Interview With a Leader in PR and Communications: Tara Tomes, Managing Director, East Village.
News Categories: aspire
What was your first job?
My Dad had me making cups of tea and organising incoming faxes (yes, faxes) in his office pretty much as soon as I could walk, so I guess an Apprentice job at Gotham Records was my first job. My first real job was a Saturday girl working at SIMS Footwear in Great Western Arcade.
Did you ever imagine to be undertaking your current role, if not, what did you want to be doing?
Ab Fab was on TV a lot when I was growing up so, naturally, my love of writing meant that I originally wanted to become a journalist. However, my parents told me that no one liked journalists so I changed my mind pretty quickly and when I realised I couldn’t be Patsy, I thought the second best option was to be Edina, so my quest for a career in PR was born.
I definitely saw myself running my own business one day but I was keen to learn from other people first and I’ve been fortunate to work with some really great people, who have taught me invaluable things.
Which parts of your role are the most enjoyable and which parts are the most challenging?
Running your own business is one of the most enjoyable and challenging things that you can ever do – no day is the same and there’s always something new to focus on, which I love.
Having worked in PR and events for seven years prior to setting up EAST VILLAGE. meant that I already had the expertise to plan, manage and deliver client campaigns. This side of the business comes relatively easy to me and whilst there are everyday challenges – unexpected crisis management, cancelled events, media backlashes – I still love all of this. Events, no matter the size, are always a stressful time so whether we’re planning a small product launch or huge shopping centre event, the team is armed with plans and itineraries to limit the stress and help us enjoy it as much as possible.
I guess, overall, the part that really pushes me out of my comfort zone is the business element; those typical issues that business owners moan about like HR, cashflow management and general accounting. Luckily, Birmingham Future is full of experts in these fields so I can call upon help when I need it!
How do you balance your working and personal life?
It can be a challenge; when I was young, free and single, I was in the office early, worked late and went out ‘networking’ most nights. Now that I have a happy life in Harborne with my boyfriend I am definitely a lot better at work/life balance. I still get into the office early but make a habit of leaving on time as often as possible and not checking my emails all hours of the day. Technology is a wonderful thing but it does mean that people expect you to be contactable 24/7 so I’m getting better at putting an ‘out of office’ on and not answering un-important emails out of work hours. Of course things are sometimes important but, more often than not, they can wait.
It’s all about being as effective as possible during the working day and enjoying time out of work.
Birmingham is a great city for networking and you could easily fill your week with events but I’m now more selective about what I go to. That’s the great thing about having two fantastic employees; they can go out and represent EAST VILLAGE. when I’m at home in my pjs.
What advice would you give to a young professional wanting to progress in your industry?
Getting experience really is the thing that sets you apart in the PR and events industry. Education is still hugely important – whether that be an Apprenticeship or University Degree – but when you’re competing against fellow applicants, you need to make yourself stand out so whilst you’re completing your studies, or just after, get in contact with some companies and get some experience on your CV.
Once you’ve got experience, you also need to work on your connections. Your strength as a PR professional will heavily rely on your ‘Little Black Book’ so getting involved with organisations like BPS Birmingham Future can be the perfect way to build those all-important networks, and make sure you don’t just attend the events but also join a committee too; that’s how you really show your value. I joined Future back in 2008 when I left uni and I’m still here… it has been invaluable to my career.
What do you hope to be doing in ten years’ time?
I hope that EAST VILLAGE. is still going strong – with bigger offices and more team members, and perhaps reaching new cities too. With this comes more responsibility but also the opportunity to lean on employees that you really trust, so hopefully I’ll be having a few more holidays too!
What’s the best tip or piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
This is a difficult one – I have been given some great advice over the years but, for me, it’s to always enjoy what you do. If you don’t, then do something about it! I don’t mean quit your job when you’re having a bad day, but if moaning about your boss, your workload or your role is a constant then you need to make a change. Take risks – and follow your dreams!
What do you enjoy the most in/ about Birmingham?
It really is just the greatest city… full of passionate people, with a real thirst for success. Its commercial strength continues to rise but it still remains an intimate, close-knit community, and that’s something that will really benefit you in your career. Make connections and collaborate… you can’t achieve great things on your own!