Esther Oluga

TBF alumni, Esther Oluga provides an account of her journey from PR Trainee to Associate Consultant at Portland.

What did you study at University and which agency sponsored your PR Training programme?

I attended the University of Essex, where I studied Sociology, including a year abroad at California State University, Monterey Bay (Cultural Studies). I graduated in 2016 and my PR Training programme was sponsored by Brunswick.

What was the highlight about your time on the TBF programme?
Doing the final presentation. That’s when I realised how much I had learnt and grown on the program. 

Were you able to put into practise what you learnt on the PR Training programme?
Yes. As I didn’t know anything about PR, the programme helped me learn the basics e.g. what a press release was, what PRs did day-to-day, how to write a cover letter. These are things a regular, PR agency wouldn’t have time to sit down and teach you.

The programme also taught me how to build a network, something that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to d, as I didn’t have access to such events or opportunities.   

What happened when you left the PR Training programme?
I got an internship with Bell Pottinger, then accepted onto a permanent role at Brunswick Group as an Executive.

Taylor Bennett Foundation is important because it took a stand to address an issue the PR industry accepted as the norm – the lack of ethnic and class diversity. The Foundation has helped address the social and economic challenges faced by those from ethnic minority backgrounds – people that the PR industry has traditionally forgotten about.  

Where are you now?
I currently work in Portland Communications’ Global Impact practice. I’ve always had an interest in public sector and African development, so most of my clients cover this space. I help develop global media and social media campaigns, and communications strategies for NGOs/UN agencies, foundations, philanthropists & companies with a global presence in Africa.

What really excites you about your role?
How much I get to learn about Africa. The most exciting thing about my role, is how much I get to work closely with journalists and some of the biggest organizations in Africa, this means I get to keep a close eye on what’s happening, and I can be involved in shaping the narrative around Africa. One of the most interesting bits of work for me, was getting to lead on Portland’s Davos newsletter last year and getting to work on some of the Gates Foundation’s projects in Africa.

What skills do think you need to work in PR?
Most of the skills you can learn on the job like I did, but just make sure you’re passionate about the news.

  • Ability to communicate orally and written – you need to feel comfortable, or at least be open to speaking to journalists regularly. Also writing is a massive part of the job.
  • Being a good listener – this can help put you ahead of crisis. Listen to what different people are saying, and be observant when you’re not speaking. You learn more from watching than speaking.
  • Multi-tasking – you need to be able to handle multiple projects, or clients – if in an agency.
  • Attention to detail
  • Presentation skills – this is key as in agencies you’re always pitching new business. This means we constantly need to present our comms strategies or ideas to them, and assure them.

What do you think the industry can do to encourage more diversity (particularly ethnic diversity)?
Get uncomfortable. I’ve noticed that people feel uncomfortable to say the word ‘black’, so they hide behind umbrella terms like ‘diversity’. If leaders in PR feel uncomfortable talking about ethnic diversity, then how do you think it feels for your staff when they come into a workplace that doesn’t represent them? To better diversity, companies need to challenge what they define as their company culture. If your culture, is only attracting white, middle class men, especially in a diverse city like London – then something needs to change.

The future
Career wise, what do you see yourself going on to next or what are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to continuously build my career in African development but move further into the development space. My aim is to build my knowledge on West Africa. There’s a lot happening on the continent and there’s so much to learn so it’d be exciting to see what happens in the next decade.  I’d also like to build more opportunities for young black people from disadvantaged backgrounds with my platform no matter where I am.