My Life in PR – This Much I Know, is an interview series that talks to PR professionals about their career journey and what they’ve learned along the way. From the innovation that they wish they had invented, to their favourite books and mentors who have left a lasting impact. This series covers more than just career advice and takes a look at the person behind the title. Alicia Solanki is Managing Director, Client Experience at Ketchum, a global PR firm that helps its clients to manage their communications in the face of disruption. They specialise in the corporate, healthcare, food and beverage, and technology industries. Alicia has been with Ketchum since 2006, where she began as an Account Director and has worked her way up in the company since then.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without
WhatsApp - it sounds basic but with the pace at which things move now at work, I’m not sure how else I'd keep up. I also love how I can scroll back through WhatsApp for info. It keeps a log of my own life in words, emojis and photos.
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
Email - how on earth did anyone ever do anything useful or fast with fax?
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
Jews Don't Count by David Baddiel - I am passionate about the DE&I agenda in communications and yet conscious that there are probably gaps in my knowledge and understanding about other communities, faith groups and religions. David Baddiel's perspective on anti-Semitism in this book was really eye-opening.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
Because it sat at the junction of all of my interests - reading, media, politics, journalism, sociology. There aren't many jobs where you can scratch all of these itches in one fell swoop.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
So much about PR is linked to intuition and fundamentally understanding how human beings are wired. Don't overthink it. No textbook can prepare you for that. Instead, read widely and open your mind.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
Be curious, ask questions about EVERYTHING.
What are the 3 biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
You can be what you can't see - make space for progress.
Be generous with your time - network widely. Connections really do pay back.
Nothing ever stays the same - never stop learning about new channels, tools and platforms.
What questions do you like to ask yourself when it comes to PR work:
Does this connect with what the people you're targeting really care about, or is it too self-serving towards your brand's interest?
Is this work truly integrated across the full communications mix? We can't operate in a silo anymore, although you should never underestimate the power of earned media.
Am I being inclusive and intentional with my work?
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
Get people to understand that this industry is a craft and therefore give it the recognition at board level that it deserves.
What are your top 3 media relations tips?
Get out and meet journalists - find out what makes them really tick. This is especially important post Covid, with fewer journalists in posts and demands on their time being higher than ever.
Don't be lazy - mass pitches don't work so make sure your approach is well researched and targeted.
Craft the 'package' for your sell - a one size fits all won't work with effective media relations so consider what assets you have in your PR pitch box before you go live and be prepared to be agile.
What do you love most about working in PR?
The access! There aren't many jobs where you get default access to the c-suite of some of the world's biggest brands, or get a heads up on incredible new product launches before the world. There is a definite feeling of being in the 'inner circle' which is empowering.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Marcus Rashford has been a phenomenal force in comms these past 18 months and whilst not a traditional media figure, it was clear in spades just how he took control of an issue, mobilised the nation to support his cause and harnessed the power of the press to enact positive change at government level. What a masterclass in how integrated communications can lead to action, media attention and ultimately drive meaningful policy change.
Who was your first boss in a media related job and what did you learn from them?
Someone that was really influential in my career early on when it came to media relations was my then line manager and account lead Cat Jennings. She has now moved to the States, but Cat had a keen eye for a story, really understood the power of earned media and instilled in me from early on the sense of hustle needed to sell a story. Something I didn't necessarily have going into this industry, but something I had to learn fast,
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