A Sit Down With TBF Star – Kharis Brooks

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Kharis Brooks is a Taylor Bennett Foundation alumni who completed the programme in 2014.

Kharis has gone onto work at companies like Vodafone and Digicel, winning the PRCA & PRWeek PR Internship Award in 2015 for Best Intern. She is a rising star in the PR world and is currently an Account Executive at Teamspirit. Check out her insight into the PR industry!

How did you hear about the TBF programme?

I actually heard about it from my mum as I had previously done a 10-week internship in New York the summer beforehand. I did that in an agency and thought it would be a good fit. Not realising it was completely different and not what I had expected but still overall an amazing experience. I actually have to thank my mum for that!

What was your favourite/challenging part of the programme?

So my favourite part of the programme was doing presentations. I enjoy public speaking so being able to work with my team and go over a topic, do the research and then deliver back to Sarah, my programme manager and the people who were sponsoring us at Finsbury, I found that to be a really enjoyable experience. As far as the most challenging part of the programme it definitely was getting all the writing done on time, it is just something that the further we got into the programme the more you realise it is something you have to do every single day. I knew PR was obsessed with writing and I do enjoy writing but it was managing the workload that came with it.

Did you always know you wanted a career in PR/Communications?

Well, I studied marketing communications and I didn’t always know what I wanted to study. In fact I actually went to university for the first time in 2008, studying philosophy and history. I then quit after a term. Then on my way back to Bermuda, I met the public relations director for Victoria Secrets. She told me everything about her job and it was when talking to her that I realised I could make a career out of writing, building relationships with people and helping brands appear better to the public. So yeah, I came back to the UK and completed my marketing communications degree.

Do you think doing the TBF programme has impacted your career?

Absolutely! In terms of managing the workload, as it was incredibly difficult, it did make my transition to Vodafone incredibly easy. I was totally fine with last minute deadlines and writing projects. Even til now, I always manage to have a conversation every other day now that I’m agency side and something comes up that I learnt while at TBF so it’s definitely been a huge help.

What has been your favourite part now you are a professional in the industry?

My favourite part of my working life is campaigns. They’re so fun. Sometimes they can be a bit manic depending on the deadlines but for the most part campaigns are absolutely my favourite part of PR because you get the opportunity to tell a story and there are so many ways to do that. I also think we’re quiet privileged in PR that we have a variety of ways to tell a story.

What led you to working abroad? I recently saw you came back having worked in Bermuda for several months?

I’m actually from Bermuda but I know eventually I would like to go back and see what I could do there in the communications industry. Things on the island change incredibly rapidly with different industry dynamics so I wanted, at the very beginning of my career, to get a taster of what life in PR was like on the island. When I came back to London to build my years of experience here, I knew I was building the right kind of experience. It really was a learning experience for building onto my career later down the line.

What has been the highlight in your career so far?

My highlight thus far has been at Vodafone. I worked on a campaign for International Women’s Day 2015. Seeing companies associate their days with national days like that are so huge. So HR approached the communications team because they were launching a global maternity policy for every Vodafone market worldwide. The policy would make it mandatory for women to get the same amount of time off no matter where they are across the globe, as some countries are entitled to less time off. It was pretty huge, we did research with KPMG and we were the first company to do that. We then built a campaign to support the announcement. It included an animated video, infographics, photography and worked with journalists all over the world. It was such a great experience to have so early on in my career!

What are your feelings on diversity and do you feel that the industry has improved?

To an extent I do feel there has been an improvement and I feel like agencies in particular are making a conscious effort that/to make their hiring process inclusive. As far as why they are doing it, I hope it’s for good reasons and not just for appearances but fundamentally, diversity in the industry is an absolute necessity. Most industries across the board have people who are trying to diversify the workplace but with PR specifically, your entire working life is based on building relationships with people and being aware, so diversity is really in the best interest of the industry, whether agency or in house. Your content is much more engaging, with much wider audiences, when your team don’t all share the same set of experiences.

If you could do the programme again what would you have done differently?

I would have of made more of a conscious effort to stay in touch with the people I networked with on the programme and who gave me their cards. When you get to the end of the ten weeks and not knowing what to say is the hardest bit. You don’t want to reach out to someone you met in the second week because they would automatically feel you are looking for a job, whereas if I had sent a follow up email the next day saying I really appreciated that class you taught, I begin to build a relationship. It just would have made it easier for me to contact them if I had kept the contact regular, so I really wish I done that more.

What advice would you give to young professionals coming into the industry?

I would say first impressions are everything! It’s not a matter of knowing everything from the start but never underestimate the value of a first impression. And make yourself irreplaceable from day one! You don’t have to know everything from day one to be an invaluable asset to a company, just be vocal, be observant and be efficient. It’s about contributing in an impactful way that makes you memorable and hard to replace – so if you left they would say, ‘I missed that intern’.

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