Charlotte celebrates 25 years in the PR industry

This June, Sidekick's Charlotte Dimond celebrates an incredible milestone - 25 years in the PR industry. We had a chat with her about her time in the sector.

Congratulations on 25 years in the PR industry! What made you venture into PR in the first place?

Thank you, it was all about storytelling for me, I was always the child with a book or magazine tucked under my arm or I was dividing up sheets of A4 into columns so that I could write my own magazine.

In all honesty I’d never really heard much about PR, I thought I’d go into journalism or law – I did have a brief spell as a basketball reporter but that’s another story.

I kind of fell into PR, I was doing it without realising that that is what I was doing. After university I temped for a year and while they were generally office admin/ manager roles I ended up creating internal newsletters, corporate videos, running community days – telling stories and building relationships.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the PR industry since you started out?

Without sounding ancient I’ve seen technology move from us faxing out press releases, calling in newspaper copy and running down to the local paper with a hard copy of a photograph to where we are today with the advances in AI – I find them magnificent and terrifying at the same time – ChatGPT and the LLMs bring with them so many opportunities for the industry but also so many risks. As a research student I’m exploring public trust and misinformation and deep fakes that can be created now are a huge concern.

I’ve seen massive changes in the media landscape, many daily papers fell to the wayside and social media and online news stepped into the breach. This brought with it a real need for organisations to be open, honest and transparent – which is exactly how it should be.

There has also been a real shift in the way that PR is viewed, this is from my experience, and I know that it might not be the case everywhere, but we work directly with CEOs and leadership teams in the organisations we work with, we have a seat at the table and our advice is sought around big business decisions. During Covid this was amplified with PR playing an even bigger role.

What have been the main highlights of your career to date?

Ten years ago I made a big decision and went freelance for a year and nine years ago I set up Sidekick PR with Kirstie and Eve, setting up and building an agency that truly reflects us has been a massive highlight. Working with Kirstie and Eve and our fantastic clients (we are very choosey about who we work with) is a joy.

I’ve always worked agency side and previously one of my most memorable clients was a Childrens NHS Trust that I looked after for 15 years, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. Talking to the medical professionals about breakthroughs in cancer treatments and research that would change lives and then sharing those stories in meaningful ways, from BBC documentaries to real life patient stories, is something I’m proud of and taught me the importance of building relationships.

Winning awards as an individual and with my agency were great recognition of the work I was doing early in my career and now I’m always happy to be involved in judging the awards and seeing some of the fantastic work that takes place in the industry.

Now it's about taking the time to help others, giving time to sit on boards, being a mentor, and talking to students and pupils.

What lessons have you learnt along the way?

Always trust your gut – if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it. That is one of the joys of running your own agency – you can say no. If the clients doesn’t fit, don’t do it, if you think they do fit but then they don’t respect the advice you are giving, walk away.

Relationships are key – some of the clients I’m working with now have been clients in one form or another for more than a decade, we’ve seen them through CEO changes, restructures, we’ve advised on crisis situations, helped them with internal issues and it has all be built from strong, honest relationships.

There is always something new to learn – I didn’t do a PR degree but when I started working in the industry I joined the Chartered Institute of PR and the Public Relations and Communications Association, it was important to me to understand more about the industry. I did a Masters in Strategic Communication and am currently doing a PhD looking into what I think is a key issue for the industry. I am often found on a webinar or reading a new book because a am a massive believer in life long learning.

Finally, if you could give your younger self one piece of advice as she started out in the industry, what would it be?

Can I have two?

  1. You don’t need to be wearing a suit to be good at your job! Coming from a working class background into the world of business was a big eye opener and back in the 1990s there was an expectation that suits and heels would be worn in the office. I do change my dress style depending on who I’m seeing – what works for an Arts Council client would not necessarily suit a corporate client - but I no longer wear anything that I don’t feel comfortable in.
  2. You have a voice – use it! Again, in the early days fear would stop me from sharing my opinions (those who know me well know I am very opinionated) but I was always hesitant to put my point of view forward. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not one of these, post five times and day and shout look at me I know something kind of people, but if I see something that I feel needs calling out I’ll be there in a flash.

And just to end, a wise woman once told me how long you’ve been doing a job for doesn’t mean that you are good at it, it just means you’ve been doing it a long time. This indeed is true.

Hopefully the success is clear from the relationships we’ve built, the counsel we offer and the results we deliver. I’ve still always got a book with me and I’m always looking forward to the next chapter.