Sonam started in PR as an Account Assistant at Broadgate Mainland (now part of Four Communications), straight after graduating from Queen Mary University London with a BA history degree.
Working across financial services, B2B and higher education clients, Broadgate was a supportive but challenging environment where she gained experience across media relations, copywriting, social media, crisis communications and content marketing.
After four years in agency, Sonam moved in-house to work in the communications team at Linklaters, a global law firm, supporting the firm’s TMT, dispute resolution, environment and crisis management practices, as well as its diversity and inclusion and CSR initiatives.
After Linklaters, she moved to EY to continue championing diversity and inclusion through a specific external communications role, focused on promoting the firm’s UK talent initiatives. Highlights have included managing the media launch of the 2020 Parker Review report focusing on ethnic minority representation on FTSE boards, external communications for EY’s commitments to anti-racism, and supporting the publication of the firm’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability pay gap data. A key part of the role has involved helping to communicate personal experiences and stories of people at EY, providing a more authentic voice on some of the firm’s actions.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
British born, lifelong Londoner, worrier
How did you get into PR/communications?
During my second year of university, like many 19 year-olds, I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a long-term career. After looking at some options that might suit a history degree, I was able to get work experience at two very different PR agencies – Fishburn Hedges (now FleishmanHillard Fishburn) and Roche communications.
Both internships showed me how varied working in PR could be, how it linked to what you see and read everyday in the media, and that the industry offered a energetic working environment with the opportunity to be creative day to day. Six years later, I think I made the right choice.
What do you love about your job?
The complete mix of things you can end up doing in one day, let alone one week. It’s never boring and often very fast paced, which works well with my tendency to be a bit impatient and persistent. I also like that I’m able to create my own work, and find new opportunities to pursue, new spokespeople to profile and new stories to tell.
What are you most proud of?
Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many different people at EY about their personal experiences and stories and helped to share these externally. There is so much we don’t know about the people we work with and how they manage a whole variety of challenges; from dealing with the menopause at work, to long-term remote working with profound hearing loss.
Being able to give people across all levels of the business a voice and raise awareness of diversity issues has been extremely rewarding on a professional and personal level.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That I can’t, and probably won’t, please everyone.
Who are your favourite people in PR/comms and why?
Surinder Sian, Senior Corporate Communications Manager at National Grid. She has endless energy for comms, is one of the most creative people I know, and always has new ideas or suggestions to any scenario that comes her way – all while juggling twin daughters. She has a genuine passion for the industry and, like me, loves getting the coverage result.
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
Proactivity. Whether it’s securing media opportunities, building relationships or anticipating your client or stakeholder needs, I think being proactive and taking initiative in all aspects of the job is key to a successful career in PR.
What is your favourite social network and why?
LinkedIn. I like seeing what people and businesses are getting up to and supporting other people’s professional achievements. The LinkedIn pulse functionality is great for encouraging people to share more thoughtful pieces and it’s a nice platform for keeping in touch with old colleagues.
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I’m more likely to be perfecting my running playlist than listening to a podcast.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Katie Martin, Financial Times. I started following her on Twitter almost 6 years ago and her posts are as brilliant now as they were then. She’s keeps her comments short, often witty – I’ll always pause on her tweets when I’m scrolling through my feed.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s PR not ER. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to take a step back and get some perspective, especially when you’re wrapped in a campaign, juggling challenging stakeholders, and trying to deliver on high expectations.
We’re all human. We all make mistakes. And it’s never life or death.
How would you describe 2020 in one word?
Who is your coronavirus comms hero and why?
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister. She’s shown true leadership during the ongoing health crisis and has continued to speak to her country with empathy and genuine understanding, in a way that has united the nation.
Finally… Which brand impressed you with their response to Black Lives Matter and why?
Ben and Jerry’s. It was immediately clear their statement wasn’t just a marketing exercise and that they are genuinely committed to driving change. They identified a clear four-point plan, which calls on Donald Trump, Congress and Department of Justice to take action, rather than simply stating that they “stand against racism.”