Ronke Bamisedun: A Successful Rule Breaker
Meet Ronke Bamisedun: A Successful Rule Breaker
Ronke Bamisedun is a Public Relations Consultant and Founder of BWL Agency, a Lagos-based strategic brand development and communications company.
With an undergraduate degree in Media and Communications (Public Relations) from Birmingham City University and a Chartered Institute of Public Relations Diploma in Public Affairs, she began her career in music PR where she had the opportunity to work with some of London’s big music agencies who represented artists like Mark Ronson, Madonna and Florence & The Machine. She talked with The Guardian. Excerpts:
Tell us about your growing up, education, and professional background?
I am the third of four girls. Yes, my dad was a lucky man, right? We were raised to be hardworking females – if you want it, you go get it. My sisters and I are fiercely independent. My dad always told us there was no place for us in ‘the family’ business and my mum always said ‘my girls cannot be housewives’ – even though she is a housewife. Those words removed any safety blanket as well as sense of entitlement from a very young age. We knew we had to go out there and make it by ourselves.
Growing up I had a lot of male friends who were like brothers to me and that has continued. This has made it easy for me to handle male situations in a work environment because I am seen as ‘one of the guys’ whatever that means.
My younger years were spent in Lagos where I went to St. Saviour’s School, Ebute Metta and then unto Vivian Fowler Girls College before I moved to the United Kingdom to finish my studies. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media and Communications (Public Relations) and I hold a CIPR Diploma in Public Affairs and Political Communications.
I’ve been working since I was 16 years old and yet to take a break from my career. My first role was at a Butcher’s store in London. I wanted the extra cash and so worked there on weekends. Then I went into fashion and worked for a bunch of High street stores. Right about the same time, I was struggling on my course in Business school. I hate numbers and anything quantitative so I took a year out to explore Communications which was the best decision I ever made. I interned in a couple of music PR agencies in London.
Can you imagine getting to meet some of your favourite artists? Eventually, I got my first PR job with an agency called Kaizo PR where I worked on some amazing accounts such as House of Marley – a range of products by the Bob Marley Family. I moved back to Nigeria four years ago and took on the role as Head of PR for the InterContinental Hotel and last year I joined Grayling, a top global agency where I headed the Nigerian team.
I now run BWL Agency – the exclusive affiliate of Grayling in Nigeria. We look after the Pernod Ricard Nigeria Portfolio handling brands such as Jameson, Martell, Chivas and Absolute Vodka. I’m also in the process of launching a new fashion platform called SLKT Fashion. SLKT will provide fast fashion for a very under-served demographic at budget prices.
As PR consultant, is there an experience from your career that stands out as one that helped you develop the person you are today?
There have been several experiences over the years but one which really stands out would be washing bird poo off one of my boss’s car in the middle of Swiss Cottage in London. As it turns out, this is something that every ‘intern’ had to do. Now that I look at it, I think she was just trying to see how far you can be pushed or willing to go. A little bit like that film – Devil wears Prada but without The Prada.
That experience taught me to be resilient, develop a tough skin and think about the end goal. This woman has done Madonna’s PR for almost 20 years. She was the big deal and I wanted to learn from her. I also knew if I succeeded and could get a solid reference from her, I could get a job at any record label. So, that incident is something I share with my team that you need to be able to do anything (within reason of course) to get where you need to go.
In taking up your clients, what are the specifics that you look for?
I am a rule breaker and my team and I continuously challenge the status quo. All of our clients have noticed that. Our clients look for us when they want a team with an international outlook and a local mindset. They come to us when they are looking for something different. We don’t look like everyone else, we don’t sound like everyone else and we don’t execute like everyone else.
BWL Agency actually stands for Brands We Love which means we only take on brands that we love, brands that we are passionate about and brands that we believe in. We don’t work on brands just for the sake of it or for the money. We work on it because we want to make impact by creating compelling and creative campaigns.
You are quite successful. How did you get here?
I won’t really say that I’m successful. Firstly, I live in a basement flat in my sister’s house. I don’t have a limitless bank account. I prefer to say that I am striving for success. You know it’s very easy to talk about how you have gotten somewhere but what I have realised is that people do not often read out loud all the chapters of their stories. I want to be careful about that. I am still trying to figure it all out with the understanding that my story will be different from the next person’s story.
Hard work has contributed to me being where I am. Making a ton of mistakes has contributed even more to where I am because I have been able to learn from it. I’ve gone through the same or possibly similar experiences with other 20-30 something year olds. I’ve messed up at work royally. Also, I’ve had my heart broken, and I’ve been broke. But what’s more important to me is sharing my mess ups and failures so that others can be comforted by it. I’m not one for painting a perfect picture. If you ask me I’ll tell you.
Young, successful women are often pressured into getting married. What’s your take on that?
Our generation has really been dealt an unfair blow by those before us. Look at Nigeria during the time of our great, grandfathers. Our manufacturing industry was booming. We were producing. There was access to land, infrastructure. I come from a family of manufacturers. My late grandfather made something out of nothing. He wasn’t from a prominent family but he was able to make something for himself and give his kids a life that he didn’t have. Nigeria gave him that opportunity.
Now, look at the state of the country. The rate of unemployment is outstanding and the young people of our generation cannot get a break. As if we don’t have enough to deal with, then comes the pressure for females to be married by a certain age (the dreaded 30). This I have to say is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard.
Young ladies are getting married and settling in bad marriages because society has told them that they should strive for marriage, that a marriage is their highest form of accomplishment. I’ve been told several times to play down myself, tone down my achievements, simply to make some man comfortable.
Let me ask one question: Did my father work so hard to send his daughters to school only for them to be told that they should tone down their intelligence to please people? Of course not. I am not married so I can’t speak on that topic but I understand that marriage and being with someone is not a way to secure financial freedom.
What is your advice for young female professionals?
Live your life. Do not let culture, tradition and people’s opinions stifle the person you can be. See the world, get out of doing the same things. Make mistakes, learn from them. Fall and then pick yourself up.
Importantly, please get out of the mindset that you need a man to be ‘set’ in life, that you need to marry a rich man to give you the things you need. This is something I’ve heard so many times in this environment. No, you don’t. All you need is your brain and prayers.
Stop the Instagram envy. Remember that not all that glitters is gold. Remember your values and stick to them. It’s so easy to lose yourself if you keep comparing yourself to the next female on Instagram.
Stop putting yourself under the pressure to look like you have it all together. It’s okay to not know what you want to do. Take the time to discover yourself and the person you want to be.
Learn and be the best in your chosen field. Be that female that can work any room. Also, you should be that female that can command attention. Even more, you should be that female that when you speak the world listens. Be that female that can work a club and also a board room.
If you are not in public relations, what would you be doing?
If I was not in PR, I would work in Fashion as a stylist or a full-time nomad so I can roam the world.
Source: The Guardian
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