Interview conducted and blog post written by Olivia Shalofsky, PR Consultant, Direct Line Group
A rising star finalist at the 2017 Black British Business Awards, a former in-house pensions professional of the year and a member of the newest cohort of the Women in PR and PRWeek Mentoring scheme, Addy Frederick has a lot to show after only nine years working in communications.
What made you choose PR?
I originally wanted to be in advertising, whilst I was young and inexperienced enough to believe that the advertising process would allow me to delve in and out of the creative parts usually managed by various departments. I remember thinking to myself ‘I could do better than that’ as I watched repetitive adverts that all seemed the same.
In my first year of university that all changed when I heard representatives from the world of marketing, advertising and PR giving speeches about what they do. One woman in particular really inspired me; I wish I could remember her name, because it was her who originally piqued my interest in PR. It was also the first time I’d ever heard someone talk with such energy and passion about their job and their industry. I knew from that moment that I wanted to work somewhere that would excite me as much on my last day as it did on my first day.
The hardest thing was breaking the news to my Nigerian mother, who was only just coming to terms with the fact that I was reading Classics rather than Law or Medicine. As my father doesn’t believe in people being idle I knew that if I didn’t have a job for the summer I’d be in his accountancy firm doing bookeeping. So, whilst many of my friends spent the summer ‘finding themselves’ on expensive holidays, I ‘found myself’ working for a PR agency at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – my first (amazing) taste of the industry.
I’ve just completed my first newspaper sell-in; do you have any key tips for young professionals doing the same?
I always tell people about my first sell-in, as it was a real baptism of fire and has definitely influenced the way I do it, even today. Keen to get on with my sell-in, I remember ringing the first journalist on my list – but realising, as soon as he answered the phone, that I was woefully unprepared.
I had to make it up as I went along, although he was not fooled and barked, “Why would my readers care?” before telling me to ‘f’ off and slamming the phone down.
I sat in stunned silence for a while, shocked that someone would swear at me at work. However, it did drive home the fact that, as with most things in life, preparation is key.
The four things that I wish I had known before my first sell-in would be:
- Jot down the key points you wanted to get across and pull out any detail that may be of particular interests to the publication’s readers before the call
- Practise your lines. A dry run of your opening line can make you feel more confident
- Stand up while you speak. Psychologically, it can help you to feel more confident. It also makes it difficult for you to end up with your head bowed whispering into the phone, which reduces your oxygen levels and can make you feel anxious.
- Meet and build relationships with journalists. Getting to know journalists and understanding what makes them and their readers tick will help you to understand which stories to pitch to whom.
Do you prefer working agency or in-house?
I only briefly worked in an agency whilst at university. I’ve spent the last nine years working in-house which I love and have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing agencies to tell some fantastic stories.
I think agency and in-house work comes with its own rewards and challenges. As an in-house PR you get involved with every level of a business and I love the commercial element of it, and being able to see what’s under the bonnet of a business. I’m a bit of a geek, and relish the opportunity to become a subject matter expert about a certain industry and business, providing strategic advice to senior management within it.
I also enjoy having the opportunity to easily get experience within the other areas if Corporate Affairs, from writing communications to share with our colleagues, to engaging with MPs and organising and attending events at the party conferences.
It is such an achievement to be accepted onto the Women in PR and PRWeek Mentoring scheme – what is it like being a mentee?
We’re almost half way through the process and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn’t going to apply this year as I’d just started a new role and I wasn’t sure I’d have the time to apply myself properly. However, Claire Foster, the Vice President of Women in PR, told me that it would be a mistake if I didn’t apply, and that the scheme had made such a positive impact on her career.
The Women in PR matchmakers did a great job pairing up the mentors and mentees. My mentor, Christina Kelly, has been incredible. She works in Corporate Affairs for Clydesdale Bank and she is exactly what I needed: straight-talking, warm and hilarious and we talk about everything from work to relationships.
One of the most important things that Christina has taught me to do better is prioritise. She’s helped me to really think about what I want and reminds me to ask myself what is important to me and adds the most value to my life. My team always laugh at me as I’m always heading off to one networking event or industry event but I now sign up for fewer evenings out in the name of professional development. I’m also better at not always being on. I recognise that I don’t really need to send that email at 11pm or first thing in the morning.
I am so proud to be a part of this scheme, which is now in its fourth year. I can’t recommend it enough, it is so useful to have someone from whom you can learn, and I would certainly say I have made a friend for life in Christina as well. She’s taught me to approach problems and opportunities in different ways and I value having her at the end of the phone.