PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Tiffany Burrows, Newington Communications

We hear from Tiffany Burrows (27), account director, public affairs, at Newington Communications.

Burrows is an important member of the Newington team, providing senior counsel to several chief executives. She is credited with developing the agency's offer across health, education and employment, bringing in major new clients including Nestlé. Burrows has also chaired the PRCA NextGen Public Affairs group for more than a year – including during the coronavirus crisis – raising its profile and supporting young public affairs pros to develop.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "A commendable track record of success."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

I didn’t know a lot about the industry before I joined and was a bit nervous about what lobbying really was, given the negative reputation it can often have. I quickly found this not to be the case and, rather than being all about spin, found that working in public affairs can bring about meaningful change.

Describe your experience of working in PR during the COVID-19 crisis.

The crisis has further emphasised the importance of the right messaging when communicating externally, particularly when trying to engage with policymakers, in order to achieve cut-through. The response in contacting MPs has been very mixed, but it has certainly been noticeable that Parliament has had little bandwidth to engage on anything outside of coronavirus.

On a personal level, I still communicate with colleagues and clients as much as if we were in the office, albeit in a more scheduled way. If anything, I see more of my clients, because we catch up via Zoom or Teams! However, I’ve found it harder to foster the creativity that being around people and spontaneous conversation can spark.

How (if at all) will the COVID-19 crisis change the PR industry?

COVID-19 has changed the way we all work and the impact of this will be long-lasting, such as the increase in remote working and some video calls and virtual meetings being here to stay. It isn’t just us as PR practitioners, but also the people we work with; companies, politicians and journalists who have had to adapt and navigate their jobs in a different way.

That being said, I don’t think this will replace valuable in-person interactions. From the casual conversations in the office and informal coffees with contacts, to networking and more formal events, face-to-face interactions are crucial to the PR industry.

What one thing above all would you change about the PR industry?

I would like to see a more diverse industry, and it’s on each and every one of us to make this happen. The PRCA Public Affairs Census last year highlighted that the industry is London-centric (67 per cent), male-dominated (64 per cent) and [predominantly] white (79 per cent), with more than a fifth of those in the industry having attended a fee-paying school [the national average is seven per cent]. This has to change if we, as an industry, want to attract the best talent, be creative, and stay relevant.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d like to be working abroad, learning how to apply the skills I’ve developed in a new political environment. As someone who has always been interested in international relations and diplomacy, I’d love to be working on issues in these or related areas, such as trade.

How do you switch off from work?

I’ve always been a bookworm, and I really enjoy disappearing into a book. Before coronavirus I would try to read on the Tube home (if there was enough space to get a book out), using the journey to switch off.

Exercise is also essential to me to switch off. Before coronavirus, I would go swimming at least twice a week, but since the pool has been closed, I’ve taken up running again.

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