So much so that I procrastinated for weeks, right up until crunch time. I suppose it's fitting that I’d leave this piece of writing up until the last minute in order to muster the motivation to get it done. As it's been said before (and I really don’t want to sound like I’m in an interview), but, I love a challenge. Deadlines, the last minute rush until the end, committing to getting something done by the ‘end of day’ when you really both know that means 9am the next, is what makes my world go round.
Working in PR is no easy feat, and it's been my life for the last 8 years. In my world, there’s really no such thing as 9 to 5. You’re always ‘on’ and sending that important email while getting out of the cab to walk into dinner, taking conference calls in between bites of lunch, trying to spot the latest trend and sending it over to a client at whatever time to get there first or in some cases chewing your friends ears off about this campaign you just launched while they politely smile in response.
You literally have to earn every bit of attention for the brands who pay you. If only it was as easy as paying someone to write lovely words about your client in the aim of influencing everyday folk to buy their product or sign up to their service. Nope, we have to think like consumers, get inside their heads, craft a way for our clients to feature in news titles, magazines, lifestyle media and find a way for it to not sound like advertising. We also have to do it with conviction, poise, confidence and most of the time with a smile. The principle is the same everywhere you go, but there’s nuance in every market which has really baffled me in my somewhat short-lived career.
I mentioned I’m 8 years into PR, but I’m also on my 3rd country (or market, if you’re fancy), my 6th PR agency (technically 7, I worked for the same agency in two markets), and approx 4,592nd deadline. Kidding.
What can I tell you, awesome professional residing in our motherland, about living and working in a foreign market? Well, for one, an accent is a great ice breaker. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked where my accent is from, been mistaken for an Aussie (I spent 4 years in Sydney so I take no offence) or got into a discussion about the latest Lorde record / smile and nodded in response to compliments about Jacinda Ardern. And then there’s the mocking. I’m told that my 'yes' sounds like ‘yiss’ and that I should really use the word ‘presentation’ over ‘deck’. But for the vast majority, people think the Kiwi accent is cool and different and will plead you to keep talking. I happily oblige.
(as an immigrant) When you walk into a room, you have something to bring to the table that not a lot of others will.
Living and working abroad, particularly in Europe, also means you’re on an international time zone. I’ve gone from 7am conference calls with New Zealand to supervising 1am photoshoots in LA via zoom (thanks covid) all while trying to fit in a decent brekkie, lunch and dinner and if I can be bothered, a workout. Don’t get me wrong, the exposure to these other time zones comes with its perks, like launching a global campaign for Magnum ice cream featuring Miley Cyrus and shooting a TV ad with Alesha Dixon for TRESemme hair care (remember Mis-Teeq?). I’m sure one day I’ll be done with the hustle, but for now I’m having too much fun. And while I recognise I have extreme privilege and my experience living in both Sydney and London has been, for the most part, smooth sailing, I do not take it for granted.
The best part about working in a foreign market, in my opinion, is the experience you bring with you being an immigrant (I use this word intentionally and to challenge the stigma associated with it). When you walk into a room, you immediately have something to bring to the table that not a lot of others will. Navigating packing up your life and setting up a new one, applying for visas and learning all about your new home, immersing yourself in the local community and getting under the hood of local culture makes you interesting. But you’ll also bring an outsider's perspective and knowledge from your (in my case, two) home markets and can shed a light on what life is like ‘down under’. Working on global brands has definitely enabled me to flex my creative muscles and give guidance on how a Kiwi or Aussie might perceive a campaign or creative idea, super important when you’re tasked with making something globally relevant.
After clocking 2 years in London, I’m not planning on slowing down any time soon, although the pandemic had other ideas for me. 18 or so months on from when we were first surged into a national lockdown, we’re still far from feeling pre-pandemic ‘normal’ and I’m still practicing caution by wearing a mask in public places and avoiding large crowds. As I pen this, my fellow Kiwis back home have just been given a taste of simple freedoms such as a picnic with friends. This is all too familiar for me and my fellow UK residents who have been yo-yoing in and out of lockdowns since last March. I’m currently still working from home for the majority and am only in the office once a week due to limited capacity and safety measures, my social tolerance isn’t what it used to be and it's not often that I can stay up past midnight.
Good days are coming though, it can’t possibly get any worse than it has (right?) and there are some good things to come from the last 18 months. For me those are a deep appreciation for our healthcare and front line workers, the ability to be able to communicate with my loved ones at any time and the knowledge that the traditional ‘office’ is a thing of the past. Turns out, we can be trusted to do the work we’re employed to do from home.
While the prospect of a trip home is far from reality, the comradery and collective support I can feel from this incredible network of women makes me feel close to home. If you’re ever in London, I’d gladly make myself available for a rosé. Until then, there’s always zoom!
Bayley is a PR Director living in East London