Melina Gates once said that “a woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman but the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult”. The truth is that leadership needs women who are not afraid to think differently and certainly can influence others to believe in their mission. Those characteristics describe Farzana Baduel, the Founder and CEO of Curzon PR (an award-winning global strategic communications firm) – the woman who risked everything in order to start her own business and didn’t fear of failure.
In an exclusive interview to Anna Krith’s Lifestyle, Farzana Baduel shares the “personal” secret ingredient that leads to a successful woman –run business and reflects on how she balances enterprise and family. In addition, she explains the use of the “powerful” social media platforms and gives us a “glimpse” in her busy daily life-routine while she describes her experience from the “Creative Women” conference in Cyprus.
A: You have both a British and Pakistani background. How did that help you in your career?
F: I have been fortunate to have an insight into not only the British and Pakistani culture but also being born and raised in the most diverse city in the world, London. Being a British Pakistani has enabled me to bridge the gap between emerging markets like China, India and Russia and developed markets like the UK and North America. I can understand both perspectives which gives me the insight to build bridges and connect brands to people across borders.
A: What previous experience and education lead your interest in a public relations position?
F: I was the Vice Chair for the Conservative Business Relations in the Conservative Party. Working with a political party is a solid training ground for communications where perceptions are critical to political survival. Working for the Conservative Party was inspiring and gave me the foundation to launch a PR agency. For those who have an interest in politics, I would advise joining a political party aligned to your values as you widen your network and meet people from all walks of life which is an education in itself.
A: You are the founder of “Curzon PR”. How do you feel about it and what’s your goal for the firm?
F: I feel incredibly lucky to head Curzon PR and work with leading governments, corporates, luxury and cultural brands. It is a privilege to work with our clients and be their trusted partners. My goal for the firm is to balance the needs of the clients, agency with the needs of our team. Our agency relies on talent and I am grateful for the team we have as they inspire me to be a better leader and self develop. My goal is to create a community of PR talent where they can thrive and be the best that they can be and are rewarded for their efforts accordingly. I believe in meritocracy.
A: How would you deal with a PR crisis?
F: I would first ensure there is an external perspective in the room, as internal people need the external perspective to build a coherent and strategic response to the crisis. I always advocate for an organisation to create Crisis comms plan before a crisis so all reporting lines are clarified, a plan is in place with approval processes on communications streamlined to avoid delays. Unfortunately a number of organizations only put a crisis comms plan in place after they have had a crisis occur which poorly planned communications resulted in worsening the situation.
A: Describe a funny incident that happened to you in a business trip.
F: My British Airways flight was recently cancelled after an 8 hour wait at Gatwick Airport. It was one of the biggest aviation disasters when their IT system collapsed and all BA flights worldwide had to come to a standstill. I found it fascinating how during this crisis, British Airways failed on so many levels with regards to their communications to their passengers and the public. They no doubt had a crisis comms plan in place, but a plan is just a plan. When a crisis occurs, it is always interesting to see which brands rise to the challenge and which ones sink. I should have been frustrated with my flight being cancelled but instead I was enthralled with their poor comms execution. I ended up taking a train to Paris and then an 14 hours overnight train to my final destination, Venice for the Biennale.
A: What personality characteristics are most important to be successful in public relations?
F: Public Relations is a fast moving industry where knowledge and skillsets can be redundant in a few years and replaced with a new spectrum of skill and knowledge requirements. Digital and social media has changed the PR landscape beyond recognition and continues to evolve rapidly. PRs need to have the ability to continuously learn and proactively update their knowledge and skills. They need to have a thirst for knowledge and determination to stay up to date and relevant. PRs who have a natural curiosity in people and ideas do well in our industry along with high levels of empathy.
A: How do you balance business and family? I mean you are travelling a lot and you are so successful, that it is really difficult to find balance between your company and family.
F: I am grateful to have a supportive husband and I live with my mother in law who is a great help. It is challenging for mothers to bring up children whether they are working or not, and having a strong family and friends support network makes a huge difference. My family and friends are my community and help me raise my daughter. I use technology to help me connect with my family whilst I am away, so Facetime and WhatsAPP are useful tools. I also plan my business travel alongside my daughter’s school holidays so I can take my family on my business travels as much as possible. It is important for mothers to avoid burnout as our nurturing instinct often means we tend to everyone else’s needs and neglect our own. I try to build time for myself but it is difficult. My work is my passion so whenever I am working, it doesn’t feel like a job, it feels like a treat.
A: What’s your daily routine?
F: I wake up around 7am. It is important I have 8 hours of sleep for me to function well and perform at my optimum. I get my daughter ready for school, have breakfast together and then I take her to school. This precious time in the morning is my time to connect with my daughter at the start of the day so we often make it fun with loud music to dance to as we are getting dressed. I then head to my office where I have internal meetings which is often around HR, Finance, Legal and Operational issues and Campaign strategy on our client projects. Lunch is a great way to build relationships so I often book lunch with clients, journalists or collaborators. Afternoons are a string of meetings with clients to understand their needs and ensuring our campaigns are aligned with their objectives. Evenings are often events that Curzon PR are organising or hosting so I am often present, be it at an art viewing or charity gala. Dinner with the family is the anchor I need in the hectic schedule of a PR followed swiftly by a good read and bed!
A: Which are your favorite social media platforms? What do you like about them?
F: I love instagram as it is visual and easy to digest information via pictures or video. Instagram is great for visual brands such as interior design or fashion and great as a personal branding tool. Twitter is a good platform for keeping up to date with breaking news stories and building relationships with journalists. Facebook is for keeping up with friends and family. Linked In is a resource for industry learning from my peers as well as checking out work histories so I can better understand the people I meet. YouTube is interesting to see how it evolves. Video content is increasing and fast becoming the norm for communications.
A: What’s the key to success? Do you think that in order to move a step forward you need someone to make you believe in yourself?
F: The key to success is personal for each person. I can only share what has helped me in my professional journey. Authenticity, determination and hard work have been the keys to my success. Authenticity has helped me to build long lasting relationships with clients and collaborators. Determination has allowed me to keep moving upwards and onwards despite the constant setbacks you experience in business. Hard work has given me the competitive edge to deliver the campaign results that we do which in turn strengthen our client relationships. The important aspect of success is to believe in yourself, once you have mastered this, then others will follow.
A: How did you find your experience in the “Creative Women” conference in Cyprus?
F: Olga Balakeets is an inspiration. I have known her for years and have huge respect for her ability to think creatively and deliver world class events and programming. I enjoyed meeting creative women from around the world and listening to their journeys and I benefited from the knowledge they were sharing with the conference. It was my second time and look forward to attending next year’s conference.
— Farzana Baduel (@FarzanaBaduel) May 6, 2017
A: What’s your goal and your next step?
F: My goal is to continuously develop as a person, as a brand, as an employer and as an agency. My next step is to build a community of trusted talent in key geographical regions to enable me to deliver our global campaigns seamlessly.