Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
Being crowned Miss Pears was a crucial moment for Kirsty Leighton as it gave her a thirst for PR. She went on to start up the agency Milk & Honey PR, and here she talks about her career to date and offers advice for those just starting out.
What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
When I was six years old I won Miss Pears. A PR competition for a soap brand. I became the face of the advertising for a year and was involved in the PR campaign. I totally loved it. Once I got over the crushing reality that a career in modelling wasn’t on the cards, I liked the idea of PR. Without really knowing what it was all about. It seemed from the outside to be exciting and different every day, and that appealed to me.
Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?
I hope so. I haven’t embarrassed myself and have definitely achieved more than my English teacher ever thought possible! I was never very good at English at school. I had lots of ideas, but wasn’t very skilled at getting them down on paper. However, I am also very stubborn. If someone tells me I can’t do something I go out of my way to prove that I can. I enjoy writing now, but PR is so much more than that.
How did you get your first break?
Persistence! I wrote to the top 150 PR agencies and was turned down by all of them. So, I wrote back again. That one act of persistence got me 15 job interviews and 10 job offers. I cross checked the agencies against those with the best training programmes and accepted a role at Publicasity (Icas as it was then). Persistence was my first lesson in PR. An attribute that I still value greatly today.
What is the best career decision you have made?
Being open to new opportunities. After 23 years of learning the ropes, working with some of the best practitioners and clients in the business, I finally took the plunge to start an agency myself. One where people come first.
I adored my time at WE Communications. Every couple of years I was given a new challenge. That saw me manage technology, social innovation, digital, consumer, corporate and healthcare teams in Europe, then taking on a global role and travelling extensively. It was great fun.
Any career regrets?
No regrets, but plenty of learnings!
Why Milk & Honey?
We are an agency where people come first. Where passion and creativity are prized. Where clients are celebrated. One where there is time to think, to go the extra mile. A land of opportunity as the name suggests!
Our focus is managing and nurturing reputations for ambitious growth companies.
What are the greatest challenges of your present role?
The first few months threw up a whole array of expected and unexpected challenges. I was ready for the frustrations of managing without tech support and the accounts department (thank goodness for YouTube and QuickBooks). I was prepared for the challenge of starting out as a party of one. What surprised me was just how much support and encouragement I’ve received.
PR is all about relationships and I’m blown away by just how wonderful my business network has been. Friends and colleagues from years back inviting me for coffees and offering projects to get the ball rolling. Ex-clients, business partners and industry friends making introductions, getting me on pitch lists and offering recommendations.
The challenge now is more business as usual. Finding the right talent that aligns to our values of bravery, energy, passion, respect, loyalty and collaboration; and getting new clients on board
What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?
Get involved! Get time with as many senior PROs as you can. Learn every day. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. This is a people and relationship business and we are providing a service. Attitude is king. You have great opportunities ahead of you. Always show commitment, progression and loyalty before you move.
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