Wriglesworth’s Ben Marquand interviews Lee Blackwell
BM: Why public relations?
LB: At the age of 16, I did work experience as part of a shopping centre media promotions team and loved it. This inspired me to study Public Relations Management at the Cape Town Technikon and launched me into the world of PR.
BM: More specifically, why financial services?
LB: Well, my first role was at an agency whose clients spanned everything from floristry to dried fruit to women’s magazines to cosmetics. There were two of us and I did everything that my boss didn’t.
It was brilliant experience but as I sat in a traffic jam in 40 degree heat surrounded by boxes of apricots and prunes intended as journalist gifts, I decided I was perhaps not cut out for consumer PR.
BM: What do you wish people knew about PR?
LB: That it is not all Absolutely Fabulous – we don’t drink bolly and attend glamorous parties every night. It would also be nice if people realised that PR is different from advertising and marketing.
BM: What makes a good PR?
LB: Essentially, you need someone who is nosey, gets on with people and doesn’t mind hard work. You also need to have the Swan gene (i.e. you may be paddling like mad under the surface but you need to give the appearance of calm).
BM: What do you enjoy about your role?
LB: I love the variety – no one day is the same and even if you think you know what you are going to be doing, it will change. Working closely with clients and taking a project from idea to launch is really satisfying as well. I’m a coverage junky.
BM: And the downside?
LB: When something doesn’t work or go to plan through no fault of my own. If we make a mistake, then we can admit it, learn from it and rectify it but when a brilliant story is bumped it can be so frustrating.
BM: And when you are not in the office?
LB: I’m always on the go – visiting friends, trying new recipes or trying to plan my next trip abroad. I get itchy feet if I don’t travel. Although it is nice to come home to my flat in Walthamstow and two cats (Pablo – the Maine Coon aka the ginger idiot or Loki – the OAP).
BM: Any final words of wisdom?
LB: I like the concept of ‘love the life you live and live the life you love’.