Sinéad has over a decade of experience working in the media and PR industry, both agency side and in-house, most recently leading on press strategy at BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. During her time, she has overseen a range of trade, fundraising and consumer facing campaigns, including for London’s ex-Olympic venues. She has worked on a variety of integrated media campaigns and is skilled in helping brands improve comms, build awareness and boost their bottom line.
Hailing from North London, Sinéad has an affinity for being North of the river, despite the daily commute to her desk in Battersea. When she’s not nattering away to journalists, she can be found in the kitchen cooking up new recipes, in the gym or somewhere in between, usually with a cup of tea in hand.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
First generation Indian-Irish Londoner
● How did you get into PR/communications?
I always knew I wanted to write in some capacity. I was always making up stories as a child and making my younger brother listen to them. I read Media and English at university and right after graduating I landed a job at press cuttings agency (PRs will know it as Gorkana) as a night shift editor. Which in theory sounds great, but in practice I was mostly just trying to stay awake! This was back in the day before it all went digital (probably showing my age here a bit) but I was the person with a highlighter and a newspaper manually cutting out the stories. Thankfully it’s changed quite a bit since then. I stayed there for over 6 years, working in various parts of the organisation and dealing with a lot of journalists and PRs, so the comms/PR route was just a natural progression.
● What do you love about your job?
I love that every day is so different and that I get to meet so many amazing and talented people working in children’s books who are really accomplished. Also seeing the impact of the work is really important and often underestimated, but it helps give you a renewed energy every day to make things better and a real sense of worth that what you’re doing, in some small way, can make a difference to a child’s life.
● What are you most proud of?
Not dying when climbing the Everest Base Camp trek, for which me and my friend were massively under prepared for (such naïve travellers). I had to be airlifted off the side of the mountain; it was so dramatic! But I managed to get most of the way there, which given the circumstances was no small feat.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That not everyone sees the world the way you do, and that’s ok. After you’ve been around a while (and yes, I know I look about 12) you’ll meet people from all walks of life; most are fantastic but there are some who wouldn’t hesitate to push you over to get ahead. You shouldn’t take s*** from people, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised how important it is for your own sanity to always stay true to who you are.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Elizabeth Bananuka (and no she didn’t pay me to say that). She really is a force to be reckoned with; Elizabeth is a one-woman-powerhouse who could absolutely take over the world. She’s giving people opportunities they may not have had otherwise and really fighting the fight for many who feel they don’t have a voice. She’s incredibly inspiring.
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Being able to communicate effectively. It’s sounds like a no-brainer but it really is such a basic skill that so few people have managed to master.
● What is your favourite social network and why?
It’s got to be Instagram. That old adage of a picture is worth a thousand words is right. Besides, it’s also a lot tougher to misunderstand a photo. Not impossible, just tougher.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I’m not much of a podcast listener but I would have to say Oprah’s SuperSoul for how honest and thought provoking it is, and Desert Island Discs, but that’s an obvious one, isn’t it?
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Can I pick two? It’s either Naga Munchetty because she’s feisty and isn’t afraid to tackle the big issues, and even when she’s criticised, she stands her ground. She’s a woman of colour on prime-time television, which although it shouldn’t be, is rare. Or Sathnam Sanghera, he writes brilliantly and is just utterly hilarious on social media.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum always told me to tell the truth, even when it’s hard, because it’s always better in the long run, and of course she was right. Mums always are, aren’t they!
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
Yay = The Cadbury’s and Age UK campaign Donate your Words. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, Cadbury’s have removed the words from their chocolate bars in support of Age UK to help draw attention to the thousands of older people who often go a whole week without speaking to anyone. Loneliness is a real crisis in the UK. It can make you feel invisible and forgotten. It’s fronted by Sue Perkins, who admits loneliness is her biggest fear. It’s simple yet so impactful, it tugged at my heart strings and made me stop and think about what more I could be doing.
Fail = Katie Hopkins. Full stop.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
When you walk into a room, you naturally gravitate towards the people that look like you or who you’re familiar with, but if no one ever looks like you, you won’t ever feel like you truly belong. Diversity isn’t just a tick box exercise so we need to stop treating it like it is. The sector needs to reflect the world we live in. Peoples backgrounds and cultures give them a wealth of experience and a whole new take on things, so we need to see that for what it is, and the value it can and does bring.
Sinéad 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.