We have to run fast to catch up with Shami Thomas, PR and outreach manager at the world’s largest online car rental service Rentalcars.com, as her job is as fast-paced as it is challenging. Here, she explains why she loves her role so much, the company she works for, and last, but not least, being based in Manchester.
What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
I wanted to be a museum curator, as history was my thing. My love for museums and galleries is still strong today as it ever was. I was inspired by The Manchester Museum, which I visited when in primary school and is a place that I now take my children to on a regular basis. I try to visit a museum whenever visiting a new place.
Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?
I think so, my interest in media, current affairs and people led me naturally to a career in PR – I’m glad that I’ve been able to incorporate some of my interests into my work.
I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some amazing and talented people along the way, who’ve become close friends and confidantes. I place great value on my friendships and connections.
My current role with Rentalcars.com is definitely the icing on the cake – working for an international travel brand right in the centre of Manchester, with super talented and bright colleagues – what’s not to love?
How did you get your first break?
My first job out of Uni was at the Manchester Commonwealth Games as an assistant press officer. I hit the ground running from the get go.
I have very fond memories working there. Highlights include looking after and managing the alternative mascot, Mad Ferret. We took him on a night out to Sankeys and made him race the Man U and Man City mascots at the Manchester Stadium. Mad Ferret won by a mile, of course.
Also, being part of the team that worked the Games into the Corrie script and liaising with the Palace and Downing Street press offices was fascinating, especially for someone like me, who at the time was fresh out of uni.
What is the best career decision you have made?
Working in an agency during the early stages of my career has provided me with invaluable insight and experience into the client/agency dynamic, which I still use and call upon today.
I can totally appreciate how hard and relentless it can be working in an agency environment with a number of clients. In my experience, to get the best of an agency, you really need to make them an extension of your team and keep them close.
I’ve since gone on to work in in-house departments, managing several agencies at a time.
Any career regrets?
Not as such, I’m lucky to have had a varied career, and being based in Manchester has meant that there’s always been good brands and companies to work for. If anything, not taking a full year out to travel at the start of my career or in between jobs, is a regret. Although, I’m certainly making up for it now.
Why not? Working for Rentalcars.com took me away from the world of healthcare and into the travel sector, and I must say, it’s a great, fast-paced industry to be part of. The company made 8 million bookings last year, making it the world’s largest online car rental service.
Rentalcars.com is a tech company and is part of the Priceline Group, which also has the brands Booking.com, Kayak, Agoda and OpenTable under its belt. I’m proud to say I work for one of the world’s largest online travel companies. They do things differently here – from the workplace environment, training opportunities, values and relaxed dress code. It’s a great place to work and I feel very privileged to be here.
It’s refreshing to work in a company where diversity is celebrated. Rentalcars.com employs people from approx. 70 different nationalities, which I find amazing. I love hearing people speaking different languages in the office, it gives the place a truly international feel.
What are the greatest challenges of your present role?
In terms of PR, it’s uncharted waters for Rentalcars.com – this is the first time it has had a full-time PR role. For me, it’s a great opportunity to start with a clean slate and work from the ground up.
With regards to challenges, the car-hire industry, especially in the UK, is a much maligned sector. Changing attitudes and perceptions is no easy feat but I’m confident, with the product and service we have to offer, journos and influencers will respond well to the activity / messaging we have planned.
What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?
Be kind, empathetic and treat everyone as you would expect to be treated – PR has a reputation of being a bitchy industry, but in my experience, it’s definitely not the way to get on. For me, a lot my work is about building genuine and sincere relationships with my colleagues, agencies and journo contacts – these are the people that help me do my job, without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.
Depending on the strength of your relationships, many will stay with you throughout your career. If I’m ever unsure about anything or I need an experienced sounding board, I know I have contacts I can call and likewise, I’ll always help out where I can. Contacts and relationships like these are priceless.
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