Lesson learned with… Ebony Gayle, PR strategist with entrepreneurial spirit 

This month we interviewed independent PR & Communications Specialist Ebony Gayle, who recently joined the Hanson Search Diversity Board. Ebony talks about her journey in PR, the important lessons learned across her career and provides insight into what business can do to drive diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

Ebony Gayle

Can you briefly share your professional journey which has led you to your role now? 

I had a passion for arts, dancing and creativity and attended the Brit performing arts school. It was there that I took a module in marketing which piqued my interest in the communications industry. I attended university and graduated with a degree in Business Communication. After university, I worked for EMAP and then briefly as a radio plugger, before going in the corporate direction many moons ago now. I’ve worked in PR and communications for over 17 years, working across a range of industries including start-ups, health & social care, education, government, leisure, fitness, entertainment & consumer lifestyle. 

I previously worked in-house where I headed up a PR team, before starting my own business and founded Ebony Gayle Communications working as an independent consultant with clients in the UK and abroad. I’m the co-founder of the CIPR’s independent Network for freelance PR and communication professionals, and an IPSE Ambassador and former Women in PR UK board member (made history by being the first black woman to be appointed).

My passion for mental wellbeing and DEI led me to join Hanson Search’s Board. 

I’m also the author of the no-nonsense self-help guide and following the release of my book, I set up a platform to offer coaching and help empower unhappy professionals to follow their passion out of the 9-5 and most recently set up and host the 9to5workrebels podcast. A podcast covering, the entrepreneurial journey, wellbeing, and making money.

What has been your career highlight? 

I'm proud of setting up Ebony Gayle Communications, following my entrepreneurial spirit which led me to write my book (a no-nonsense self help guide); How to become a consultant- a guide to free yourself from the 9-5 and creating my digital courses. As an independent consultant I had lots of entrepreneurs coming with bid ideas but small budgets so I created an online DIY PR course to help them. I also created a digital course based on my book and plan to create more. Another highlight would be setting up 9to5workrebels platform, to offer coaching and help empower unhappy professionals to follow their passion out of the 9-5 as well as 9to5workrebels podcast. 

I am also proud of co-founding the CIPR’s independents network and making history by being the first black woman to be appointed to the Women in PR UK board since its existence and helping to create change there. Before I joined it was only white women, now it's the most diverse it has ever been. I'm proud that I am able to help, shape and contribute to creating change within the industry.

How has PR & Comms been impacted by the COVID pandemic?

Depends on the industry you work in, I know of people that were badly impacted, and others that were flourishing, or just staying afloat. Those working in sectors like health and tech were pretty secure whereas other industries like tourism were hard hit. 

How do you think PR & comms will evolve over the next three-five years?

I believe there will be more tech engagement, as well as more people turning to a freelance career. I also see a change in the way organisations work. I’ve always said and the pandemic proved that work is what you do, not where you are based, so being office-bound doesn’t work for everyone. Some love working in the office and others don’t for various reason, it will be interesting to see how organisations navigate that whilst maintaining inclusivity etc.

What important lessons have you learnt throughout your career?  

To not be afraid to go for what you want in life, invest in yourself, and to speak up even if your voice shakes. And not to let people or circumstances define you, you are your only limit.

What skill sets do you think businesses within the PR industry will be looking for in the coming year?  

I think they’ll be looking for dedicated hard-working creative individuals and will also be looking to ensure their teams are diverse and inclusive and reflective of the society we live in. 

What is the best advice you ever received? 

Don’t put your hat where your hand can’t reach, my Jamaican grandmother when referencing finances. 

What do you think companies within PR and communications sector can do to drive diversity and inclusion within the workplace?

There has been lots of talk within the industry, stats show that PR is overwhelmingly white and lacks ethnic diversity. I believe meaningful engagement, being accountable, not being afraid to speak up, and acknowledging & addressing existing systemic issues are key to moving forward effectively. Organisations need to be open and honest about where they are now, and proactively assessing their work culture and recruitment processes to address finding, hiring, promoting & retaining talent from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds. 

Posted on 17.05.2021

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