'I definitely come from the go-big-or-go-home school' - Creative Q&A

PRWeek grills creative comms figures on how they got where they are, their career highlight, solving creative writer's block, and more. Today we speak to Charla MacLean, digital creative at Milk & Honey PR.

'I definitely come from the go-big-or-go-home school' - Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

My career has been pretty ‘squiggly’ so far, but I’m actually quite pleased it has been because I’ve learned so much along the way. I started out as a fashion buyer at Topshop (RIP) and ASOS, then moved into brand management specialising in social media, PR and influencer comms at everyone’s favourite eco-friendly cleaning brands Method and Ecover. I was there for several years, punctuated with a year at a tea company, before switching onto the agency side of creativity. And it feels like I’ve finally found my happy place.

What's been your creative career highlight?

The highlight that I don’t think I’ll ever get over is the buzz of winning a pitch. I spent the first part of my career on the other side of the process, but delivering it is so much more fun. The amount of work that goes into it, the adrenaline of selling the ideas, and then the high of learning a brand has bought into those ideas is really something.

... and lowlight?

Starting out as a super keen assistant brand manager, and in my eagerness to launch a disruptive piece of video content I nearly ended up throwing £20k down the drain when I completely forgot to get legal sign-off ahead of the shoot. We had a production company, film crew and actors ready on location (where we'd all arrived at 5am to get set up, yuk) and I had to put everything on hold while I begged the legal team via Zoom from a Pret a Manger to sign it all off. A hairy moment for sure, but it got nominated for an award for most effective use of video - so kind of worth it in the end!

What's your favourite campaign of the past three months (not one that you or your organisation were involved in) and why?

I loved CPB London’s International Women’s Day ‘Imagine’ campaign for its simplicity and how much of a punch it packed. It’s not a totally new concept, and I like that about it because it shows how you can restructure an idea through simple copy and still deliver serious impact. Additionally, Don’t Cry Wolf’s urinating billboard with Elvie was very stand out. Bold, brave, and anything that aims to debunk the shame around women’s health issues is a big thumbs up from me.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

Sleep! I have my best ideas just as I’m about to fall asleep, so I make sure I grab my phone in the dark and hazily transfer everything from my brain into the notes section. When I check in the morning, it’s either a list of complete nonsense, or there’s a total bloody gem. Usually the former, but we live in hope of the latter.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

By continuing to go for bold. This is why I decided to switch agency-side from in-house. I was craving the opportunity to work across lots of different sectors with bigger budgets and more varied challenges - ultimately pushing brands to put braver work out there. It’s exciting being able to work in an industry that can influence opinions and provoke a real difference in the world, but I definitely come from the ‘go-big-or-go-home’ school of thought.

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