How I made it featuring Isabella Gornall, Managing Director at Seahorse Environmental Communications
For our latest inspiring stories series, 'How I made it', we're interviewing the cream of the crop across all facets of communications and marketing. This is where you'll learn about how the best in the industry got to where they are today and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to help your own career progress.
We sat down with Isabella Gornall, MD at Seahorse Environmental Communications, to find out more about her career and how she made it in the communications industry.
Isabella is an experienced and highly-networked environmental strategic communications professional with a political background in Westminster and Brussels. She founded Seahorse following a corporate background at two of Europe’s leading communications consultancies, Burson-Marsteller, part of WPP, and Maitland, part of Havas, where she headed up their environmental practice. For several years, Isabella was Policy Adviser to Zac Goldsmith MP where she helped shape his polices; led the development of policy proposals to Government and managed his international environmental campaigns.
Isabella currently sits on the Boards of the Conservative Environment Network and UK100, the ambitious network of UK Cities committing to 100% clean energy.
Read on to find out all about Isabella’s career journey and how she made it to the top.
How did you get into communications?
My first job after graduating was at a Brussels public affairs agency, in their environment team. There, I worked my way up from work experience to intern to account executive and I remain thankful for everything they did in terms of groundwork and training.
Once back in London, I got a job as Zac Goldsmith’s policy advisor. That was my first insight into UK politics and I got to focus on a policy area which secured my love of environmental campaigning.
Do you, or did you, have a mentor?
I am very lucky in that I have a number of mentors and support systems around me – whether those who are formally involved with Seahorse or others in the environmental community. We have a fantastic advisory council including Clare Brook, the CEO of the Blue Marine Foundation.
At its heart though, this is a family business. My father is chairman and my step mother is non-executive director. They both advise me on a daily basis and I’m incredibly grateful.
What three words best describe you as a communicator?
Focussed. Passionate. Collaborative.
What do you think it takes to be a successful MD in 2018?
Happy staff, happy clients and hitting the figures – In that order.
It’s also important to ensure you have 100% confidence from your clients and an ability to adapt to their ever-changing needs. You also need to keep an eagle eye on your competitors.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
Get networking. You can never start early enough and you’d be surprised at how many people in senior roles who you admire will happily give you 15 minutes of their time to share how they got where they are and help you start building your own networks.
Also delegating. It’s easy to hold on to pieces of work but building a team around you, with people you are confident to delegate to, is very important.
What career advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Don’t fear specialising too early!
Tell us more about Seahorse…
We are a specialist PR and public affairs agency driven by our passion for enhancing the natural environment and tackling climate change. We provide policy advice and impactful communications campaigns. The issues we work on range from analysing the detailed environmental aspects of Brexit to electric cargo bikes.