JANE KILLINGSWORTH, HEAD OF PR AT NEAL’S YARD REMEDIES, TALKS CAREER, SOCIAL MEDIA AND HOW TO SUCCEED IN PR
As Head of PR and Social Media at Neal’s Yard Remedies, Jane Killingsworth, 33, knows good cosmetics. She also knows very well how the beauty industry works and how it drastically changed after social media. We recently chatted with her about all those things, and asked for career advice to discover what it takes to succeed as a PR in London. Check out below the complete interview.
What brought you into PR?
I started off wanting to do Interior Design, and I went to the university and studied Interior Design for two years, decided it wasn’t quite for me and that I wanted to get into advertising to start off with. So I studied Advertising with another major in PR, but when I applied for my first job, which was in Clinique in Australia, I was offered to join their PR team. To be honest, I never even really thought about it, but it actually suited me way better than any sort of marketing role would have.
I worked with Clinique on the PR team for almost five years and during that time it was traditional PR doing meetings with journalists, press releases, getting the products into the papers and into the magazines and doing press launches. The most interesting part for me however was probably about two and a half years into the role when social media really started to become a tool, bloggers started to pop up all over the place and it threw a whole lot more interesting into the mix and made PR such a broad area to work in. The experiences I really loved from that role was being able to merge traditional PR with social media and seeing how they complement each other.
And why did you leave Clinique and moved to London?
After a few years at Clinique I decided I was ready for a change. I moved to London, because my family is British, and then I was looking for a new role over here that would let me use both social media and PR, but I was also very excited to get into natural skincare as well. It was quite by chance that I stumbled across Neal’s Yard Remedies in Upper St., bought myself just a little treat and fell in love with the brand; before I had applied for a job in a natural skincare company but I didn’t know which one it was and it turned out that same day they called me and asked for an interview, and it was Neal’s Yard Remedies. I started off predominantly in a social media role but working with the PR agency, so I was still really involved into the PR side of things but also working on building a social media presence for the business. At that point, Neal’s Yard Remedies had a very small social presence, and I came on board to make sure that the presence was growing. Because Neal’s Yard Remedies was often seen as a older person’s brand that social media and reaching out to bloggers was a way to reaching younger people.
I worked in the social media role for a while and then we moved to PR in-house and developed our own in-house PR team. Then I took more on the PR side of things as well as the Head of PR and Social Media. Now I have a PR Manager, Adele [Clark-Whittle], and a PR and Social Media Coordinator, Jessica [French], and we do all the PR for Neal’s Yard Remedies. We do it locally for the UK, we work with an agency in the US for our US presence, and we also do the international hubs as we’re into 22 markets worldwide now. A lot the markets have their own PR agencies and PR teams but we work and provide them with everything they need about products, press materials, how to execute a launch, so the three of us work hard to make sure Neal’s Yard Remedies is getting the exposure it needs around the world.
But you’re very young and you’re already Head of PR, how do you deal with the pressure?
I don’t know, I think once you’ve been in PR for a bit and once you understand how it works, I mean I’m very lucky because Neal’s Yard Remedies is a company that lets you grow with it as it’s a family owned business and it nurtures everyone skills and development. I was easily able to move up because they recognize the ideas that we’ve had as a team were really making a difference and they want people that are passionate about the brand, so I was very fortunate to find the role I did when I moved ver here and be able to grow with the company.
How social media changed Neal’s Yard Remedies?
It’s been amazing in a few different ways actually. When I first came on board the biggest players were probably Twitter and Facebook. Bloggers were up-and-coming, and more and more people started using social media as a tool to find out and research about the products, so every day now we get asked on Twitter for blogger reviews. The power of bloggers, influencers and people that share non-biased opinions on products is very valuable to our customers, what’s also done is that brought a younger audience as well where our usual audience would have been pregnant women who decided they want to use organic products because they start getting really concerned about what they put on their bodies when having a child, then they became customers for life but the younger people, probably more trend-led, until we started getting on social media and started talking with bloggers that audience was pretty much non-existent.
Probably in the last year or so since Instagram really picked up is that we’ve seen a bit of game changer in terms of social media, particularly for the wellness side of things as people started to understand that organic beauty is something that comes part and parcel with healthy eating, healthy living and exercise. We’ve always done superfoods alongside our skincare products, but no one knew about it, and now because of social media our superfoods are just as recognized as the blue bottles, which is fantastic.
How is your daily routine?
Every day is different. Probably the only consistent day of the week would be a Monday, where we’ll have a team catch up and go through the tasks we were working the [previous] week, but from then it can completely varies. We have our main head office in Dorset, which is where we produce all our products and that is where most of the staff are, so I probably go there once a fortnight to catch up with the marketing, go and have a poke around the factory to see what has been made, have a sniff of the products and test out. One of the fortunate things is that we make all of our products ourselves, so there’s no disconnect as we’re really involved in the [whole] process.
At the moment, we’re working on the Wilderness Festival. It’s the first time that we’ve been part of a festival as a skincare sponsor so we’re looking for more experiential ways to get involved and to get the brand out there, and new store openings in last six months I think we had 10 and it’s going to continue through the year. I’m also lucky to travel as well so I’ve been to New York – we go three times a year –, last year I went to Bosnia with one of the charities that works with Women International. So it so varied because that’s so many facets of the brand.
Are you involved in the development of the products?
We’re so lucky because as I said we have our factory down in Dorset and we’ve got our formulators on the ground and we’ve got so close contact with all of them, so for example we went over to the US last year and they were so interested in all the wellness products and we came back and gave that feedback to the board, to the marketing and development teams. After on the back of that a wellness strategy was put into place to be able to grow our presence in the US market. Everyone in the business is really involved in feeding back in the processes, and with social media we’re actually trying more and more to listening what’s people saying and to what they want.
What’s the story behind the launch of the books?
Books aren’t new for us and we’ve got quite a good library of books. Peter Kindersley, who owns Neal’s Yard Remedies, started off in publishing and he’s the Kindersley of the Dorling Kindersley publishers. When he sold the publishing company and bought Neal’s Yard Remedies, as he’s a organic farmer as well and he has such a strong passion for organic, so even though we did have books before his time because books were such an important of his life he wanted to continue that. I guess is about educating and empowering customers to be able to make healthy choices based on information that they can find out themselves.
What you look for in a PR when you’re hiring?
It’s hard because Neal’s Yard Remedies is not just about beauty. It’s also about wellness and lifestyle, particularly for our brand I think is about showing passion for all those things and integrating to your lifestyle as well. PR is a 360° area, so it’s not just dealing with journalists, it’s also dealing with the social media side of things, and having a interesting in the marketing so you can see how everything comes together as a business. We don’t just want a PR to sit as a silo, we want it to be a big wheel in the car that helps everything to turn. I think though that mainly is passion, wanting to show that passion and genuinely interested in talk about it with journalists, with people in social media because when you talk passionately about something people buy into it and they want to know more.