At the helm of EAST VILLAGE. is Founder and Managing Director, Tara Tomes. In this ‘60 seconds with’ you’ll get to know a little more about our fearless leader and why she’s so passionate about PR, people and paying-it-forward.
- How did you get into PR?
I always wanted to work in PR – even before it was considered a “cool” industry to work in. None of my friends knew quite what it was that I wanted to do as a career and just shrugged it off as “something to do with newspapers”. To be fair, I think that’s what most people think to this day, haha!
I studied Marketing & Communications at Uni and did a Placement Year during my third year. Whilst everyone else on my course went down the traditional route of placements for drill brands and nursing homes, I went off and found my own. I secured two roles; six months working in Stella McCartney’s press office and then a year at a music festival called Gigbeth. Both were absolutely amazing and just re-affirmed that a career in PR was absolutely for me!
- Tell us a bit more about your role!
I set up a business in the thing I love, having already worked in the industry for seven or eight years. This means that I’ve always been hands-on with clients: from strategy right through to the day-to-day delivery. When you run your own business, though, you have to be a little bit of everything so I can go from being the HR and IT department, to Business Development in a matter of minutes.
I stepped away from the day-to-day last January because, well, firstly the team doesn’t need me anymore because they’re absolute pros at PR, social media and events. Also, because I wanted to spend more time working “on” the business, so now – as well as the usual admin, finance, HR – my days are mostly spent on strategy, new business development, and Employer brand. It’s really refreshing as I now spend lots of time making a difference; having an impact on the team and their development, but then also sharing my expertise and how I run the business. That side of things I absolute love!
- What is your favourite part of the job?
It’s definitely changed over the years. I still get the same buzz that I used to landing an epic piece of coverage or running an event, but now I love the power that I have to make a difference. Within the business itself, I can make decisions, adapt quickly, and do what feels right to me. This means that EAST VILLAGE. is always agile, remains relevant and supports its people in the best way possible. Beyond the business, I can share my 13+ years’ experience in the industry, helping other people nail their own PR, as well as my influence as an agency leader.
- What’s your go-to coffee order?
I’ve always been a Venti Skinny Cappuccino Extra Hot kind of girl, but I’ve been trying to limit my coffee intake (some days I get to 8pm and realise that I’ve not had a single sip of water but about eight coffees), so nowadays I’m also partial to a Skinny Flat White. Still ‘Extra Hot’, mind, because I always get distracted and never drink it straight away.
- Here’s a divisive question… dogs or cats?
No question… dogs every time! You’ll have seen my not-so-baby boy, Bambus, on the ‘Team’ page and I’m absolutely obsessed with him. I’ve always liked dogs but never considered myself a “dog person”, but I am honestly so obsessed with Bambus. He’s just the best!
- What are your top three marketing tools that you can’t live without?
Hmm…assuming that I’ve understood what you mean by ‘marketing tools’, I guess mine would have to be:
Slack – we implemented it at the start of the first lockdown and now I can’t imagine life without it. It’s great for our team as we work flexibly and only in one room together once a week, so it gives us a way to stay connected and keep on top of everything!
Mailchimp – I think there’s a real power in email marketing and it’s something that we, as an agency, haven’t fully utilised yet but Mailchimp is a big one for us, for sure!
Instagram – I know that it’s starting to lose its power a bit, especially with the constant algorithm changes and the recent announcement of it being a video-first platform, but I still absolutely love Instagram as a user. It’s where I follow my favourite brands, engage with influencers that I love, and get inspiration for business strategy and client campaigns. It definitely has its downsides though!
- What is one top tip that you give every client about PR?
Know. Your. Audience. Anyone who’s heard me speak at an event or on a webinar will know this is my recurring message. PR can never guarantee results but if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach, then you’ll never know where best to target them and with what message. A lot of PR is for brand awareness, of course, but you want to use PR to reach the hearts and minds of your target customer so make sure that you’re not just striving for media titles that you love. Instead, be strategic and get to the right audiences, with the right messages, through the right channels.
- What is your PR trend prediction for 2021 and beyond?
Purpose. It’s something that we’ve really seen come to the fore during the pandemic, and it won’t go away overnight. Consumers want brands to show heart, to make a connection with them, and to do the right thing. Whether this is sustainable supply chains, inclusive recruitment processes, community engagement programmes or free mental health support for employees, both product and service-based organisations have got to connect with people to truly build that loyalty. There’s a lot of noise and competition out there, so PR is a way to step into the spotlight and get directly to the people that you want to reach.
- Who would your dream client be and why?
Maybe it’s about going full-circle but I think an ideal client for me would be Stella McCartney. It is, by far, one of my favourite designer brands, and selling something that I love and believe in really matters to me. Beyond the gorgeous designs though is what the brand stands for. Stella created a business with proper values and integrity at the heart and working there really gave me an insight into how much sustainability means to every single person who works there. That’s when a brand’s values really have power: when each and every employee lives and breathes them. Plus, they could literally pay me in handbags and I’d be happy!
- Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
The PR industry has changed so much in the past few years… and for the better. You no longer have to have a university degree and tonnes of free internship experience under your belt… and rightly so! The good agencies and in-house teams are really changing things up; they’re making the industry more accessible, their teams more inclusive, and they’re putting equity at the heart of their people-based decisions. It’s great to see!
My biggest piece of advice is to do your research and find a business that appeals to your nature. Every organisation is different so try and get a sense of the type of place you want to work – not just an office, but a team… a feeling! Then, send a brilliant intro email and please never say “To whom it may concern”… that honestly drives me mad. Take two seconds out to do your research about who’s in the team and who you’re emailing. And never give up. PR is about persistence, so keep at it!