I Can Be… a PR Account Executive

 
I Can Be meets Toks Ayorinde, a PR Account Executive

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I Can Be… a PR Account Executive

I Can Be meets Toks Ayorinde, a PR Account Executive at Ketchum, a global communications consultancy.

What exactly is PR?

My work involves communicating a brand’s message to its different audiences, including the media. I work in the Brand team in Ketchum’s London office, and my job is to get different audiences to understand our clients’ ethos and connect with their products and services. That’s generally either through social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or through more traditional media, like The Times, the Guardian and other newspapers or magazines. I’m basically the link between the brands and the people.

What does a standard day look like for you?

I tend to get in around 8am. The first thing we normally do is scan the morning papers and online media to give our clients a full coverage sweep of the news that’s been produced around their brands and their industries that day. I also look at what our clients’ competitors are doing and pull together the relevant news clippings. For example, is a competitor brand making something new we need to know about or has something been made which will change how we buy certain types of products, such as cars, phones or food? It’s that broader view of how people feel about and purchase things around the world that we share. I’ll also think about what’s happened in the world generally, anything topical people should know about and what’s trending on Twitter. I get that newsletter out to everyone who works for our clients before 10am every day.

That’s a lot of people!

Yes, I can’t really mess that up! After 10am, I’ll call journalists from the traditional papers’ key sections, such as technology or lifestyle, or meet them for breakfast and coffees. I have lunch between 12 and 1pm, and then after lunch, we have a general creative brainstorm. We think as a team about new ways to talk about our clients’ products and services in the press.

After that we have two hours of reporting, putting together reports about who’s talking about our client’s products and how. At about 5pm, I start to think about setting up for the next day. We do a lot of events for our clients, so sometimes that involves going to new and interesting places to work on those events later in the evening. For example, we did a recent product launch event for a client that involved lots of national media. This took weeks and weeks to prepare for and was a smashing success.

Was PR always what you wanted to do?

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of PR until my late teens. After my A-levels, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I studied politics and international relations at university. I went to do an internship with a leading international NGO and went to the Middle East. I was there for about three months, living in Bethlehem. I was writing reports and working with a local NGO. I researched essential services in that region and where funding from international donors should be spent.

It was so interesting, and I learned a lot but, looking back, I probably wasn’t ready for that at that point in my career. I was 21, and it was very intense. It was fun, and I have some great memories, but there were some risky moments too, and I think it probably wasn’t appropriate for me to be there when I was.

When I returned, I worked in a bar and then in insurance recruitment. The bar was fun, and it was good to earn some money. The insurance job was really to make my parents happy, but once I was there, I knew it wasn’t for me, and I decided to go for something more creative. When I was 16-18 I interned at a magazine, and I thought that was really fun, so I felt I could do something related to communication. I left insurance and got an internship with a small agency, which eventually led me to my current job.

You grew up in North London, in Walthamstow. What was that like?

Growing up where I did, not many people went to university or worked in jobs that were aligned with that level of education. There were different levels of expectation within that community, and a lot of people worked in customer services for years, or for the council. That seemed like more or less all you could do, and university wasn’t really discussed as an option.

What opened my eyes was doing work experience, straight after my GCSEs, in journalism at The Times. It was really cool because you could have conversations with people you’d never normally get to talk to. At that age, it’s really empowering to have older people say they like what you’re doing or that your ideas could be news stories. That opened my mind, and I gained more confidence in my own skills, more confidence to apply for other things and to speak to people I wouldn’t have before. There were people from backgrounds like me on the course, but also children coming from backgrounds much more traditional for journalism. You’re all having conversations you wouldn’t normally have and getting an understanding of each other. That’s a useful exchange because coming full circle to now; it’s really useful in my career to understand what is important culturally and, to do that, you need to understand those different cultures – what’s happening on the street level and how to communicate that effectively.

How did you find out about the internship at The Times?

My mum worked at the local council, and after my GCSEs, she said to me, “There is no way you’re staying at home this whole summer. You better find something to do.” I was 15, so I couldn’t legally work, but I remember still trying to find jobs on Gumtree. People loved my enthusiasm, but I was still a child, so they couldn’t hire me. Then my mum gave me the application form for The Times, so it was thanks to her really.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

The best thing is that creativity and organisations drive everything we do. We have the opportunity to create new and innovative campaigns reactively, and that’s always exciting.

I don’t think you get that much creative freedom in many jobs. A negative can be the need for patience in the role. Even in a fast-paced industry such as PR you often have to align with different companies and industries for a campaign.

WHAT MAKES YOU SUPPORT I CAN BE?

I think it’s incredibly important for children to be prepared, and excited, for the professional world from a young age. It can be a particularly tough journey for young girls who live in areas where the levels of disadvantage are high, and there are less chances of them coming across confident and independent professional women to look up to or learn from. I Can Be is doing is some great work in this space, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE YOUNG GIRLS WANTING A CAREER IN PR?

Go for it. It is definitely one of the most creative and rewarding careers out there, in my opinion, especially if you work in an area you’re really passionate about, such as sports, beauty or banking (the options are endless!) I guess my two main tips would be: One, look at mentoring and internship opportunities in the PR industry through your school or college. Ask your teachers, professors or career counsellors for information. Two, follow what’s happening in the PR industry – a good place to start is looking at websites like PRWeek or PR Examples for creative campaigns and internship openings.

What would your plan B have been?

If I wasn’t a PR Account Executive, I’d probably be working for a charity. I’d be working on the ground in a disaster zone, somewhere like Darfur, North Nigeria or Bangladesh. I’d like to be on the communications side of development work.

What is it that draws you back to that work?

Just the feeling it gives you. It’s really hard to put into words, but that work matters. There’s wider importance to it, and a feeling of responsibility that’s important to me personally. It’s very emotive, and you need real empathy to do that work.