PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Shiryn Sayani, The Bar Council

Shiryn Sayani (25), communications manager (policy and campaigns), The Bar Council.

Joining The Bar Council three years ago with no comms experience, at just 25 Sayani is now a trusted adviser to senior leaders at the organisation, who value her guidance on messaging and trust her judgement on all communications matters. She is able to nurture new, strong relationships with media and turn policy into newsworthy stories – Sayani designed and executed The Bar Council's most successful campaign of recent years, 'I am The Bar', which addressed social mobility.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "Shiryn embodies everything that PRWeek's 30 Under 30 is about. She's not only full of ambition and a real pioneer, but the work that she does makes a real impact outside of just generating media coverage."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

I had no expectations coming into this because working in comms wasn’t something I planned. It found me, rather than the other way round! I’ve been lucky enough to have already had the chance to develop campaigns relating to issues I really care about, so the reality vs. expectations hasn’t let me down. But I’m learning a lot that I didn’t expect – there’s much more room for creativity than I thought there would be in policy-related comms, and I’ve been struck by the vast impact that a communications campaign can have on the public and on discourse around an issue.

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

To be honest, terrifying. I’ve never had to be so reactive and make so many decisions under such extreme time pressure, especially early on in the pandemic when our members’ work was turned upside down, which meant I was on multiple calls and responding to emails at all hours, trying to get the right information and lines out. But I like a good challenge, so some great positives have come out of it too – my team now works much more quickly and cohesively together, because we’ve had to rely on each other that much more. I’ve also seen much more uptake and impact from our messages – in a crisis everyone realises the value of clear and concise information and it means that, ultimately, we have been more effective.

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

Like most industries, we’ll all have to get a lot more comfortable with working remotely – a strange thing (at least for me) when your work centres on talking to people, bouncing ideas around, and managing relationships. But it also means we’ll get better at using technology in creative ways and sharing information in new ways.

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

Like so many other industries, ethnic diversity could be better. It’s important people understand fundamentally why this has to change, how it will benefit us all, and take the step of taking an honest look at how they themselves can create change, rather than simply talking the talk.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Five years ago I didn’t know my current job existed, and I quite like that, so nothing’s set in stone. But I’d like to be doing something that still challenges me, allows me to learn and to effect change through strategic communications. I’d also like to be in a position to champion and mentor others.

How do you switch off from work?

It’s been a challenge during lockdown – I put my work phone in a different room so I don’t look at it again and rely on others to enforce that! If the weather’s good, getting out for fresh air and some form of exercise really helps me to wind down and give my brain a break. Recently I’ve also been trying out baking, although it’s clear from my attempts that I should stick to the day job.

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