It’s we…. not he or she

My head and my heart are full after a spectacular day at the OmniwomenUK summit on Thursday. 

The speakers were outstanding. The stimulation exceptional. And the expectation for change huge. 

But the thing that struck me most is that too many still see this as a ‘them and us’ issue. Woman fighting the men. Women solving the problems and challenging the system themsleves. Woman, alone. 

I loved when Shelley Zalis said this is about ‘we, not he or she’. We are all in this together. And although some may not know it, men will benefit just as much from equality as woman will. 

That’s why my friend Phil Bartlett’s speech ‘Boys don’t cry’ was so perfectly pitched. Boys and men are brought up to think, behave, and not feel a certain way. Society needs to change that. As the Mum of a boy, I’m determined that he knows that he can be anything, and that it doesn’t need to be at the expense of anyone else. And he can certainly cry, no matter what age he is I’ll always be there to give him the biggest of cuddles. 

Phil Bartlett

I am a strong woman. I am really very good at my job. I’m an excellent mother. I make mistakes all the time, and I learn from them. I love hard and I feel emotions. Sometimes I’m angry, most of the time I’m overflowing with optimism and happiness. I want the world to be a better place and I’m willing to work hard to have an impact. As Sam Phillips said ‘not everyone can change the world, but everyone can try and change the world for one person’. Amen sister. 

Sam Phillips

The theme of OmniwomenUK 2018 was ‘Take it on’. At Ketchum in London we are going to collectively pledge to take on one initiative, so more to come on that. But I’m also going to take something on personally. And it’s this. Every single day I’m going to try and do something that matters for another woman in my life. At work, at home, for my friends. Something that makes their day a little easier, a little better, and gives them the support they specifically need. What are you going to take on?

The first month

On the 1st of January I took up my position as CEO of Ketchum in the UK. It’s been a whirlwind, and I’ve loved every second.

It was important to hit the ground running, setting clear expectations for myself and for the agency, and ensuring that there was a vision that we all believe in. Energy, positivity, momentum are all critical to giving us a boost at the start of the year. You can feel the buzz across the 3rd floor at Bankside 3. People are totally up for it and I’ve got the fear! What’s the fear? I’ve set out a vision of what I think Ketchum London can do, can be, and our staff are totally with me. Ready to march in to battle. Now I need to make it a reality, with the whole team locking arms and marching forward, but jeez does that make me feel the fear. Can we do it? Can we deliver the vision in to reality? What happens when we stumble? That’s the fear! But I believe we can. And we will. The fear actually helps.

So what have I done in the first four weeks?

– flew to New York on the 1st for an important global pitch. We did ourselves proud, but we didn’t win on this occasion

– appointed a new Executive Committee

– refreshed and set new direction for our Senior Leadership Team

– had a 2018 kick off meeting

– hosted a Resolutions with Robertson meeting where I committed to listen more and talk less (amongst other things)

– flew to Geneva for a critical strategic client meeting

– worked with Deirdre Murphy to create and launch our new creds to the agency

– lead a strategic review for a client which lead to a brand equity recommendation. A proud moment with a talented, diverse, and fully integrated team

– flew to Vienna to lead a senior issues and crisis workshop for a client (Abu Dhabi and Beijing to follow)

– agreed all Exec members objectives for 2018, including my own (gulp, we are ambitious)

– judged the PRMoment awards

– was appointed to the PRCA Board

– was elected to the Women in PR Committee

– I refreshed the drinks trolley with Gin, Whiskey, and Archers

I also had my birthday….

And what have I learned? A lot! But three key things:

1. Nothing beats face-to-face personal interaction with colleagues, clients, and industry peers. Making time to talk and connect with people enriches me and ensures I’m building relationships of trust that will last. This needs to be continue to be a priority as I move forward.

2. Time is not infinite. I’m a personality that wants to be involved in and do everything. It’s just not possible. So I am going to have to choose carefully whilst still be true to who I am. I’m going to have to delegate and trust even more than I do now. I think this will be a theme for the next year as I try different things and learn from the successes and mistakes.

3. Keep giving permission. I’ve asked the agency to focus on three key things:

– be a force for good

– be a driver of growth

– bring an entrepreneurial spirit

Already I am seeing an increase in ideas for improving the business, improving client service, and making the agency an even more fun place to work. I want even more of this, and to get it I need to keep reminding people that they have permission to trial and learn. They have permission to fail. They have permission to make the change they want to see and drive our agency forward.

So January has been busy and awesome. February is going to be even better.

Creativity belongs to everyone

In creative industries we like to put people in boxes. Planner. Strategist. Client handler. Researcher. Creative…… but the life blood of any agency is the ability to curate and empower creativity. And creativity really can come from anywhere. So if you pigeonhole people then you are way less likely to get the best ideas 💡.

The award winning break through work really comes when everyone is helping to create the ideas. When there is a permission to contribute, to offer an opinion, to push the boundaries, people from all parts of the business feel empowered to create. And this really makes a difference.

In any walk of life, but especially in agency life, there is no sole owner of creativity. In fact, creatives who are the most successful are those who can connect with others and allow others to grow through the creative process.

Having spent my professional life as a lobbyist and then a corporate reputation specialist, it would be easy for some people to consider me as more sober than creative! But that totally fails to understand what creativity actually is, and as said previously how it can come from any walk of life.

I’ve spent 26 years involved in baton twirling, first as an athlete, then a coach and judge. One of the things I get most joy out of is choreographing new programmes for talented athletes. From choosing the music, to selecting the moves, to advising on the costume, I love every moment of the process. But the most joy I get is when I see the final performance on the competition floor. Why? Because that is when you see the athlete bring their own style, character, and performance to the creation. It is when you see their creativity come to life. It is when the partnership you’ve formed, the trust you’ve built, comes to fruition in the creative process.

The two clips I’ve selected to share below are of a 12 year old Eilidh Francis performing ‘Little Bird’ in 2015, and a 13 year old Abbie Davidson performing ‘Peter Pan’ earlier this year. They might be young, but their creativity is absolutely wonderful to see, and I’m so proud to play a part in their twirling careers alongside their coach Sarah and their mums Audrey and Haley.

Little Bird:

Peter Pan:


Creativity is a powerful tool to engage and develop people of all skills and backgrounds. Inspiration can come from anywhere. If creativity exists in a vacuum it is useless, because creativity belongs to everyone.

Who am I? 

I had a brilliant night last night at the Ivy Club where I shared a platform with three spectacular women. The topic was an age old debate about whether women can have a successful career and a family. Crazy right. How can we still be having this debate in 2017. 

But it was fascinating to hear the experiences of Viv, Claudette, Julia, and the audience members. The themes that were discussed were on the whole nothing new. 

  • Employers pre-judging pregnant women and mothers and making future career decisions based on their ‘commitment’
  • Lack of flexibility 
  • Being evaluated on presenteeism rather than outcomes and impact
  • Women not being kind to each other and offering a hand up 
  • The stigma of being defined as a ‘mummy’

But despite all this, what was clear was the progress that has been made over the past 40 years. The experience of Claudette, who’s eldest is 44, is incredibly different to mine with a 15 month old. And this should be celebrated. The progress made should be applauded, but there should be no let up in demanding that businesses and society recognise the importance of women in the workplace and the impact working mums can have. 

Julia and Viv both work for themselves.  They’ve opted out of the traditional workplace and made a huge success of their careers and home life. This is increasingly an option more and more women are taking as it allows them to define their working patterns and be masters of their own destiny. 

My own experience has been nothing but positive. Why? Because I work for an incredibly progressive business. Because my husband is a real partner and shares the childcare responsibilities equally. Because I place value on what I achieve and the impact I have. Because I try to always be present when I’m at work, at home, or at play. 

It’s not always easy. But it’s worth it. I love work, I love being a mummy, and I do my best to live every moment of my life. 

As a senior business leader, my commitment is to do whatever I can to ensure that women (and men for that matter) have the tools and the confidence to blend careers and lives. No one in 2017 should have to choose between having a successful career and a fulfilled life.

Don’t leave your door open, leave yourself open

I’ve always prided myself as being a door open, approachable, fun colleague. As I’ve got more senior I’ve tried to maintain that, and I’m not afraid to admit that it’s hard. I also totally subscribe to the mantra, that in work, it is better to be respected than liked. So it is a really difficult balance to strike!

I read this article today and it really made me think about how I can make myself more accessible and approachable to colleagues at all levels.

One thing I’ve done since returning from maternity leave is hot desking all over the office. It has given me the opportunity to get to know people who joined when I was out. But also for them to see that I’m just like them in many ways. I like the same tele, food, wine, travel. It also lets them see the work I do. On clients. On new business. Helping the business to grow in any way I can. I think, and hope, it is making me more accessible. 

Many things struck me about this article, but this piece of advice cut deep:

‘carefully holding your tendency for extraversion in check so that others get a moment to speak up’

I’m terrible at this! I know I’ve got a big personality, I know my brain operates at 100 miles an hour, I know that I can dominate a conversation, I know that I can get carried away quickly….. I’m very aware of it, and I need to get better at managing it. 

So here’s my goal for the next 3 months (apparently that’s how long it takes to form a habit) I’m going to try and be the last person to speak in meetings (or at least not be in the first 3!). I’m going to write down my first thoughts, then I’m going to actively listen to every single person, and then I’m going to see what impact there is on my own opinion and point of view. 

This is not going to be easy for me. And I’ll need some of my colleagues to keep me in check. But hopefully it will make me a better colleague, a stronger leader, more accessible to people at all levels. And the impact? Surely it will mean we make better decisions. 

I’ll report back in 3 months.

Women of the world, rise up. 

On international women’s day, I’m going to be spending my time at the #omniwomen conference in London. Sourrounded by successful, motivated, and talented women from across the Omnicom companies, I’m certain I’m going to learn a thing or two. But I also want to use the day to make connections, to share experiences, and to challenge myself on what more I’m going to do for the women in my life. 

It’s incredulous that in 2017 women are still not treated equally to men. Whether it is the pay gap, representation in parliaments, representation in board rooms, or share of voice in the media, despite all the progress made, woman are still behind men. 

I used to think that we were all masters of our own destiny. That if you worked hard enough, and delivered results, you would be rewarded based on that. I’m a firm believer in fairness and meritocracy. But I was wrong. Gender continues to be front and centre as a barrier in the workplace. 

So here is my pledge to all the talented women in my life. I will be your champion.  

If you need help, ask. And even if you don’t think you do, I will probably offer it anyway. As women we need to work together, to rise up, and challenge every single day the inequality we see around us. We need to offer the hand of frienship. We need to be proactive in mentoring, promoting, and partnering with the great women all around us.

I’m honoured to work with women who inspire me every day. And I’m lucky that I have a personality that tries to smash through barriers without a second thought. I’m going to use those two things for the benefit of women everywhere. 

So I want to end with saying thank you. To the women in my daily life, and the women I work with at Ketchum, you all help make me stronger, and for that I’m very grateful. 

That tingling feeling

We’ve got a huge pitch today. A global team has been working on it for a month. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Love. Laughter. And a million deck changes….. Agonising over ever word, every image, how to start, and how to finish. 

I wish when I had started my career I’d kept count of how many pitches I’ve done. Like a midwife keeps count of babies delivered! How many wins. How many losses. How many where the client seemed to disappear and we never even got a result. 

I could have wrote a book. The chapter about the one where we had the wrong company name throughout the deck and didn’t notice until the CFO pointed it out to us (the shame). The one where every client in the room was on their blackberry from beginning to end (and we won – go figure). The one where we got a standing ovation (and lost). The one where we got the start so wrong we just closed the laptop and continued freestyle (we won!). The one where we pitched in February, thought it had gone dead, but got a call in November to say we had won. The one where we went to the wrong address and ended up over an hour late…. we didn’t even get to do our presentation. 

Every pitch team, everywhere in the world has a story to tell. For me, the most important thing is the team spirit, the fun, the creative. It’s the process of putting together our masterpiece and then giving it all we’ve got when it is showtime. You always learn something new in a pitch. So it’s never wasted time. 

This morning I’ve got that tingling feeling. I’m excited. I can’t wait to share our thinking, our ideas, but most of all I can’t wait to show off about the team. One of the best I’ve ever worked with. 

The tingling feeling is the best. It means we are ready. It means we have enough juice in the tank to smash it in the room. It means we are going to give it our best shot, and who can ask for more than that? Wish us luck.