PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Naiema Ashraf, WE Communications

We hear from Naiema Ashraf (28), senior account manager, WE Communications.

WE describes Ashraf as a multifaceted and trusted advisor to her clients in the agency's growing digital and health offerings, and in 2019 she was instrumental to the 83 per cent new business success rate in health. Ashraf, who joined WE in 2015 as an intern, was praised for her digital expertise and training abilities – she has delivered a programme that means more than 70 per cent of the team is now trained on social advertising, influencer marketing and SEO.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "Naiema has had a big impact on the business as well as for her clients and she clearly has a great career ahead of her."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

When I joined the industry in 2015, I expected my role would be focused on working with media only, but I quickly realised how varied and involved PR is across a breadth of communications disciplines. I’ve had the opportunity to work with forward-thinking clients, ensuring I’m always thinking about the next level of PR.

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

Bizarre! Working from home was something I thought I would enjoy, but after nearly three months, I’m looking forward to going back to the office, so I can speak to and interact with people face-to-face! The experience has taught me how important it is to take a break and create clear work and home boundaries for myself in busy periods, to keep my mental health in check.

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

COVID-19 has, of course, changed PR – and every other industry. We’re living in a virtual world at the moment and this has forced PR professionals to think more creatively and collaboratively. Clients are looking for virtual ideas to engage customers and media that can replace events and pre-COVID-19 plans. We are already starting to see agencies think more about integrating their teams and skills to deliver those campaigns to reach a wider audience.

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

Diversity – we’re at the very beginning of seeing a change across the industry. It’s more important than ever for people joining the industry to see representation of themselves where they work and will spend a lot of time. We need to see diverse backgrounds and experiences at the top of the PR game to make that change happen. How can we strive to help brands reach diverse audiences if agencies aren’t doing the same?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I expect the very nature of communications to change as the industry becomes more integrated and global. I’m already seeing the cultural clash in my shift from tech to the health sector, and I’m excited to see how my role will transform in the future. In five years, I plan to be part of a leadership team within a diverse agency, growing and inspiring my teams to drive top campaigns for the most exciting brands out there.

How do you switch off from work?

For me, switching off from work is getting away from all the technology and screens. I love trying new food, and with the lockdown, I’ve experimented with tons of new recipes. Some haven’t turned out quite as planned, but that’s a different story!

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