your favourite tweeter and why?
I do like @Sathnam as a journalist, he’s clearly a great writer but I love his witty tweets and I really get some of his Asian humour he injects into his tweets. @KateBevan is also good on twitter as she’s very opinionated, like myself 😉 and we have good banter. But as someone who works in tech, she has a good all-round knowledge of the tech sector.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s a small world, particularly in the PR world. Be nice to people and don’t burn any bridges. You never know where someone may end up.
Biggest PR fail and yay of 2017?
The June election was a major PR fail for Teresa May. A PR Yay – I was impressed by the interview that Prince Harry and Megan Markle gave on announcing their engagement. Clearly her career as an actress is going to serve her well in the spotlight as a member of the royal family. As a PR, I couldn’t help but judge her performance and she came across as a very polished, articulate, smart and charming woman.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to tackle diversity?
We live in a diverse world where brands want to attract and appeal to those diverse audiences and for their campaigns and messages to resonate. I think that brands can actually help to lead the charge here. There have been recent examples such as the Lenovo comms chief in the US asking for team diversity data from the agencies that were part of the RFI and this being one of the metrics he’d be looking at from the agencies that would be considered. HP is also reported to have asked for team diversity from their marketing agencies. I think that the more brands ask for diversity from agency teams so that they are truly representative of the audiences they want to reach, the more we will hopefully see change happening. And obviously brands themselves need to also have diverse teams working in house.
Perveen 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.