Laura Perkes is a publicist and the founder of boutique PR Agency, PR with Perkes.
They work with progressive brands and entrepreneurs who are looking to go beyond social media to raise their profile, gain credibility and become the go-to authority in their industry.
Obsessed with Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Laura is fascinated by human behaviour and can often be found glued to The Real Housewives Series. In no particular order, her faves are: Real Housewives of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New York, New Jersey and Orange County.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m a Public Relations Consultant and have been for my entire career. I also studied it at university when my dreams of becoming a radio DJ wwe shattered when I realised that radio journalism involved a lot of tech and wasn’t simply sitting in a studio, playing music, interviewing celebs and having fun!
I’ve been a part of the PR industry for 20 years and have loved being part of its evolution and seeing the impact that it has on those who use it to their advantage.
In 2013 I made the decision to leave my senior manager role within a niche PR agency and set up on my own. I’ve never identified with being an entrepreneur, and didn’t ever dream of starting my own business, but as I approached my 30th Birthday I realised that I was no longer fulfilled and felt out of alignment with the clients I was working on. I saw a gap in the market to support innovative start-up businesses who couldn’t afford the investment in a PR agency.
While the world was navigating a global pandemic last year, I realised that certain parts of my business no longer set my world on fire. I worked with a leadership coach who helped me identify my zone of genius, so that I could see what additional support I needed to drive the business forward.
Since October 2020 I’ve been working with a team of incredible publicists, as well as establishing relationships with other experts whose skills complement mine, to help add value and deliver results for our clients.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No! Although I rarely plan anything to be fair. I’m very spontaneous and I’m always open to having a conversation as you never know where it may lead. If it feels right and creates excitement then I know I’m onto a good thing!
At 17 years old when my radio dreams disappeared, I knew that I’d follow the path of a career in PR, but running my own business was never an option. When I was growing up, running your own business wasn’t an option that was spoken about or even encouraged. For me, it just kind of happened because I believed that there was something better out there for me.
Then, when you do start your own business you have no idea what twists and turns are going to be experienced. No two days are ever the same and you really are navigating your own path. I often say that driving your own ship is a blessing and a curse, as yes, you get to call the shots, but you also have to bear the brunt of what calling those shots entails.
Nowadays I have a rough idea of what I want to achieve, but I don’t religiously follow a plan. I’d hate to miss out on the learnings along the way if I didn’t go with my gut and follow my heart or intuition.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Oh yes! When you run your own business there are so many moveable parts and there’s so much to learn. I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the years and am grateful that running my own business has given me an opportunity to work on my own self development, as I don’t think I would have if I was still an employee for someone else. When you’re on the hamster wheel your main priority is to do the best that you can. When you run your own business you’re forced to learn new skills and do things that are way out of your comfort zone.
When I’m out of my comfort zone that’s when I start to overthink things and it’s easy to worry about what other people think. You worry that you’re doing things wrong and don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
I had a perception that I had to be perfect at everything and that asking for help was a sign of weakness. It took me a while to let my guard down and have open and honest conversations with my peers and with my network that made me feel vulnerable. The biggest lesson I learned is that when you show vulnerability you invite others into your world and show that you’re human. In those moments of vulnerability you’re letting others know that it’s ok not to know everything and not be perfect. That’s when you truly attract ‘your people’ into your business.
Even now, when I share openly about how I’m feeling on social media or in a newsletter, I get far more engagement from fellow business owners or people in my tribe.
The permission piece is huge amongst female entrepreneurs especially, so it really does pay to be real, raw and honest.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Riding the lows and hanging in there when the going got really tough. My star sign is Taurus, so I’m naturally stubborn and won’t ever give up. I’m determined and have a lot of grit, tenacity and determination, so I’m always prepared to do whatever it takes.
When you’re stuck in the trenches you learn many things as you dig your way out. Failing forward is definitely the only way to learn, because it’s not often in how you fall but how you get back up.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Knowing that I can achieve whatever I set out to. I’m my biggest cheerleader because I know what I’m capable of, I’m just not always good at focussing on the one thing that’s really going to drive my business forward. I’m very experimental and often get sidetracked or fall prey to shiny object syndrome.
In the past 12 months I’ve learnt that the key to running a sustainable business is to focus on what you truly love and what brings you joy. Most people leave a corporate career and set up their own business to escape the rat race. But many entrepreneurs and start-up business owners fall in the trap of working 80 hours a week, despite escaping the confines of their 40hour week corporate job.
It’s taken me eight years to learn that I can run my business in any way that I please. It may not be ‘normal’ or what others would deem as ‘right’ but if it works for me, if it brings me joy, makes me happy and earns me money, then I can’t ask for anything else.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think mentors are brilliant and I’ve worked with so many who have shaped me to become the person I am today. If it wasn’t for my mentors, I wouldn’t have expanded the business last year, I wouldn’t have been able to identify my zone of genius, or help me move from a solopreneur into a CEO.
Learning from someone who is a few steps ahead of you in business, or has skills in areas that you don’t, is crucial in personal and business growth.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
We still need to see more women at the top. We need to see more older women and more women of colour. Statistics show that female managers and CEOs produce better performing teams due to their nurturing abilities and willingness to collaborate. Younger generations need role models within the industries that they want to work in. More often than not, women are forced out of their careers when they choose to start a family and realise that it’s not humanly possible to be a great Mum and commit full time to a corporate career. Those who do manage to get the balance right then have the menopause to contend with.
Similarly, there’s not much representation in the media. Society has long held the belief that women in their 40s are ‘past it’, when in fact, women in their 40s are more self aware and more focussed on smashing through societal ceilings. Then, once you’re through the menopause, women become formidable characters who aren’t afraid to go after what they want.
If we don’t see people in the positions that we want to aim for, then we create a belief that it’s not possible to achieve that or succeed.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Embrace who you are and don’t change yourself to fit in with everyone else. You were born to stand out, that’s your superpower.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Most of the challenges I face are unpredictable and a surprise, so who knows! Saying that, I have been speaking to my mentor about writing my first book, which I’ve been resisting for the past few years. But I’m slowly getting comfortable at the thought of putting pen to paper, so you’ve heard it here first. Watch out!
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