Shamima Begum has 15 years of experience working in PR and communications, and has spent the last five specialising in developing and executing integrated programmes both agency side, and in-house. Shamima spent over 11 years working at Golin, where she was co-lead for one of the agency’s top client accounts, Oracle and also worked with clients such as Infosys, NEC, npower and Dimension Data. Shamima has experience working for businesses of all sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 brands, across multiple sectors.
In early 2018 Shamima started a position at Adobe (as a secondment from Golin), leading enterprise communications across EMEA, as well as brand communications in Northern Europe. She recently took on a permanent role at the company to manage corporate and field communications across EMEA.
Shamima has a huge passion for increasing diversity within the PR industry and has been a Trustee for the Taylor Bennett Foundation for the last 18 months.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
East Londoner born and bred
How did you get into PR?
After completing my BA in journalism and contemporary history, one of my professors arranged a six month contract for me at The Royal College of Surgeon’s press office. Although my ambition was to be a journalist one day (I blame SATC and Carrie Bradshaw), I began enjoying the variety PR offered me and how connected it was to the world of media. I franticly applied for agency roles during my time at the College and was fortunate enough to secure a position as Assistant Account Executive at a small B2B agency, Johnson King (now Finn Partners). It was within the tech team and at that point, I thought I had really drawn the short straw as my friends were all working on cool consumer brands or management consultancies earning the big bucks! After two years at JK, I moved to Fleishman Hillard for a short while and then onto Golin, which was where I started to get into my stride and see the benefits of working in one of the fastest growing industries.
What do you love about your job?
It sounds quite cliche but I think it’s first and foremost, the different types of people you get to meet and the fact it pushes you outside of your comfort zone in so many ways. I’ve met some of my closest friends from me working in PR, and I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to meet many of them if it wasn’t for my career as our backgrounds and lives are very different and I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have them as friends before.
Secondly, PR gives you immense drive and the best multi-tasking skills that really do set you up for life. It also gives you self confidence because of the amount of socialising, networking and presenting you have to. Combining all of these skills means you can take on absolutely anything!
What are you most proud of?
Being as successful as I have been. It sounds egotistical but it’s not meant to be. I grew up in East London, went to an inner city school and experienced a lot of adversity in life which meant I had to rely on myself from a very young age. Additionally, I’ve always been somewhat insecure working in PR because of my petite frame, young looks and working class background – you don’t often meet many people like me in the industry. For this reason, I’m really proud of my achievements but the fact that I’ve not let any of this hold me back. I’m also really thankful for the people who have supported and encouraged me in my career (particularly at Golin).
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Not everyone is going to like you! We work in an industry where you have be a people person and often you feel that your team mates, colleagues, bosses and/or clients all have to love you and sometimes, this can bring out the worst in people. I’ve learnt that no matter what, you need to be yourself and if people don’t like you along the way, who cares?!
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
The team I worked with at Golin on the Oracle account during my last few years there. I won’t name names, but we just worked! We were all very different, coming from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences, yet we always had each other’s back. I wouldn’t have survived the past five years, which have been tough, without their smarts, their support and their ability to make me laugh even when the chips were down and the pressure was on. I think having people you respect working alongside you is the best thing you can ask for, as without this, working in in the industry can be tough!
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Having a business mindset. You need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, the difference it can make and the impact it potentially has in driving business success. If you don’t have this skill, I think it’s really difficult to be truly successful.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram. I love the fact that it allows people to be creative with their lives and their passions. It has also managed to deliver a service suitable for almost any generation and the ease of use is second to none.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
I don’t often get to listen to his segment, but I think James O’Brien from LBC is amazing! He’s authentic and isn’t afraid to speak his mind which I hugely respect.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I wasn’t given this but heard it in the film “Wonder” a couple of years ago: “if you have the choice to right or kind, choose kind”. I often have to remind myself this and I think it’s something that everyone should take on board. Kindness comes in many forms – it’s the best quality you can possess and the best gift you can give anyone.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2018?
I absolutely loved Spotify’s 2018 Goals campaign. It was human and relatable. I also love the brand and think they’ve done an amazing job connecting with their audience and growing a loyal fanbase.
It’s hard to say what is the worst but if I had to choose, it would be Dove’s “Body Positive” packaging campaign which never really kicked off. I think your brand has failed to evolve its strategy over the past few years and keep up with its audience. It used to be a brand you admired but now, it seems its campaigns are a little old hat.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Encourage people from diverse backgrounds to be themselves and stop using them as token representatives. If you treat you “diverse” employees a poster child or a mascot for your company, you’re continuing to encourage the worst forms of diversity and inclusion. Just make them feel included and give them role models they can aspire to be like and learn from.
Shamima is one of 18 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 15 February 2019.