While working as a Graphics Designer, Rachel developed an interest in communications and the thinking involved in creating the right content. She transitioned and hasn’t looked back since. Rachel Leung is our Comms Spotlight for this week and she shows how curiosity and being genuinely intersted in people can make a difference in your career. Her interview with us contains many useful nuggets from her career journey so far.
You’ve been the Communications Lead at World Benchmarking Alliance for over a year. Tell us about what you do in your role.
The World Benchmarking Alliance holds the world’s most influential companies accountable for their part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by publishing free and publicly available benchmarks on their performance.
I help to communicate our work and insights to a broad audience in a simple and impactful way. This includes advising colleagues on how to craft key messages and express their thought leadership through mediums such as opinion pieces and TED talks. It also involves ensuring that we tell clear and compelling stories about the why, what and how of our work.
How did you begin your career journey in communications?
Whilst freelancing as a Graphic Designer, I was tasked with creating content for social media and discovered that I loved the broader communications approach that it entailed. I enjoyed writing copy, but also the thinking behind any good content: Who’s the audience? What’s the impact we’re trying to achieve? What’s the most important information? How can we make this stand out? From there I jumped into a 50% social media/50% press relations communications role and never looked back.
What do you do to stay ahead of trends and consistently add value in your role?
My current role doesn’t really require staying ahead of trends, although I do look up information as needed to ensure best practice for things like SEO and website content. I add value by staying curious, asking questions and listening to what’s going on more broadly in the organisation to see where it might be helpful for me to step in.
I also read the news, scroll through social media and follow the work of other organisations. I can’t help to position our work in a way that’s relevant to a broader audience if I don’t know what’s going on outside our bubble!
Can you share some of the key lessons you have gained from your professional journey so far?
When it comes to job hunting, the adage ’it’s not what you know but who you know’, has rung true for me. I found about half of my roles through contacts rather than job sites. I’m not really into aggressive networking, mind you! I’m just genuinely interested and curious about others, enjoy connecting them to resources or people, and vocalise when I’m looking for work
I’ve also learned that it can be very beneficial to ‘teach’ others how you’d like them to work with you. Communications functions can differ a lot between organisations. Taking the time to get to know a colleague and explain my role, or sharing a list of things of what I need in order to fulfil their asks has gone a long way.
What changes or improvements would you like to see in the communications profession globally?
I’d love to see a shift in how we recruit people. I once applied for a job at an organisation seeking to review candidates in a non-biased way. They used a recruitment platform where I was asked a few interview questions designed to test my skills, rather than experience for the role. The organisation then scored all of the candidates’ answers blindly – without knowing our names, ethnicity, experience, or what university we went to. Only afterwards were they able to see everyone’s details.
Changing the way that we hire communications professionals is imperative if we’re serious about diversity. Not only that – it seems like a better and quicker way to find the right candidate.
I’d also love for communications to be valued for much more than just media coverage, or as a functional arm (‘’let’s put it on our website’’). Getting on the front page of the New York Times sounds impressive but two days later? It’s old news; a flash in the pan. Communications can do so much more! It can help inform the entire approach of a project, and ensure that the impact created lasts.
What advice will you give to your younger professional self?
Listen to your gut/instinct/intuition – it’s often right. Take care of your body, mind and soul because they’re all connected. No person is an island – make space to connect with loved ones and reach out for support when you need it. And plan regular time-off!
The Comms Spotlight is a weekly segment where we feature communications professionals across Africa doing amazing work. Want to be featured or know someone we should feature? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.