The #StartingOut Series – Jo-ann Robertson, Ketchum London CEO

Jo-ann is the driving force behind innovation and growth at Ketchum London and has recently been appointed CEO.

In this interview for The #StartingOut Series find out Jo-ann’s top tips for getting started in the PR industry and why it’s important to be hungry to learn.

How did you get into the PR industry?

I’ve always enjoyed communicating and influencing others. At university I was involved in student politics and spent a year as student president. During this time I devised and executed campaigns locally and nationally. When I was graduating I knew I wanted to use the same skills, some friends of mine recommended PR and public affairs. I started as an intern in a small agency called Communiqué and absolutely loved it from day one and never looked back.


What would be your top tip for someone starting out in PR? 

Be hungry to learn. This is an industry where your breadth and depth of knowledge/experiences will serve you well. So put your hand up, be curious, try things you’ve never done before – you will  be surprised how quickly you will develop your skills and I guarantee it will be noticed.


What’s the biggest mistake you see young practitioners making?

Two things stand out for me. Firstly, some young professionals can be too quick in deciding what they do and don’t want to do and can be very strong willed about only wanting to focus on one area. I think this is a big mistake, as the best consultants I work with at all levels are the ones who expose themselves to different disciplines, different sectors, and different people. The second is not being focused enough on core skills. Being a good writer is something that is critical to our industry and takes time to develop. I’d like to see more young professionals challenging themselves to write more often.


What sources do you find useful to develop your skills?

I absolutely love to learn and I do this in a number of ways. Ketchum has an amazing learning and development offer and I do my best to attend these great sessions. Secondly, there are loads of free events provided by the PRCA, CIPR, Women in PR, and many other organisations, where you can go an listen to leaders in the industry talk about hot topics. Finally, I enjoy reading, so I am always trying to absorb books, magazines, blogs…. Anything that can stimulate my thinking.


What’s the biggest challenge facing PR at the moment and what advice can you offer for young professionals to navigate this?

The whole communications industry continues to transform at lighting speed, so the skills and experience required is changing too. My advice to young professionals who want to succeed in this industry is to focus on the core skills of writing, creating, and executing as no matter what channels emerge and evolve these skills will still be absolutely critical to delivering campaigns that have impact.


Here’s a little bit about Jo-ann, her experience and expertise…

About Jo-ann

In 2018 Jo-ann was promoted to CEO of Ketchum in London. She is responsible for driving growth and innovation, and has challenged everyone to be a force for good every single day. Her client responsibilities currently cover Mastercard, P&G, Whirlpool, Discovery and Kempinski.

In addition, Jo-ann identifies and supports teams on some of Ketchum’s most exciting and creative pitches. Passionate about relationships, she enjoys nothing more than seeing great talent thrive at Ketchum.

Formerly Managing Director of the Corporate & Public Affairs Team at Weber Shandwick, Jo-ann has a background in journalism and politics.

She lives in North London with her husband and gorgeous baby boy, Keir. She enjoys nothing more than a good afternoon of shopping followed by a glass of red wine, and sometimes a good dose of Karaoke!

Read more about Jo-Ann, her experiences, expertise and her appointment as Ketchum London CEO in the three articles below.

I’ve included my favourite question Jo-ann answered in the PR Moment article below. It really resonated with me and I think having someone like this heading up a top PR agency like Ketchum will ensure it’s heading in exactly the right direction with the right people.

Giving someone the opportunity to learn is a real gift. I’m incredibly thankful to the people who have given me these types of opportunities. It fills me with confidence that Jo-ann, at her senior level, recognises the importance of giving young PR people a chance. It’s something I really struggled with when I was getting into the industry.

I can’t wait to see what Jo-ann does during her time as CEO, I really like her answers to my questions and her focus on learning, writing and not being too focused on one aspect of PR while you’re learning and at the beginning of your career. She offers some very valuable PR advice.

You can follow Jo-ann on:


Feedback and comments are welcome and you can get me on Twitter @r_henders. If you’re a PR professional who would like to be involved get in touch via the Contact Me section on Bright Lights Big City.

The #StartingOut Series aims to help new PR practitioners with useful blog posts and interviews with key industry practitioners. Click here to read more about The #StartingOut Series and why I started it.

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