It’s that time of the week again: #GirlBossMonday!
Natasha Hatherall is the founder of TishTash PR. Originally from here in the UK, Tash made the move to Dubai 7 years ago and now has her own agency with 12 staff in the Middle East with many successes and major clients under her belt.
This is one of the most in-depth interviews that I have conducted, and as I am considering moving to Dubai once I graduate, Tash was extremely helpful in the advice and information that she gave in her answers.
Grab yourself a cup of tea and make sure you’re sitting comfortably because you might be here for a while.
The reason I conduct these interviews is to inspire you, my readers, and fellow PR students to be successful in your careers and business leaders of the future. I have asked the important questions to gain an insight of how these #GirlBosses made it to where they are today, and how we can emulate their successes.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
OC: Hi Tash! An easy question to start us off (I hope) – What is your full job title?
NH: I am the Founder and Managing Director of specialist beauty, health and wellness PR Agency TishTash in Dubai, UAE.
Can you give me a background of your career and education? How did this lead you to be in your PR position today?
I was born and educated in the UK. I always wanted to be a psychologist, so I studied for a Bachelors in Psychology. After graduation I signed up to do a Masters in Clinical Psychology, but during the summer I happened to get a job working in a marketing agency and I enjoyed it so much that I made a last minute change and swapped my course to study for a Masters in Marketing instead, which I loved.
Life works in mysterious ways and one day I happened to see a poster in the faculty building requesting PhD applications in consumer behaviour, combining my background in psychology and marketing, off I went to study for a doctorate in consumer behaviour, specialising in shopaholicism of all things.
I realised along the way that a career in academia long term was not for me, so I got myself into a graduate position at a smaller media agency, BLM Media, which is today part of the global network Euro RSCG and after a few years working in the media, planning and buying, I moved into more general marketing and communication roles working at agencies including McCann Erikson, Euro RSCG/Havas and for clients including L’Oréal and Diageo. I have now worked for over 16 years in account management, media planning and buying, public relations and marketing in a number of agency and client side marketing and communications roles in the UK.
In 2010 I was offered a great opportunity to work in the Middle East and it had always been my ambition to experience working internationally, so I jumped at the chance and came to work in the UAE for a government owned media company Abu Dhabi Media, marketing a number of their digital brands. It was a challenging role, that created a great network and many opportunities for me in the region in a very short period of time.
At the same time I was also concerned about the standards and qualities I saw in PR agencies and communications as a whole in the region, so in 2011 I took a leap of faith and set up my own boutique lifestyle PR agency, TishTash, which specialises in beauty, health and wellness brands and I haven’t really looked back since!
In just 5 years we now have over 40 beauty brands on our client sheet (over 50 brands in total) and are now one of the largest beauty PR hubs in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). We have a team of 12 beautiful offices in the heart of Dubai and a multi million dirham annual turnover.
Our clients include a number of well-known companies both globally and in the region. From the likes of Johnson & Johnson Middle East (Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Johnson’s Adult), Lipstick Queen, Rodial, Nip+Fab, Ciate, Zoella and Slendertone to successful startups like The Luxury Closet and Glambox, as well as homegrown brands like Herbal Essentials, whom we partnered with from our first day.
What made you want to move to the United Arab Emirates?
I moved to Dubai 7 years ago now. Living and working overseas was something I’d always wanted to do.
I’d always thought I may end up in America but one of my university friends was working in Dubai for a big media company and I happened to send him my CV and asked him to think of me if anything relevant came up. Within a month it had, and before I knew it I had packed up my life in the UK and was in Dubai.
I spent the next two years working for one of the biggest government owned media companies heading up marketing for a number of their brands. It was a busy and tough couple of years but I learnt a lot about working in the Middle East and I met many great people who have been instrumental in where I am today and I really have never looked back at the opportunities moving to Dubai has given me.
I like the fact that Dubai is the land where anything is possible, people actively encourage entrepreneurship and everyone is positive and supportive to people doing their own thing and trying to make a difference.
Did being from the UK hinder your job applications?
Rest assured that being from the UK is generally seen as a very good thing, especially if you have good agency experience as they know you will have solid foundations and strong English language skills. Whilst there are a lot of websites offering PR roles in Dubai and the Middle East, the most effective way I have found of finding a job here is through personal connections.
I myself found a job by sending my CV to a university friend living here. So, if you know someone here, do ask them to share your CV with anyone they know or post something on their social network channels as it usually results in some good leads.
If you do not have any connections here, then I recommend investing in a trip to visit, as the majority of companies in my experience do like to see you in person before offering you a role, although there are cases of Skype interviews and calls resulting in job opportunities too.
How does PR differ in Dubai compared to PR in the UK?
The PR role remains very similar in Dubai to the UK on the whole, but honestly speaking, Dubai and the Middle East can be a challenging terrain to operate in. The Middle East is made up of many different countries and there are different ways of dealing with each, as well as the differences between the Arabic and English media. It’s important to understand each market well and the nuances such as language variations and cultural variations to manage regional PR effectively.
It’s been a while now since I worked in the UK market, but from my experience and from what I see now, whilst influencers are important everywhere, I see their role, foothold and influence in the Middle East being far stronger than elsewhere in the world, as are the fees they can charge which make my eyes water some days!
Compared to markets such as the US and UK, the Middle East region was very slow to develop a digital footprint for its traditional media outlets. When the UK and US magazines were spending time developing their digital presence through online portals and apps, many of the Middle Eastern media companies were still investing money in traditional channels and barely had a social media presence, let alone a proper digital one.
As such, brands needed to find ways to establish an online presence to get the word out and to drive their own digital channels forward. Bloggers and influencers became the easiest way to do this and very quickly brands were investing their time and budgets in them.
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role?
I love the people I get to meet. Every day I interact with so many different people – clients, potential clients, journalists, bloggers, influencers, suppliers and all from different countries, cultures and with such different stories to tell. I’m a people person and I love spending time with others.
For me, also the moments that stand out in my career are when I have delivered something for a client that really made their day, week or year. So, securing one of my celebrity clients their first magazine front cover, which meant so much to them, stands out in my head.
I have also witnessed clients achieve awards when they absolutely deserved them for their talent and hard work, and even the joy and excitement you see in start-up businesses and new clients when they see themselves and their brand in print for the first time is an amazing feeling even now after all these years.
I firmly believe that when you stop feeling the buzz at achieving great publicity and coverage for clients that it’s time to change career. Thankfully that hasn’t happened to me yet and I still feel as excited as day one!
The biggest challenge I personally face is finding a work/life balance, which can be tough. I always worked hard and long hours even when working for someone else – PR is not a 9-5 job. However, since launching my own agency TishTash 5 years ago, I have worked pretty much 7 days a week, 20 hours a day and I have sacrificed a lot, including holidays and sadly relationships.
Our industry can have very anti-social hours with events in the evenings and on weekends. However, TishTash is more than I ever hoped for and I am happy to invest my time and love in it with a view that it will pay off in the future and leave a legacy that I am very proud of.
What do you wish more people understood about PR?
I wish people understood how much hard work it can be and that it is much more than just attending glamourous parties!
So much work and effort goes into an event or a big launch, but few people ever see this. All they see is the end result, which can look quite simple. But the number of meetings, the sweat and tears and sometimes the disasters we have to deal with and overcome is huge.
I also wish that people understood that it’s not all glitz, we don’t spend our days in pretty dresses, launching things whilst sipping champagne – trust me, I spend most of the time at events wishing they were over (after being hugely successful of course!) and looking forward to being home in my PJs with my husband on the sofa watching something on Netflix.
If you were to hire someone for a PR role, what skills and qualities would your ideal candidate have?
Writing skills – You need to be able to write well to do a PR role, be it a press release, interview for a client, radio competition copy, social media copy and a host of other things you will need to create during the course of your day job.
Excellent communication skills – the ability to be able to meet new people at every level and communicate professionally and effectively.
Organisational skills and the ability to juggle – You need to be able to multi-task and get a lot of work done each day!
A willingness to throw yourself in and do whatever is required to get a job done. There is no time for preciousness and diva behaviour and I like people who will roll their sleeves up and do whatever they need to get a job done. Even though I own the company, you will often see me crawling around on the floor tidying up cables, erecting banners or packing gift bags – it’s just what you have to do to get the job done.
In addition to all of this, for me personally choosing people that reflect the ethos of my company is as important if not more than experience and qualifications. We are at work most of our life, so a team that works well together and that echoes my ethos is important to me.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the PR industry today?
One of the most challenging areas currently has to be dealing with bloggers/influencers. Whilst they have changed the face of fashion/lifestyle PR and communications today, with fashion, style and beauty bloggers being as influential, if not more in many cases than magazine editors, they are now also replacing models in editorial shoots, as well as in advertising campaigns and are counting for approximately 50/60% of all PR budgets each year.
Influencers and bloggers are the ones influencing and shaping the landscape, which is why brands can’t ignore them. But honestly speaking, the whole area of influencers and bloggers is a minefield and it is something that the majority of marketing and PR professionals I know are struggling with.
In my agency, it’s definitely one of our most talked about topics! From mindblowing fees, to a lack of regulation, quality of content and dealing with unprofessional and unpredictable behaviour, something has to change as long term it’s unsustainable.
I predict this year will see some changes in this area. Many of the PR regulatory bodies such as MEPRA and PRCA are actively looking at this area and how they can regulate/standardise to some degree.
I think guidelines for all sides – agency, brand and influencer would help a great deal as we’re all still finding our way in the dark to a large extent.
What advice would you give to a student like myself that wants to emulate your success and make it in the PR industry?
Love what you do! Passion and a love for what you do really goes a long way in marketing and public relations. It is a sales job really, so you need to love what you do, the brands and people you represent and if you do, this always shines through and is obvious to media and all those you engage with. Find an are of PR that you love – be it fashion, beauty, automotive, F&B, travel and pursue that. I only take on brands and clients that I 100% believe in and know have an amazing product or offer, as this makes my job so much easier.
Secondly, work hard – I know that may sound obvious, but I see so many graduates and people starting out who are just not prepared to work hard and show they really want to be there. I firmly believe that whilst aptitude is important, hard work does pay off and it goes a long way in getting you there in any field, but especially in marketing and communications which is a competitive field which many want to work in.
Finally, be nice! I’ve heard it said many a time that you can’t do well in business by being nice, but I totally disagree and I have made it my mission to prove that you can be successful and do well in life by being nice. I have always firmly believed that you treat people how you want to be treated and that you should be nice and respectful to all you engage with whoever they are and the same applies even if they are rude to you (which happens quite a bit in the PR industry!). The importance of being nice, giving everyone the time of day and being kind and generous at all times is something I believe in wholeheartedly and instil in all that work for me too.
Thank you Natasha ♥
You can visit TishTash PR’s website at www.tishtash.com
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