Sophie Parker is a London-based PR professional experienced in developing consumer engagement campaigns, influencer programmes and social media strategies for a broad range of industries from beauty to technology, retail and food and drink.
Her career highlights include working on the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, and working with the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect to create the world’s first Instagram documentary to call for an end to child marriage and FGM.
At TALK.GLOBAL Sophie sits within the global team where her role includes leading the Johnson & Johnson beauty PR and influencer strategy in EMEA, and developing global communication plans for Hugo Boss Fragrances and influencer programmes for Pernod Ricard brands including Absolut, Ballentine’s and The Glenlivet.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
Londoner, first-born, Cancerian, working mama
How did you get into PR?
It wasn’t until I started by first job in the Honours team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and worked with the press office did I realise civil service wasn’t for me, and that a career in PR beckoned. Once day I took the day off to go to a PRCA Careers fair to find out more – and inspired, I read as much as I could about the industry and even started volunteering in the communication and marketing team in the Commonwealth Club during my lunch break whilst still at DCMS to gain experience. I wrote letters to agencies that I wanted to work with, and one of them was Cow PR. I found out about the agency after reading a review about a book about the ad agency St Luke’s by Dirk Singer, one of the founders on Amazon, and the rest is history!
What do you love about your job?
It’s a cliché but the variety. One day you could be working on a thought leadership programme, and the next working with a client to develop a global launch strategy for a new segment they want to enter, and in the evening hosting media and influencers at a global launch event – all in the same week.
What are you most proud of?
Being a working mother and dispelling the myth that your brain turns to mush when you’re pregnant and become a mother. If anything becoming a parent has made me better at my job.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Sometimes you’ll work with people you don’t like, and people who don’t like you. In both case you’ve just got to accept your differences, or recognise that you’re never going to fit and move on.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
There’s so much talent in the industry that I admire, but if pushed I’d pick Tanya Hughes, who used to be the President of SERMO Communications. Sharp and quick-witted, I’ve learnt more in ten minutes with her, than I have working under some people in two years.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
To put the target audience at the heart of everything you do – and to ask why would they care about what you’re saying, doing or sharing? It’s easy in PR to get carried away with creative ideas that sound great in theory, but fail to deliver IRL. If you can answer those questions you’re never fall into that trap.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram – no question. Compared to Facebook there is less pressure to follow everyone you know, so you can personalise your feed to match your interests and passions. Instagrammers are also more adept at curating content, so the quality of content is higher than on Facebook– it’s like having a gallery in your pocket.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Oooh this is a tricky one to answer! There are so many great journalists, working across different mediums that I enjoy, but I think Sali Hughes is up there for setting up Beauty Banks – a not for profit that provides toiletries, razors and tampons to those less fortunate. It’s great to see someone using their influencer to do good.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My art teacher at school, Mrs Evans gave me a poem by Edgar A. Guest called ‘Keep Going’ that I still have, and in it there’s a line that says ‘success is failure turned inside out’ – and everyday I try and live by that sentiment, looking at failures as opportunities to learn.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2018?
Mmmh this is a tricky one. I’ll start with the biggest yay – Nike’s post in reaction to the French Open’s announcement that they would ban Serena’s black cat suit. It was great copy and illustrated the power of reacting quickly to the news agenda.
In terms of fails, Ryanair’s response to the racist incident involving a black elderly lady on one of its flights was so badly managed. Its one-line response on Twitter just lacked the human touch, and I’m sure will be held up as a case study on PR courses on how not do crisis comms.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
To recognise the issue of unconscious bias. I’d like more business leaders to look at how unconscious attitudes to not only race, but also age, gender, sexual-orientation and even education and class, in their organisations are influencing who is hired and who is promoted as a means of addressing the balance. It’s only by recognising there is an issue can we tackle the issue of lack of diversity, and prejudices in the industry
Sophie 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.