Five minutes with account director, Shahlia

Tell us about your background in tech?

I got into PR generally because I thought it’d be all champagne and parties. I started at a large corporate agency and then progressed to the tech team, in an admin role. There was no champagne (or parties) but I knew it was a great place to work, and a great environment to learn from. I already assumed I’d be more interested in consumer PR as it feels slightly more natural when you’re starting in PR. I actually then found it really interesting working in tech in terms of their products and problems they were solving, and from there I discovered that PR is basically about translation. It’s about translating information so that people can understand it, access it, and see the benefits from it. This was my starting point for learning the ABCs of PR.

I then did a period of freelancing to get my head around the different types of agencies and clients out there, and that’s where I brought in more B2C tech experience, and then eventually landed at my next agency. From there, my personal life changed, becoming a mum, which allowed me some time to do more freelancing, before taking a permanent in-house role based in Brighton.


Can you share any of your career highlights?

At one of my most recent agencies, the re-pitch/tender process was something that I really enjoyed and I feel I learned so much from it. I’d spent 12 years in agencies being on the other side of the table, so seeing the pitching process coming from the agency, when I moved in-house, was fascinating. You can see where work has really been done or where it’s been a copy and paste job, and you get a real eye for spotting talent and quality over substance. So that was very eye-opening.

Another is probably one of my first press pitching sessions. It was that quiet August period when all the journalists are out, no one’s really about, and half of the immediate team are all away at events or on holiday. We received a phone call from one of our most important clients, explaining that the chief exec was coming to London in a few days’ time and wanted a full day of media and press meetings. And I was absolutely terrified. We were faced with ‘fill his diary immediately and make this work.’ I was on the phone for almost 12 hours straight, and it was extremely intense. But no one was around. Thankfully, however, I did manage to get some great hits for this person in one day, and that was a real moment for me of thinking, ‘Wow – I actually am really good at my job and can do a great job without much support.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I like the idea of cooking. I spend a lot of time reading recipe books, but it’s more theoretical than practical to be totally honest in terms of my ability. My brother recently got married and that partially took over my life for the past few months. I have a seven-year-old about to enter the summer holiday period, and a husband working in the Met police on various shifts – so life is far from quiet. Generally, however, I like making the most of being out of London, going to the beach or walking around the Downs, and relaxing in my newly redone garden. Props to the husband. (And of course, testing the many pubs that Brighton and Hove has to offer).


Favourite TV show/or film?

I really love Sons of Anarchy, although that’s over now… I have to admit, EastEnders really is my guilty pleasure too… and my daughter and I truly love the Great British Bake Off. And there’s a kids’ version too?! Did you know this? It’s amazing.


What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

I’m looking forward to really getting under the skin on the projects we’re working on. Learning about new businesses, trying to figure out new ways to get stories out there. I find everything like that very interesting.

Non-work related, I’m looking forward to a long hot summer, hopefully. I’m obviously going to take some time off to be with my family over the holidays, throwing open my bi-fold doors and enjoying my new kitchen. Lovely.


What’s your favourite stereotype about the PR industry?

Champagne and parties. It is literally the reason that the 20-something-year-old me got into PR, but it’s never actually materialised. There’s elements of it, sure, but I think maybe I was a few years late to that scene…


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Ben Keeley