Ursalaan Khan graduated with a masters in International Political Economy from Kings College London. Previously studying Contemporary Chinese Studies with International Relations at the University of Nottingham, Ursalaan lived in China for a year and a half which informed the start of his career in PR.
Ursalaan started his comms career at an integrated communications agency, Comms8, which aims to bridge the gap between Europe and Asia.
He’s now at BCW and has been there for almost a year in their Issues and Public Affairs team, working across a variety of corporate and government accounts, with the aim to integrate digital practices further into traditional corporate and public affairs.
At BCW, Ursalaan has worked on a number of high-profile projects and accounts including the UN’s #TakeYourSeat campaign with David Attenborough.
Describe your background/yourself in 5 words max?
South London, Pakistani bad boy
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
From a young age I’ve had a bit of a fascination with the continent of Asia (for obvious reasons). I ended up studying Chinese and International relations for my undergrad. I extended my study into the political aspect, studying an MA in International Political Economy at King’s College London, trying to figure out how in the world 7 billion people coexist on this planet.
Literally the day after I handed in my final assignment, I started a role at an integrated comms agency specialising in Asian clients – albeit in a bit of a mad rush trying to decide what to do with my life with the experience I had. Fortunately, I pretty much instantly fell in love with it all. I eventually came to BCW and now I’m here, tucked up in bed, perfectly sculpting these answers the day before I have to submit them (ha).
What do you love about your job?
Despite what my post-work Netflix habits say about me, I have a real fear of stagnating. So, I’m glad to say I love the variety I get from my role and the pace at which its always moving. From the clients I work with to the people I come into contact with, no two days are really the same and it keeps me sharp.
Oh yeah, seeing your work in the papers is a pretty sweet feeling as well.
What are you most proud of?
It’s bittersweet, but being part of the small group of British Pakistanis in the industry at the moment (shout outs to all the others killing it right now!). I would love to see more British Pakistanis in PR/comms/creative roles and industries, and we should do more to encourage it. Despite this, it would be a disservice not to recognise the fact there is some truly phenomenal talent representing our community right now, and I’m extremely proud to be part of it.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Having confidence in my own abilities. Speaking as someone relatively new to the industry, it can be an intimidating place sometimes. I’m often faced with challenges and hurdles that I’ve never encountered before, but having a touch of self-belief has done me wonders in those situations. Even when I’m not entirely sure of what I’m doing, I feel like I can still be confident in doing it, whatever ‘it’ may be.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Honestly, my team! I really do feel extremely fortunate to be part of a team that I feel totally comfortable around. There is always someone that is willing to help you out or offer guidance no matter what they themselves might be going through. As a plus, they’re bearable enough to actually hang around with outside of the office – just kidding, love you all.
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
To get through the periods where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong, because it will inevitably happen – and often. In those situations, being able to adapt is crucial. From your writing, to how you interact with clients, even down to the mindset you start your day with. In an industry this varied, a rigid outlook will never truly thrive.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter, without a doubt. I love that it’s all encompassing, but simultaneously so nebulous. There are countless pockets of little niche communities around any given topic. Train enthusiasts? Got that. Dairy farmers? No problem. Think the world is run by an empire of underground lizard people? RIGHT THIS WAY.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
At the moment, it has to be Stephen Bush, political editor at the New Statesman. Great coverage/analysis with a pinch of comedic flare sprinkled in. His morning briefing makes my mornings a lot easier.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Not to let mistakes discourage you. Yes – we absolutely have to learn from our mistakes, but we shouldn’t fear them. I’ve personally found it greatly restricts your work if you do.
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
It’s still early doors, but the Greggs vegan sausage roll campaign was amazing. It maintained a great sense of humour throughout the whole campaign, and crucially avoided the pitfall of preaching the vegan lifestyle, essentially moving veganism away from the stereotypes we often think of.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
So much more! An issue of this magnitude takes a lot of thought, but a few points I have in mind:
1. Establishing diversity committees within agencies/organisations should now be the norm. They need to feed into every aspect of the business and should be taken seriously.
2. Profile BAME talent in the industry more often – ensure that people of colour thinking about getting into the industry know that this is a viable career option.
3. More schemes like this! Having a mentor that has been through similar experiences is extremely useful and can be hard to come by sometimes.
Connect with Ursalaan on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Ursalaan is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. He will be mentored by Myriam Khan, Associate Manager Corporate Communications, Ketchum.