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Celebrating the amazing women paving the way in PR at Refresh

At Refresh, we do a lot of work around International Women’s Day profiling the amazing women we work with across our client’s businesses. But, this year, we also wanted to take some time to connect with the inspirational women working behind the scenes here at the Refresh. The women at Refresh truly are expert communicators and have vast amounts of knowledge, thanks to years of experience in various fields of this multi-faceted industry including, construction/built environment, tech, FMCG, consumer goods, manufacturing, entertainment and home interest, amongst others.

From working with scaling tech businesses to help build profile and collaborating with the biggest names in the trade influencer space, to planning and executing PR stunts, and facilitating high-profile award ceremonies, the women on our team are paving the way in the world of PR. But, who inspires them? Why did they pursue a career in the wonderful world of PR? What obstacles have they had to overcome in their careers to-date? And what advice do they have for budding PR professionals? This International Women’s Day, we find out…

1. Can you tell us about an amazing woman who has inspired you – either personally or professionally?

“In recent years I’ve really leaned into Brené Brown for career advice, as she offers great insight on leadership, specifically around the importance of vulnerability and how this links to courage. Her book, Dare to Lead, podcast, Unlocking Us with Brené Brown, and Netflix special, Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, are all great resources,” Jess, account director.

“Jacinda Ardern, as she’s been exemplary during the pandemic. She leads with empathy and vulnerability – something I think many world leaders are missing, and she really puts herself on the level of the people she’s speaking to. Ada Lovelace has also been a huge inspiration for me. Lovelace was the first female computer programmer in the 1800s and, to be so pioneering in what is still a male-dominated industry today, although things are changing slowly but surely, is amazing,” Lucy, associate director.

“As cliché as it is, I think I would have to say my mum. She always manages to put my sister and I first and has gone above and beyond to make sure we’ve always had opportunities to grow and learn. And she’s done all this while continuing to study herself and she’s now on her way to earning a doctorate – what a legend!” – Chloe, PR and marketing executive.

“An amazing woman who inspires me is my cousin, Faye. She was diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disease when she was 12, which has left her with limited mobility, extreme fatigue and blindness. Despite her daily struggles, she works tirelessly to bring affected families together through her charity and she is always helping others,” Robyn, junior account executive.

“My mum! She somehow managed to complete her undergrad and a PGCE year with four kids, and went on to become an English teacher - inspiring even more children,” Phoebe, junior account executive.

2. What inspirational quote do you live by?

““Always bet a little kinder than necessary,” J.M. Barrie. You never know what someone else is going through, so I try to keep that in mind when speaking to people. You might be having a bad day, but their day could be worse!” – Claire, account manager.

“It isn’t an inspirational quote exactly, but I like to spin an old saying on its head and live by, “If you have something nice to say, you should always say it.” I think it is so important to spread positivity, so if someone’s done a good job, or even if you just like their jacket, then tell them. They’ll walk around feeling good all day, and telling someone that they’re doing a good job will inspire them to continue doing it – in some cases, they’ll even strive to do better. Positive reinforcement is always key in my opinion,” Libby, account manager.

“Coco Chanel’s “in order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different,” has always resonated with me and encourages me to challenge the norm - something I believe is essential in this ever-evolving world of PR,” Jess, account director.

“My very wise drama teacher once told me to “feel the fear but do it anyway,” which has stuck with me for almost 10 years now. To this day, I still think about this quote when I’m making a particularly scary decision – and every time, these decisions have led to some of the best opportunities and experiences in my life,” Chloe, PR and marketing executive.

“My favourite inspirational quote is “Do good and good will come to you,”” Robyn, junior account executive.

““Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength,” G.D. Anderson” - Phoebe, junior account executive.

3. What attracted you to a career in PR?

“I didn’t want to just be a person behind a desk – I wanted a career where I’d be talking to people, while also using my creativity to communicate,” Claire, account manager.

“I initially wanted to be a journalist but after interning at my local newspaper while in college, I quickly realised most of the news agenda is generated by PRs. I then did a PR internship, absolutely loved the variety of work and hustle and bustle of an agency - and so, my PR career began,” Jess, account director.

“Being able to communicate with so many different audiences and impact a lot of people through this,” Phoebe, junior account executive.

“I was attracted to a career in PR because I am a people person. I love that I can build relationships with all sorts of different people, whether that be clients, journalists or stakeholders, and that these relationships can lead to positive results for clients. For me, it’s a win win!” – Beth, senior account executive.

“I fell into PR by accident back in 2001 and worked in-house for five years before moving agency side. I love the agency world: our clients who are working in-house spend a lot of time in internal meetings and generally, as marketing managers/director, they are spinning lots of plates at their end. That means they look to us to come up with creative ideas regularly, which often they take forward and progress. It means we can become their creative inspiration, offering up ideas that solve problems for them, but also are fun to work on. For example, this year we’re going to be out and about in the Lake District with Aqua Pura, launching Etex’s flagship manufacturing plant in Bristol, at exhibitions, announcing the winner of the Heating Installer Awards 2022 and working with influencers to launch new products into the UK. We’ve also got the prospect of foreign travel on the horizon for a few team members and it’s great to be able to generate this variety of opportunity, which just wouldn’t happen in most other careers,” Laura, managing director.

4. Can you share a career highlight with us?

“This is a tricky one! I think it has to be getting one of my clients featured as number one in GQ’s ‘top 10 coolest things of the week,’” Claire, account manager.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have my PR career take me to various parts of the world, and to work with some well-known and loved consumer brands. But, regularly seeing campaigns I’ve helped lead come to life and generate widespread attention amongst media and target audiences, never gets old,” Jess, account director.

“A career highlight for me was landing my first piece of national consumer coverage, which was in the i newspaper last year for one of our clients. Another highlight has to be the growth of our owned Heating Installer Awards, which has massively expanded over the past year,” Beth, senior account executive.

“Each year my answer to this question changes. My career highlight is the current performance of Refresh. We’ve bounced out of COVID and delivered a set of accounts this FY that are unrivalled in the history of Refresh. In addition, having been glued to our screens for almost two years doing the best we can with quite traditional ways of working (research, copywriting, press office), we’re now getting out and about, delivering stunts and activations for both trade and consumer clients, and are now able to put the ‘relations’ back into public relations! I’m really proud of how we’ve come through lockdowns and COVID to be even stronger as a team and also financially,” Laura, managing director.

5. Can you tell us about a challenge you’ve overcome in your career and how you did it?

“I graduated with a degree in English language and linguistics – so a really broad subject area that didn’t have any direct link to PR. So, when it came to finding a job and starting my career, it was a real uphill battle as I only had a few months’ worth of work experience. I was adamant that I wanted to work in PR so, for this reason, I ended up applying for a PRCA apprenticeship – it was one of the best decisions I’ve made and I’m so proud of 21-year-old me for not giving up!” – Claire, account manager.

“Running a business means that every day I come across situations I’ve never faced before. Solving problems is a key skill in PR, something I transferred over to running a business. The biggest challenge by far has been the reaction to COVID: at the time I had a three-year old daughter at home, a partner working full-time, and a team of people all looking to me for the answers to the future. It was extremely challenging to balance the needs of the business, our team and our clients with the welfare of my three-year old, friends and family – oh and responding to 5pm Government briefings and changing legislation. I know many people faced similar situations, but at the time this was unprecedented and unknown territory. I found the impact of furlough particularly difficult, and how to balance the team’s welfare to ensure they were communicated to enough, but not too much, while ensuring they all still felt valued as members of the team,” Laura, managing director.

6. Do you have any words of wisdom for anybody hoping to pursue a career in PR or comms?

“Be open minded! The PR industry is really competitive and, more often than not, you’ll be working with brands from a range of sectors. Since I started my career in PR, I’ve worked for businesses in a whole host of sectors – from food on the go and retail, to funerals and insurance,” Claire, account manager.

“Personally, I think you’re half way there if you are a nice person to be around and speak to. It’s amazing what you can get out of PR and comms if you treat people with kindness and also find ways to have a laugh with them – they remember you, they answer you quickly, and they’re more keen to work with you – or even do you favours! Of course, there are skills that need to be taught, but they can be exactly that - taught, the best way to start is by PR-ing yourself. Be confident in your knowledge and make people look forward to speaking to you. It’ll do you the world of good!” – Libby, account manager.

“Take every opportunity that comes your way. Work hard, and enjoy it. For me PR is a passion: if you’re not enjoying it, then it’s probably not the right career for you. Not all days can be great, but the variety of experiences you get (particularly in agency PR) really opens up a lot of opportunities for the future, and means no two days are ever the same – it’s a fantastic, exciting and rewarding career choice!” - Laura, managing director.

Happy International Women’s Day from the whole team at Refresh!

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