Q&A with Abigail, Global Head of PR

CommunicationsLondon

Our job is to manage the reputation of Wise in the media. We work with journalists to tell our story and the customer problem we’re solving. I look after the EMEA PR team, which is currently 6 people.

PR here is quite different from traditional in-house teams. Here you have lots of freedom to decide what’s best for the company and our mission. We’re a very creative team with a laser focus on business results. Rather than just writing press releases and trying to get coverage, we always look for new ways to talk to press and maximise impact.

Why did you join Wise?

Before Wise, I worked at a PR agency where my clients were mainly huge, multinational corporations like Royal Bank of Scotland and Shell. It was exciting to deal with large projects and big budgets. But when you work in an agency, you make stories for your clients, but don’t get to really see the impact of them for the business. I wanted to understand what effective PR actually is and how to optimise it for the best business results.

I also realised I wanted to do something where I could have a larger impact and really make a difference. When I read about Wise’s mission to solve a massive customer problem, it felt like the right place for me.

Have you done any other roles at Wise?

When I first joined, I was only looking after the UK team. As our business has expanded, so too has my role and now my remit includes the whole of EMEA.

What’s the biggest challenge working here?

Communicating the multi-billion dollar problem of hidden fees on foreign currency. The whole market operates the opposite way to Wise. We’re the only people telling the truth about transfer costs, so it’s tough to help people understand what they’re really paying. Basically, I’ve spent the last 4 years doing this. We’ve had big wins like the BBC writing about hidden fees and how much people are ripped off during their holidays abroad, and getting the likes of The Economist talking about the issue. But it’s an ongoing challenge.

As we’ve grown, we now also have an Analyst in the team to measure general awareness of the problem amongst the UK population. It’s exciting to see we’ve progressed over the year, but it’s slower than we’d like and we have lots to do.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

The Know What You Pay campaign, which was our way to evolve the Hidden Fees campaign into a bigger concept. We worked with our Government Relations team to change the law on hidden fees in exchange rates.

We ran a massive campaign in Brussels where we put a cartoon on Politico magazine’s front page. It was of the famous statue Manneken Pis essentially, ‘pissing away money’ and MPs fighting trying to change the regulation. The messaging is not something all companies could do, we were really able to push the boundaries. We also held a pop-up market stall outside the European Parliament building selling holiday merchandise like key-rings and postcards. We had the prices in different currencies with different exchange rates and asked people which one is cheaper. Seeing everyone from politicians to tourists struggle to figure out the prices meant we demonstrated the problem with hidden fees and exchange rates. It was one of the most unusual stunts we’ve done, but so effective.

In this project, our Government Relations team did all the lobbying, and we did the groundwork to get the media to understand the problem. My role was working with the team on creative concepts that would get us in front of MEPs and push our message. I was boarding the plane back from Brussels when I heard MEPs had voted the law through – it felt amazing.

What’s your team’s fun tradition?

We’re a very international team – we have a Belgian, a German, a French guy, Estonians and Brits. We try to take in everyone’s home traditions – whether that’s a Thursday night trip to a Belgian beer hall or a Colin the Caterpillar cake on birthdays. We’re all karaoke obsessed – so far we’ve tracked down karaoke bars in Tallinn, NYC and London. Still waiting for that team trip to Japan!

What does working with freedom and autonomy to you?

The power to help bring Wise’s mission to life much faster and more effectively than without autonomy. I believe autonomous teams are how we’ve gotten to the place we’re in now. In this market, with lots of competitors out there, it’s part of what sets us apart.

Tell about a time you disagreed with your lead and why?

To be honest, we hardly ever disagree. However, we do lots of creative PR which can raise conflicting opinions in the team. For instance, we worked with Gemma Collins on a campaign – a British reality star who might not be an obvious brand fit. My lead is not her target demographic, and it took a little convincing that she was the right person to help raise awareness of the hidden fees issue amongst new audiences. In the end he trusted the team, and her massive social following meant the video got 100k organic views and 500 comments in just a few days, with a ton of media coverage.

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever done?

When I was a kid, I used to set up my own companies to do jobs for our neighbours. At one point, I was washing cars pretty effectively, but my Mum would only let me charge £1 per car. I was over-run with demand because it was so cheap, and eventually went bust when the cost of buying new sponges and shampoo was more than I earned. A brutal intro to the business world!

I also got to be a BBC reporter as a teen. When I was 16, I won a competition where the award was work experience as a TV reporter with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. I had a BBC email address and could email events and get free tickets in order to write online articles about them. It was amazing. I even interviewed a number of Z-listers including Peter Andre. I was so starstruck – he was lovely to me, even lifting his publicist’s ban on personal questions.

What’s your side hustle?

I’ve been writing a book for a while and plan to finish it on my 4 year sabbatical. It’s a mystery book, a thriller. It’s probably terrible but I find writing a few chapters here and there therapeutic.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done at Wise?

Working with Gemma Collins. When we were doing the shoot with her, I discovered that she’s exactly like she seems in the media and very very fun.

Favourite slack group?

The global PR team channel. I love it as there’s so much exchange of ideas across the group. Even though we’re in offices around the world, it feels like we’re very close with each other.