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Photo: Fola, taken by @BeBornSocial

As a trainee on the Taylor Bennett Foundation, I got constant exposure to programme alumni and was encouraged to connect with them throughout the programme. A few weeks ago I got the chance to have a quick chat with Folayemi Adebayo (@yoriyoriyinski) from the Spring 2016 programme sponsored by MHP Communications. I asked her about her experience since the programme and for any tips she would give an entry-level PR practitioner like myself.

Fola initially found out about the programme through the employability department at the University of East London, where she had graduated with a degree in Architecture. When asked how her Architecture degree lead her into a career in PR, she responded that at the time of graduation she was working part-time whilst looking for jobs in the architecture industry. She received an email about the Taylor Bennett Foundation and attended an information evening. At the time, a friend of hers was in PR and so she knew that she had the necessary skills to pursue it as a career.

It’s important to be proactive, ask questions and get involved”

Once on the programme, Fola found that the most challenging aspect was balancing the workload, which included weekly presentations and daily media reviews. She said the programme also encouraged creativity and she reminisced about an enjoyable visit to The Eleven – a startup studio who describe themselves as “obsessed by building great ideas into brilliant businesses”. To this day she still enjoys the social media aspect of PR and knew quite early on that Consumer PR was the direction she wanted to go in.

Apart from discovering her passion for Consumer PR, another enjoyable moment for Fola was having her article ‘Why ethnic diversity and inclusion is important in PR’ mentioned in Heather McGregor’s (founder of the Taylor Bennett Foundation) Financial Times column. However, the programme wasn’t always rosy; it did present some challenges. Fola said that during these times it helped that the five other trainees could relate. The bond between the trainees helped relieve some of the pressure and blossomed into great friendships. They still use their Whatsapp group all the time!

Following on from the programme, Fola managed to secure an internship position in PR. In the beginning, an approach she found useful was to jot down any unfamiliar PR terms and Google them later. Fola’s top tip for any PR beginners is to be energetic in everything you do and especially as an intern, know the importance of being proactive, asking questions and getting involved.

Fola reassured me that PR is a fun and social industry where you’re encouraged to have a work-life balance. She prides herself on attending events that could contribute to her own self-development and recently attended an event where she saw her favourite author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, speak.

It was great to catch up with Fola and I’m sure we’ll be keeping in touch. I look forward to what she does in the future.

Extra: To watch the fantastic TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie click here

Washington vs. Silicon Valley

In December 2015 there was a terrorist attack in San Bernidino, California. During the attack 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured. At the time it was reported to be the deadliest mass shooting in America. The two suspects, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, faced a shootout with police and were both killed. Months after the attack took place, the FBI came forward saying they had an iPhone 5C used by Farook. The FBI approached Apple to crack the phone but the Department of Justice had to undergo a legal fight with Apple because they resisted the request. Throughout this, Apple remained strong to their key messages and handled the situation well. This blog post will look at some key points, such as the letter to Apple customers, the 30-minute interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook on ABC News and the reaction of several tech companies showing their support for Apple.

The Letter

Once it had been revealed that the FBI wanted Apple to make a “back door” to Farook’s phone, Apple handled this crisis well by releasing a letter to its customers explaining clearly why they didn’t plan on following the FBI’s order. The letter detailed how Apple are committed to protecting their customers’ data: “The contents of your iPhone are none of our business”.

The letter noted the wider issue of American democracy and the irony behind the FBI asking Apple to put its customers in danger. Despite FBI claims that this was one man and one iPhone, Apple refused to take this as a guarantee of limited government access. After all, what would happen if the FBI desperately needed this service again?

Apple compared the back door access to a “master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks”. The letter didn’t slate the FBI or question their desire to crack the case. Instead Apple confirmed that they are fully against terrorism and have worked to support the government as much as possible by following search warrants and going as far as providing Apple engineers, all stating that this is “within our power and within the law”.

The letter included links to a short Q&A to provide justification for their stance and was signed off by the CEO Tim Cook. Tim Cook remained visible throughout the crisis, which positioned Apple as a customer friendly company.

Tim Cook’s interview with ABC

In February 2016, Tim Cook gave an exclusive 30-minute interview to ABC News (watch the highlights here). Tim answered some difficult questions, including the fact that some families of those who died in the terrorist attack were urging Apple to crack the phone. He responded by saying that Apple have collaborated with the FBI and given them any information they requested. Throughout, he reiterated that more is at stake and that it doesn’t make sense for them to write software contradicting their own security advancements. A killer line from the interview is when Tim said the operating system would be the “software equivalent of cancer”. Tim assured the interviewer that if they had a way to get the information without putting hundreds of millions of customers at risk, they would obviously do it. Tim repeatedly said this was about more than one iPhone.

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Image: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple on ABC News, February 2016

As terrorism is a hot political issue, Tim was asked to respond to Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump suggesting that Apple should be boycotted until they help unlock the phone. He did this by supporting democracy and a right to protest, but also that the best thing to do is work on a solution. He uses the interviewer as a personal example of how a phone can hold a scary amount of data about a person including, health, finance and intimate conversations.

Steve Jobs, Tim’s much-loved predecessor was brought up in the interview as well. Tim handled this smoothly by stating that Steve Jobs loved American Democracy and would never put it at risk. Like the letter, Tim explained that it’s an uncomfortable position to oppose the government on something, where Apple is advocating the civil liberties that the government is meant to protect.

Support for Apple

At the same time, Tim wasn’t afraid to bring up the mistakes made by the Justice Department such as how they attempted reset Farook’s iCloud without contacting Apple and this ultimately meant the data couldn’t be accessed via iCloud – this was really crucial.

This event was not just a crisis about Apple and the FBI; it was about something much larger and can be referred to as Washington vs. Silicon Valley. It opened up the conversation of secure electronic communications and government access. During its handling of the crisis, Apple got support from well-known digital companies including Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla and Google showing that Apple’s outward facing approach was a success in this crisis.

Click here to find out what happened next.

My Favourite PR Blogs

This blog post will look at my favourite PR blogs and who I would recommend them to.

prcouture

Prcouture.com

This blog looks at public relations, marketing and social media in the fashion & lifestyle industry. It features a ‘DIY Public Relations’ section for useful tips for Fashion PR beginners, but some general advice is also available. For example a recent article was titled ‘5 body language tips for your next client presentation’, which can be helpful in any sector of PR. The site is easy to navigate and knows its target audience well. Although it is for Fashion PR and the readership is 88% female, there is no reason to be put off. The website displays a forward-thinking nature by embracing social media and selling merchandise to fund the website. I would say it’s a great model for aspiring PR practitioners who wish to increase their own social media presence.

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Teamlewis.com

Lewis is a global communications agency that focuses on an integrated approach. With their clients based in the tech industry, it’s no surprise that they are able to report of issues within PR especially focused on tech. With articles like ‘Why robots won’t take over PR’ and ‘death of the newspaper’, they allow the audience to follow the traditional vs. tech debate. Features such as ‘this week in social’ also keep up to date with social media developments. I would recommend this blog for anyone interested in the progression of PR within the area of technology.

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Ronke Lawal is the founder of Ariatu PR, specialising in PR and brand management for clients in B2C industries; primarily fashion and luxury FMCG. Ariatu PR focuses in particular on African and Caribbean Diaspora so it’s interesting to see how PR can be aligned to better representation. The blog has some great tips for beginners and article titles such as ‘High Impact Tips That Every PR and Marketing Graduate Needs To Succeed’ suggest entry-level PR practitioners would benefit from a visit to the blog. There’s also an audience for entrepreneurs as she is running an event on how to get media coverage for you business.

prdaily

Prdaily.com

This blog is by Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc. and works to deliver daily news, advice, and opinions on the public relations, marketing, social media, and media worlds. This blog has endless advice for anyone on PR, from entry-level to experienced. The section focusing on ‘writing and editing’ is particularly helpful for anyone looking to improve writing. Most articles are filled with multi-media so it’s easy to digest a story very quickly.

sarahstimson

Stimsonsarah.com

This blog is written by Sarah Stimson who also published a book titled ‘How to get a job in PR’, described as a ‘comprehensive guide to finding and keeping the job you want’. The blog contains a list of the 150 PR internships and graduate schemes so will narrow down that endless search for those looking to apply. It is very career focused and gives useful interview tips. I would recommend this blog for students or anyone looking to get an entry-level PR job.

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6.A.M.

This blog is written by the CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, with 5,000 communications experts in 65 cities worldwide. CEO Richard Edelman started the blog in 2004 to share trends in communications, lessons and insights he gathers whilst managing the firm. He posts on the blog weekly and the content is truly one of a kind. From his thoughts on Brexit to his new fitness regime, he’s not afraid to give personal anecdotes. His entry on ‘The Stanford Swimmer’ Brock Turner showed his concern for the issue, especially as his daughter studies there. I would recommend this blog for anyone in PR writing their own blog. It’s a great example of how personal events link to the industry.

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Prinyourpyjamas.com

This blog was started by Elena Verlee who has two decades of communications experience. The blog was started as a way for Elena to give back to the communications community, as well as to advise entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organisations on ‘do-it-yourself PR’. The ‘New Here?’ section is great for those researching what PR actually is. I would recommend this blog especially for those doing PR for a personal project or a small business. It provides practical tips for setting up a successful PR campaign.

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Prconversations.com

The PR Conversations blog we know today was started by Toni Muzi Falconi in 2007 as an extension of his original blog from 2005. It now has 370+ posts from a variety of contributors. The three sections of ‘current, classic and seasoned’ make it easy to direct yourself around the blog. It aims to offer a platform for informed discussion and can do so because of the variety of voices of the contributors, from in-house executives to PR students. One of the most recent posts by Heather Yaxley titled ‘There’s no place for women at the top of the edifice’ looks at comments made by the chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi Kevin Roberts saying that the gender diversity debate is over. I would recommend this blog for any PR practitioner who wants to actively get involved discussion, as the blog encourages an ‘exchange of considered ideas’.

culpa

Kullin.net

Media Culpa is run by Hans Kullin, a digital PR strategist with 20 years’ experience. The blog is about media and PR, but has a specific focus on social media. This blog doesn’t follow any particular structure but touches on some unexplored stories within the PR industry such as the use of hashtags on the latest Instagram update. Posts aren’t released regularly, probably because Hans is the sole contributor. I would recommend this blog for anyone looking to use social media in PR.

prexamples

prexamples.com

This site isn’t aimed at any particular sector of the PR industry. It does exactly what the title says by providing great examples of PR and social media marketing. Although the author is based in the UK, the website seeks to give examples from around the world. As a multi-contributor blog, the author offers anyone the opportunity to submit an article on a campaign they find fascinating. The articles are short and straight to the point. Although this doesn’t offer a jobs section like PR Couture, it’s a good website when looking for inspiration or reminding yourself just how creative the PR industry can be. I would recommend this site for any PR professionals looking for ideas.

The Importance of Professionalism in entry-level PR

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Photo: http://www.2civility.org

A misconception often associated with professionalism is that it can be judged at face value. In reality, it’s an overarching concept which includes characteristics such as politeness, time management and conflict resolution, amongst many others. This post will briefly outline why professionalism is essential for entry-level PR.

In PR you are likely to come across a large number of people you need to communicate with. From colleagues to clients, CEOs to receptionists, all of the people you encounter should be treated respectfully. When working with colleagues, listen attentively to what others have to say and show your willingness to learn, absorb and feedback. By communicating in a professional way you’re more likely to build expertise. Working in PR will present interesting topics of debate surrounding values, religion and politics. By getting your point across, not belittling others or becoming argumentative it shows you’re open to learning.

A big part of professionalism is accountability. As a beginner it’s essential to admit when you’ve made a mistake and not be afraid to ask for help. In the same way that being honest with yourself is important, it’s important to be honest to others around you and honour your commitments.

The fast-moving nature of PR means that social media is widely used by industry professionals. Professionalism in this case means being mindful of what you do and don’t mind others seeing. You don’t have to hide yourself from the public eye entirely. as some channels can be useful to display creativity and writing ability. Adjust your privacy settings accordingly and be conscious of what others can access, particularly employers and clients.

When dealing with clients it’s important to show enthusiasm for the company and the project. If it doesn’t appeal to you at first, treat it as an opportunity to show adaptability. Showing a positive attitude can be the make or break of securing a project. For example, if at a client briefing you are listening attentively, showing positive body language and asking questions, you will be better received than someone who appears uninterested.

Depending on the company or industry sector, appropriate attire can alter dramatically. Some PR firms require formal wear where as others encourage casual. By dressing appropriately it shows that you’ve taken the initiative to find out what dress code is required and can fit in with company culture.

Professionalism demonstrates that you have invested in your personal reputation and want to upkeep it. It allows you to show your personality, and demonstrate consideration for others at the same time. This way the workplace will remain a comfortable and pleasant environment.

Reebok x Kendrick Lamar

“It was only right that I wore the Reebok Classic then. I still remain that classic guy.

That’s why I’m wearing their shoes now” – Kendrick Lamar

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Image: Digital Booklet – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) by Kendrick Lamar

Apart for the odd festival appearance, Kendrick Lamar is yet to do an official UK tour for his remarkable album To Pimp A Butterfly (released March 2015) – an album I think will go down in history. I managed to get tickets for his UK tour in January 2013, but had an exam the next day so devastatingly had to sell my ticket. Nearly 4 years on and I’m still yet to see him grace the stage live.

Imagine my surprise when in March 2016 a tweet appeared on my timeline to win tickets to see Kendrick Lamar perform in Manchester that evening. My newsfeed filled with fans somewhat confused about the whole situation – what was Kendrick doing in Manchester on such short notice? After some quick digging, it became clear that he was there for an appearance in conjunction with the sports brand Reebok. So far this relationship has birthed four collaborations over the past two years.

The first release in July 2015 was a twist on the Reebok Ventilator featuring red and blue as symbols of unity between California gangs Blood and Crips, similarly to the imagery on the cover art for the TPAB single ‘i’. The Ventilator was followed by the Classic Leather in February 2016 and Classic Leather ‘Deconstructed’ in July 2016. The most recent release in mid-July this year titled ‘Perfect Split’ contrasts fabrics and colours for a diverse collection. In a commercial for this release, Kendrick describes how when he first started writing, the Reebok Classic was the must-have shoe (Click here for the video). In Complex, Damion Presson, Reebok’s Director of Entertainment Marketing expressed that the unifying message behind the red and blue designs puts this footwear above the other collaborations currently gracing the market. We can see why when it retails at £65-£75 and is not a limited edition. In the wake of the highly criticized Yeezy Season 4 show at New York Fashion Week, it will be interesting to see the conversation the price list generates.

The brand founded in Bolton, now an Adidas subsidiary has a long history of artist partnerships, from Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson to newest addition Future. In 2013 Reebok famously dropped Rick Ross from an endorsement deal after his lyrics in the song U.O.E.N.O described drugging and raping a woman. The song was later remixed by Black Hippy (a collective featuring Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock) where several references to the Rick Ross incident were made.

With Kendrick Lamar continuing to push conscious hip-hip to the mainstream and being arguably the best rap artist right now, I can’t wait to see what his future with Reebok holds.

Check out:

Mac Miller featuring Kendrick Lamar ‘God Is Fair, Sexy, Nasty’ from The Divine Feminine. This is not the first time these two have collaborated; Kendrick was also featured on Macadelic back in 2012 for the song ‘Fight The Feeling’.

We’re Jamii’n: An initiative in support of UK Black owned businesses

Jamii is Swahili for ‘community’, and 22-year-old founder Khalia Ismain started this entrepreneurial venture in the hopes of uniting and expanding support for UK Black owned businesses. The concept of Jamii is that customers get access to exclusive discounts on fashion, food, hair, skincare/beauty and art through their Jamii membership – this can be applied in-store and online. I was lucky enough to ask Khalia a few questions about her exciting journey and the future of the company.

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On your website you say that Jamii grew out of frustration for not being able to find the products and services you required. Can you explain this further and also what motivated you to turn this irritation into a reality?

Being a woman of colour, I’ve always found it difficult to find things that work properly for me, be it hair products that are suited to my hair texture, greetings cards that reflect what my family actually looks like, or even just restaurants that authentically represent my culture. I always had to compromise, and I got to a point where I was like ‘this is a joke’. I started looking into African- and Caribbean-owned businesses because I realised that they were much more likely to provide me with what I needed – and I was right. 

So I thought I’d try to make it easier for both people of colour and people who are interested in authenticity to find those businesses. If you want something that actually works for you, or if you want something that genuinely represents the African and Caribbean cultures, Jamii is the place for that. You’re simultaneously saving money and supporting the community – you can’t get better than that!

How do you see Jamii developing in the distant future, and what will be your next step toward that vision?

Jamii as it is now, as a hub for savings and authenticity – this is just the beginning. I want a Jamii store, so you can get all the wonderful products on the high street too; a Jamii fund to support budding entrepreneurs; Jamii in Europe and America… There’s so much I want to do – but I have to build the foundation first! My next step is all about getting the word out, making sure as many people know about us as possible, and partnering with more cool companies. 

As a start-up company what challenges do you think you’re likely to face and how do you plan to overcome them?

Most start ups struggle with a lack of resources – in terms of money, time and people. It means we’ve got to be more laser focused, but it also gives us more space to be creative with what we’ve got. I’m not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.

You’ve done so well in gaining social media attention, especially with your official launch at the Dark Sugars Cocoa House in Brick Lane. What are your main tips for women of colour who wish to become entrepreneurs?

Thanks! My main tip, is to be yourself. With entrepreneurship, you have to be true to yourself – if you’re not, you will lose your way very quickly. There’s no set formula to follow, and so do things how you want them done. You will certainly have to adapt yourself to some situations, but that’s a fact of life and that doesn’t mean compromising who you are. 

You strike me as a strong, independent and motivated individual. Who are you inspirations?

Haha thank you! My top two inspirations are quite cliché if I’m honest! My mum, for being the most selfless and caring individual I’ve ever known; and Zendaya because (although she’s younger than me) she embodies what it is to be a highly successful woman of colour who doesn’t compromise on her values – and doesn’t let them compromise her!

Head over to the Jamii website where you can learn more and sign up for exclusive discounts. Also follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

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Quick questions

Which music artist/group right now? I’m so bad at keeping up to date with new music, but I’m really feeling NAO at the moment. I discovered her last year and fell in love with ‘Adore You’ instantly – it will be my wedding song!

What series? Narcos!

Tommy Hilfiger x Aaliyah

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Photo: http://wheretoget.it/look/1183874

A fortnight ago marked the 15th anniversary of the death of 90s R&B singer and actress Aaliyah. Prompted by the social media tributes about the legacy and untimely death of the songstress, a conversation arose in my friendship group of whether we are fans of Aaliyah. Although ¼ of the group exclaimed yes, we could all agree that her music was something we looked into later on; we were 7 or 8 years old when she sadly passed away.

Looking at her Back and Forth video from 1994, a 15-year-old Aaliyah wore baggy clothing, crop tops, various headgear, Timbaland boots and her signature Locs sunglasses. This was the style of that era and can be seen on several other R&B stars from Janet Jackson to TLC. This 90s style of laid-back, effortless sex appeal has done a complete 360 and has become extremely popular over the past few years.

One image that was continually shared on social media features Aaliyah wearing a 3-piece Tommy Hilfiger outfit whist shooting an advert for the brand (click here for the video). In an article on ‘18 Epically ‘90s Tommy Hilfiger Moments’, Buzzfeed said ‘Aaliyah will forever be the face of the label’.

Some claim her legacy lies because she was a true embodiment of the 90s woman, whilst others claim her success could have amounted to that of Beyoncé if given the chance.

Check out: Aaliyah – 4 page letter (1996) = Kendrick Lamar – Blow My High (Members Only) (2011)