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What I’ve Learnt: Laura Smith, Digital PR Director, ICS-digital

Laura Smith

ICS-digital hired Laura Smith as digital PR director in 2022, a newly created role for the digital marketing agency.

As a former senior account director at Manifest and PR director at Jaywing, Smith now leads ICS-digital’s digital PR team in Leeds.

The agency, which has around 100 staff and was named one of Prolific North’s Top 50 Digital Agencies this year, works with a range of clients including Buzz Bingo, Skilling, Flutter Entertainment and talkSPORT BET.

She shares all the lessons she’s learnt.

 

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Listening to music. I find silence while working absolutely deafening! Although it’s great to have flexibility and work from home a couple of days a week, I do miss the hustle and bustle of the office. Choosing my Spotify playlist for the day is a big decision!

What’s been your luckiest break?

My first agency restructured when I’d been there for just under a year – I’d just completed on my first house with my now-husband and decided to take voluntary redundancy. I knew it was a huge risk and that I may need to step away from PR for the short term, but when I was offered a new job just three days before my last day, I knew I’d made the right decision.

What’s your best failure?

As an account manager I was brought on to a really exciting new account – one that felt really aligned with my interests. Within a few weeks the client raised with my directors that they didn’t want me to work on the account – at the time, it was devastating, the feedback from them was that I wasn’t the right fit for the brand. At the time, it felt like no one believed in me – truly the end of the world – ha! I now know that that definitely wasn’t the case. But, it really did teach me that sometimes client relationships don’t work out.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

In 2016, I was nominated for, and won, two individual awards the PRMoment Awards and the CIPR PRide Awards – the nominations took time from not only me but from colleagues who supported me in writing the entries. For the CIPR entry, I had to attend an interview as well, but the feeling of winning those awards is something I will never forget. If you have the opportunity to put yourself or one of your team members forward for an award – please do! The impact on my confidence and belief in myself was huge, I’m so grateful for the team at ilk, where I worked at the time, for believing in me.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’m not a big reader, unfortunately, and when I do read it tends to be a rom-com on holiday! However, one book I absolutely raced through was Ronda Rousey’s autobiography – ‘My Fight Your Fight’. I’m a big Ronda fan (I actually have a tattoo of her!) and her story is very inspiring – the book takes you through her childhood, through to her hugely successful UFC career. I actually saw her first ever WWE match at Wrestlemania in New Orleans and she really is a force to be reckoned with.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Just be yourself, and you can be successful. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told I need to be more confident, or to speak up more throughout my career, but it just isn’t me. I’ve always just felt fake, like I’m putting on a show! I wouldn’t say I’m not confident, I’m just not loud, and there’s a big difference – my advice to anyone in this industry is that being yourself is your superpower, and it takes all sorts of people to work in PR and marketing.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

I feel like I’m very lucky to have met some amazing people at the agencies I’ve worked at who I now consider my best friends. And during the difficult times, having people you can completely trust by your side, is such a benefit. During COVID, I’d only just stepped up into a leadership role within my PR team, and it was a scary time for everyone. Having colleagues with me on that journey, who were also my friends, really gave me a boost of confidence to deal with things none of us had ever dealt with before, and I think that has helped make the leader I am today.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m pretty sure I’m an open book, but people do seem surprised when I say I grew up in North London – apparently I’ve picked up enough of a northern accent to fool people into thinking I’m actually from Leeds.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

The easy answer here feels like ‘flexible working’, which I do honestly believe is a massive benefit that has come from such a difficult few years. However, I think there’s more to it than just flexibility, I think it has made people realise the importance of taking time away from work, and that work doesn’t need to be your whole life, even if you really love your job! 

What does success look like to you?

My team and I enjoying what we do. I am lucky enough to have spent a lot of my career in PR really loving my job and the work I do, and all I want is for my team to have the same experience. So if I know they are coming to work and enjoying it – even though it’s sometimes challenging – then I’ll be happy I’m doing my job properly.

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