Name: Rose Bambi
Company: Cisco (left in December 2015)
Job title: Head of PR and Communications, Cisco Middle East Africa and Turkey
Did you go to university?
I read Clinical Psychology at the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire where our study focus was psychopharmacology. This involved a lot of deep delving into the functional aspects of the human brain and drug treatments to alter behaviour. It was an extremely exciting 3 years of my life from both an educational perspective as well as from the point of view of meeting lots of people from different cultures and backgrounds.
What was your first job in PR?
My first job in PR was as an account executive for a small agency based in Esher called John Shannon & Associates which was run by husband and wife team. JSA had a several high profile and interesting clients including British Gas, Country Life English Butter, Remploy and Electrolux. I so desperately wanted to do the job and prove myself that I would travel to Esher by coach leaving my home in London’s Golders Green in NW London at 5:30 am every morning in order to be able to get to work by 9:00 am. Working for a small agency gave me the opportunity to be directly involved in tasks that a PR Executive would never be able to do in their first year today. This enabled me to excel as well as demonstrate my ability to work with minimal direction and six weeks into the job, I was already writing press releases for my clients, meeting with journalists, participating in exhibitions, managing photo-shoots and proofing my first recipe book. I was also involved in some very interesting and high profile projects from the get go including ‘The National School’s Cookery Competition’ which at the time was judged by Mary Berry and Anton Mossiman and ‘Career Woman of the Year’ judged by TV celebrity Maggie Philbin.
It has been a long and very interesting journey
How did you get from there to your most recent role?
It has been a long and very interesting journey with lots of high points as well as challenges along the way! I left the Esher agency to join another boutique agency in central London this time specialising in home interiors and luxury home fabrics and spent a lot of my time visiting home-editors laden with carpet and fabric samples as well as attending photoshoots. After a few years, I made the bold decision to join forces with a friend who specialised in marketing and together we formed ‘Puzzle PR’. We were young but very confident and were able to inspire confidence in our clients included Allied Bakeries (the UK’s ten largest bread manufacturer), the Rangatiki Polo School, Francis Kyle Galleries and Boodle & Dunthorne Jewellers. I was fortunate to sell my business and after sometime took the role as a consultant to several dot com organisations who needed someone with consumer/brand experience to take their businesses to market. This led me into the world of in-house PR. I spent six years at Dell in the early 2000’s in the challenging but very rewarding role of heading up Product PR for EMEA managing their server and storage portfolio as well as the home and business PC’s. My most recent role has been at networking giant Cisco where I spent eight and a half years leading PR for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey (Emerging Markets).
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
How long is a piece of string? No one day is ever the same and that is what I love about PR. I spend a lot of my day in meetings either with internal teams, business stakeholders or our outside agencies – these range from weekly planning or work in progress meetings to briefing and brainstorming sessions. I do a great deal of writing as well as reviewing materials produced by my extended team and this has increased considerably over the last few years with the onslaught of digital and social media channels from internal communications and updates, blogs on behalf of my stakeholders, thought leadership and opinion articles feature contributions, fact sheets, Facebook entries and daily tweets. I spend a lot of time supporting and preparing our senior business leaders for both internal as well as external engagements – press interviews, analyst briefings, external and internal speaking opportunities, staff all hands and private and public sector customer meetings. Planning, budgeting and measurement are also very important to my day to day job and so I devote considerable time planning the upcoming quarter and agreeing what areas of the business we PR/Communications will support as well as reviewing what is working and areas that need focus and improvement. Engaging with the press and analysts also remains integral to my job and this may be in the form of responding to an urgent media enquiry or catching up over a coffee or lunch. Sometimes my dealings with media will be trying to contain or avert a crisis and this requires fast reaction and collaboration with numerous stakeholders across the business. Looking after a region and working for a US based company meant that international travel was also an integral part of my job – in any one quarter it is not unusual for me to visit the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the USA.
What do you like most about working in PR?
The variety of the job and the fact that one gets to work with so many people from different vocations and level of experience certainly keeps the job exciting. PR also provides the opportunity to counsel senior well-established business leaders. In my career to date, I have been fortunate enough to be able to directly support two world renowned business leaders that I greatly respect and admire, Dell’s CEO Michael Dell and Cisco’s Chairman John Chambers.
PR is still seen as the ‘poor relative’ to marketing which impacts on budget allocations
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
Many organisations still do not view PR as strategic and integral to their business strategy and subsequently it often does not get a seat at board level. This is changing but often PR is still seen as the ‘poor relative’ to marketing which impacts on budget allocations. The other hard thing is that often our role is not properly understood – PR is so much more than just a press release or an ad hoc writing job and yet it’s still the PR team who get called upon to write the copy for advertorials for example.
It was Oprah who has inspired me to believe that as a black woman I could succeed in a vocation that is still not well represented by people of black origin
Who is your PR inspiration?
My PR inspiration, though not a PR person herself, is Oprah Winfrey because she has always understood the value of her brand and used it to market herself to the best advantage as well as build an enormously successful business empire. It was Oprah who has inspired me to believe that as a black woman I could succeed in a vocation that is still not well represented by people of black origin in the UK.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
The best career advice was that ‘you can and will do anything you set your mind to as long as you remain grounded and real’ and this was given to me by my first business partner Robert Newton who also became the first investor in my PR agency Puzzle PR. This advice remains with me today and has enabled me to take chances and excel as succeed in areas that even surprise me. I am confident that this advice will stay with ne throughout my working career.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I am a sponge when it comes to reading, I read absolutely everything because I want to remain current and well connected whether that is scouring LinkedIn, reading the Guardian or Mail online, whizzing through CNN or Sky News online, keeping up to date with TMZ – I’m there! Its hardly surprising that I also read a lot from Oprah and avidly subscribe to her monthly magazine.
To people from ethnic minorities my advice would be to consider a career in PR as an option
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
Keep trying even if you do get lots of rejections at the onset – the industry getting more and more competitive. For students who want to make PR their career unpaid work experience is another great route in – write to agencies/organisations that you would like to work for and offer your services during your vacation. To people from ethnic minorities my advice would be to consider a career in PR as an option and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there by writing a blog or contributing to your university or college newsletter or in-house publication.