Anna Penson

Associate Director - Citypress

What is your proudest professional achievement?

Aside from the obvious answer of PRWeek 30 Under 30, I'd have to say stepping up to the challenge of Covid-19. We'll all remember it for many things, but for me, I look back on it as a real turning point in my career. I'd worked in PR for three years at this point and I was still fairly new to Citypress ‚ predominantly running busy proactive press offices. But overnight, I had to embrace an entirely new role and guide clients through one of the biggest crises they have - and potentially will - ever face. During that time I realised what I was truly capable of as a PR professional. It was also a time where the value of the PR industry as a whole really proved its worth as we became an absolute essential to businesses.

In your view, how can PR employers better retain talent?

My answer to this is simple and that would be to just look at Citypress. After five years I still feel relatively new in comparison to those that have amassed decades at the agency. And what's the secret? I'd say a straight-talking team who genuinely care for their people, putting that above all else. Of course perks help, whether it be the offer of a sabbatical or competitive pay, but just knowing I have a team that genuinely supports me beats everything else.

What's the secret to good client/agency relationships?

In my eyes, there is no them and us. The best relationships are the ones where we are simply an extension to the client's team and work in genuine partnership. Not getting too comfortable is also key. Clients bring us on board to challenge them, and that is exactly what we should be doing week in, week out. And finally, build a relationship that sits outside of Teams. Post Covid we have become far too comfortable behind a screen, but getting together in person is so important.

If you could change any one thing about the comms industry, what would it be?

I don't think we see enough brands admit their mistakes in the comms industry. Whether it's not dealing with a customer issue correctly or receiving backlash for something, I'd love to see more brands simply say "we're sorry." That's something that just last month Bumble did after their latest OOH campaign received criticism. Seeing a brand apologise and put things right was very refreshing.

What is the motto you live by?

It's a cliché, but one that I remind my team of daily‚ "It's PR not ER." It can become very easy to get caught up in what we do, and whilst it's important to take it seriously, it's also important to keep things in perspective. Being able to have this healthy balance was an absolute game changer for me and enabled me to enjoy everything so much more whilst also probably being better at my job as a result.