Abbi Head is a Chartered Institute of Public Relations member and Little PR Rock Marketing’s founder in the UK. Following a ten-year career as a Media Officer at a charity, she became self-employed full time as a PR and Design Consultant in 2021. Abbi sees public relations through a marketing lens and approaches marketing as a qualified Graphic Designer. She is an academic and currently studying for her CIPR Professional PR Diploma, which is equivalent to a Master’s level. Since 2019 Abbi has developed as an educational and inspirational public speaker.
In March, she delivered her latest keynote for the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Business Bootcamp 2022, inspiring attendees to find their confidence as subject-matter experts and potential thought leaders pitching their knowledge to the media. Abbi uses her process called The 5 Key ROI Marketing Principles – Respect, Recognition, Resilience, Reputation & Reinforcement on Investment (ROI) – to build her strategy and drive solid business results. Abbi provides a plan of action to help businesses and professionals get noticed, build a reputation, expand their customer base, and ultimately earn more sales.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Please introduce yourself to our readers by sharing your story.
Abbi Head: I’ve spent a lifetime developing solid skills in PR and design. My work crosses many disciplines, allowing me to work with individuals of varying expertise. I can offer a unique brand message as a PR and Design Consultant specialising in working with consultants, coaches, public speakers, and authors like me to help them establish their public persona in the media.
I demonstrate what I do, what has worked and what I have learned. I love discovering more about other people’s perspectives and sharing ideas with them. When I’m not helping my clients reach a diverse range of audiences, I spend most of my time studying. I’ve just started my CIPR Professional PR Diploma to cement my knowledge, access the latest insights and study PR at an academic level.
My mission is to help entrepreneurs master the valuable message they have behind their marketing and use it to gain media coverage. My clients remind me often that I have a gift for seeing their stories and turning them into visual and written forms of expression. I enjoy interviews as they enable me to unlock deep structured knowledge from my clients, create impactful copy and develop their aspirational branding. I am blessed to access a range of knowledge about different communication methods through education and experience. Therefore, I offer insights to access and reinforce personal and business brands with media kits, press releases, pitching to the media, guest posting, slide decks, and graphic design skills.
2020-2021 was unlike any other year. What is your favorite item you’ve bought in the past months and why?
Abbi Head: I am going to get a bit of a tech-geek here. I have been guilty of getting excited by design software for many years now and enjoy using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. When my illustrator friend Phaedra Elson from Pipistrelle Art told me about Affinity Design, I was immediately interested. As an avid Adobe user, it’s not often that any other software company can tempt me away.
I had decided not to purchase the entire Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps package because I knew that I would spend hours getting deeper into Premiere Pro, and I needed to continue to master one aspect of design rather than learn any more about creating videos. I used Premiere Pro when I was a Media Officer, so I knew how addictive I found it.
The more I read about Affinity and watched reviews, the more I became interested. Affinity integrates its programs, making it easy to design professional media kits and E-books. There is no subscription; it is an inexpensive and lifetime one-off payment. I’m still a fan of Adobe, however. I hand draw logo designs traditionally in pencil, switching to Procreate on the Ipad before perfecting designs as vectors in Adobe Illustrator. The system seems to work for my clients and me.
Life is like a box of chocolates…What unexpected surprises did life grant you that contributed to your success?
Abbi Head: I developed my professionalism and my brand as a business owner through the experience of being locked down. When I joined the Woman Who Achieves Academy with Sandra Garlick MBE, I found confidence in public speaking, and I learned even more as a Toastmasters International member. I began to see the potential for global outreach through Zoom. In March 2021, I attended Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within (UPW).
During the program, something inside me clicked, and I committed to becoming fully self-employed. I would never have thought to attend UPW in person, but those late nights and immersive days changed my life forever. It was difficult to leave the charity as an employee for many happy years, but ultimately, it was an incredibly positive choice that made it possible to pursue other opportunities more passionately. It is hard to appreciate or even see the positive in the middle of a pandemic.
I know my mother died of Covid in 2020, but some good can come from tragedy if we look for it. I’m now a member of Project Next and Dean Graziosi’s Inner Circle—I think one day I will muster up the courage to get on his Zoom hot seat, too!
Tell us about the job. Is there any exciting project you’re currently working on?
Abbi Head: I have just volunteered my time to a charity called The Luca Foundation to work on their PR and Communications. Established by Sharon Luca-Chatha, this non-profit raises funds for “cuddle cots”, which may buy more time for parents whose child has been stillborn. In 2012, Sharon’s first child—her son Luca—was “born sleeping”, as she terms it. Tragically, a parent’s worst nightmare is to lose their child. The Luca Foundation aims to invest in training for health professionals and share best practices with similar ventures, fellow charities and organisations across the UK to support expectant mothers and families.
I have already designed the charity’s new additional logo based on a heart and wing ready for the marketing campaigns. I am also working with a start-up business creating a brand for her Personal Assistant (PA) agency, which will offer tailor-made support for neurodivergent individuals. So far, I am establishing her visual identity, a stronger personal brand on LinkedIn, and graphics and copy for website content.
One of my clients, a baby sleep consultant, is working on a potential research project, and I can’t wait to create her public relations when that is ready. I still have my regular clients and some in the pipeline, including an expert in e-commerce, a cybersecurity consultant, and several authors. Negotiations are taking place with several fellow creatives for white-label items to free up my time to focus on the PR side of my business.
Sir Richard Branson famously stated that “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” As a CEO/leader how do you feel about this philosophy and if you agree with it, how do you implement that in your company? Conversely, if you disagree, explain why and how do you do things differently?
Abbi Head: Definitions of leadership are as numerous as leaders, but in my experience, being a good leader means being an individual people want to follow. That’s it. It is not essential to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t have to come up with every idea yourself. Some of the best leaders I know and have worked for throughout my career have been people who could get others to do their best work, give their best ideas and reach their full potential. I believe that comes down to two things: empathy and authenticity.
We have all just been through a crisis as humans so putting people first is the first rule of thumb in crisis communications. Richard Branson is known as a people person, and it’s clear to see why he is such a highly-respected business leader. His focus on staff happiness and ethics has brought him much success and the ability to empathise with his customers and audiences. Richard Branson is a classic example of how a personal brand as a CEO works. It is ethical to provide an “Employee Voice” and react to their comments and feedback. This voice will keep the two-way dialogue going between employers and employees during these uncertain times – ensuring that everyone remains calm, comfortable, safe and happy in their roles.
As Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies and Founder of Sampark Foundation, says in his book “Employees First, Customers Second: Turning conventional management upside down” (2010), employees are valuable stakeholders in a business as they are financially dependent on the employer, have a more substantial emotional commitment and often stay longer than customers. Understanding staff also helps bring authenticity – communicating honestly with your workforce is critical for employee wellbeing, particularly during periods of crisis when uncertainty can lead to anxiety.
According to a breakthrough study conducted by Weber Shandwick, leaders worldwide believe that 45% of a business’ market value is dependent on a CEO’s branding and reputation. We would love to know your thoughts about this. How important are CEO’s personal branding and reputation for the business itself?
Abbi Head: Branding is about personality, and the traits of the CEO transpose onto the business. With brands moving progressively toward social impact, personal and business branding are increasingly linked. In essence, social impact is any significant or positive change that solves or at least addresses social injustices and challenges. At this time, “Purpose” rather than “Profit” is becoming the business rationale.
Therefore, an effective CEO must acknowledge social impact and commit to creating a fairer, more sustainable future for his company by fostering a culture that incentivises innovation and rewards the right behaviours. Added to The 5As Of Successful Brands highlighted in a whitepaper by Fronteer, CEOs need authority, authenticity, aspiration, artisanat and finally, affinity. If a CEO has a bad reputation, it can affect the company’s brand in the minds of its stakeholders. As leaders of their companies and organisations, CEOs are expected to be visible and vocal. They are the voice of their companies, both internally and externally.
As the world becomes increasingly connected and transparent, CEOs have more opportunities to take a stand on issues that matter to them, their employees and their customers. They’re not always comfortable being in the spotlight. CEOs may prefer nuance to simple headlines and complex challenges too easy answers. However, today’s leaders have no choice but to step out of their comfort zones and engage with many stakeholders. According to Challenge Marketing in the UK, “Executives understand the benefits that come along with a strong CEO reputation and believe that their own CEO’s reputation contributes to nearly half of both their company’s reputation (45%) and market value (44%).”
Do you have a specific anecdote that comes to mind or a news story that helped you realize how critical it is to be mindful of branding and reputation, on a personal or company level? Please share how it “opened your eyes”
Abbi Head: Steven Bartlett is an entrepreneur, business owner, speaker and influencer. He was a university drop-out who built Social Chain. After becoming one of the world’s most influential social media companies, he took his company public at 27 years old with a market valuation of over $600M. In 2021 Steven released his debut book ‘Happy Sexy Millionaire’, a Sunday Times bestseller. In 2020 Steven became an investor and seat holder on Dragons Den UK. Steven is an author, content creator and the host of one of Europe’s biggest podcasts, ‘The Diary of a CEO’.
He has elevated himself in a short space of time with a strong personal brand in a time of influencer culture. In 2022 Steven interviewed Matt Hancock on his podcast “Diary of a CEO.” The Health Secretary faced questions about his exit from the cabinet. The shamed MP stepped down from the front bench in June 2021 after leaked CCTV showed him embracing and kissing advisor Gina Coledangelo in his office. Bartlett said the interview became ‘heated’ in parts. Several Twitter users were puzzled by Hancock as a guest, with one user questioning what his credentials as a CEO were and why a platform was given to him when rebuilding credibility is needed.
Steven defended his decision to interview Hancock, saying, “As you’ll know, most of my guests are not CEOs despite the title. My guests tend to be individuals who have been in unique positions, authors, well-known names in society or people with unique stories.” and “I will always interview whoever I want to *on my channel* and as the viewer, you can choose to listen or not. I view this as my right as the channel owner and your right as the viewer.” How could Steven’s politically charged podcast and opinion not have affected his ratings and business at that time?
Do you have a set of principles and strategic actions that you and your management team abide by to maintain a good online reputation and positioning? What are they and how effective have they been?
Abbi Head: My personal brand is my reputation; I am aware of it at all times and aspire to build a strong one. I’ve been on a steep learning curve as a communications professional and have grown immensely in a short time. I am constantly learning and improving my personal brand and reputation through consistency, knowledge, experience, expertise and authenticity. I have also been helping small business owners, entrepreneurs, consultants and even existing employees think about how they can brand themselves online or improve their brand. I have seven principles to create a solid personal brand. My seven critical areas for building a strong reputation and personal brand are:
- Expertise – The more expert you are at what you do, the more of an authority you will be in your industry.
- Voice – You need to make sure people understand you clearly, and you can do this with your written voice on your blog and social media channels and your spoken voice when you’re speaking at events or on podcasts or TV.
- Consistency – Be consistently YOU.
- Authenticity – Being authentic means being true to yourself. It’s about being genuine and honest with people.
- Visibility – “Out of sight, out of mind.”
- Influence – Influence comes from various places: a position of authority; your reputation; your status in the industry; your knowledge or expertise (or both); being connected to others who can open doors for you or give you access to opportunities (and vice versa); and the list goes on.
- Generosity – When it comes to marketing yourself and building a reputation, generosity is vital.
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, in many cases, it pushed the employees and the consumers to critical stress points. How did you lead your team through these difficult times and maintain a good reputation?
Abbi Head: The work of experts in media has been brought to the fore by the current pandemic. As a Media Officer, I utilised social media to represent the charity externally and connect with employees during a crisis. I balanced the most up to date news reports with reporting from the charity’s managers. I avoided negative words, yet I still managed some complex opinion-based commentary by focusing on my language. Even down to small details—for example, using “however” instead of “but.” Through lockdown, I created a professional image for myself and established a professional brand for my business at the same time. Recognising the difference between my brand and that of the charity helped me understand the rudiments of personal and company branding. We both left the pandemic with reputations established and intact.
The COVID pandemic raised a lot of polarizing politically charged issues. According to ‘The Harris Poll’, 75% of Americans said that they would avoid taking a position on political issues if they were CEOs. We would love to know your thoughts about this. Is it better to take a political position or to avoid it completely When it comes to being a great CEO/Leader, do you have one name that comes to mind, please share with us how they influence the CEO you are today? What lessons did they teach you over the years?
Abbi Head: Polarised comments can attract and repel potential stakeholders, employees and customers. Although born of humanity subjects such as ending poverty and hunger, concerns for the community’s health, better education, gender equality, access to water and sanitation, affordable and clean homes and fair working arrangements all have political challenges.
However, when some aspect of the social impact process is overlooked, the full potential of these mechanisms and actions will not be realised. The need for “Purpose” and social impact makes political opinion and taking action inevitable. After becoming the president and COO of Adobe in 2005, Shantanu Narayen became CEO in 2007. He has led the company to success through innovations such as cloud-based subscriptions for his firm’s creative suite, creating digital documents that have become the industry standard, and leading the area of digital experience by inspiring Adobe’s products.
In the same way, as Narayen does at Adobe, I hope to lead by providing my employees and clients with challenging goals and letting people use their ingenuity to accomplish them. From my experience being an entrepreneur, I have learned that you can get brilliant people to do extraordinary things if you set a clear vision, shared beliefs, and a spirit of adventure. Narayen certainly does share an opinion that we can use technology to transform the lives of many poor peoples worldwide, but he also knows that there is a lot of opportunity in India for entrepreneurship and innovation. Narayen has described it as Adobe’s greatest opportunity.
You have been very generous with your time and knowledge. Our readers would also love to know, What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? and what is the advice you give the most often to new team members?
Abbi Head: Albert Einstein’s adage, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, is a powerful reminder that innovation happens when people move beyond convention. Thankfully this was not the case in my previous employment, where there was real forward-thinking.
Too often, traditional business leaders overlook the need to foster a culture of innovation. They take refuge in the sacred values of their organisational cultures and insist on a rigid set of policies, standards, and static processes, which are often obsolete. This stubbornness inhibits the agility and flexibility that the company needs to deploy when facing a crisis. They resist embarking on a necessary organisational transformation that would enable them to remain competitive and ensure their future viability. If I had a team, I would tell them to focus on collaboration over competition.
Clients will always need more attention from you as they progress up the value ladder, so be ready to adapt to their needs and listen to them closely. As a PR and Design Consultant, I partner with my clients, so I encourage them to reach their full potential and discover the best versions of themselves.
What is one key thing you want to achieve at this moment, and what do you need to overcome to reach your goal?
Abbi Head: Despite my current obligations, I plan to write a book about PR and its integration with marketing with my 5 Key ROI Marketing Principles and strategy. I am working on two online courses for Mastermind.com, studying for my CIPR PR Professional Diploma, working with clients, volunteering at The Luca Foundation, public speaking engagements, and applying for a business accelerator programme. I am aware that I need to schedule time for myself to dedicate my energy to this book.
Thank you so much for your time but before we say goodbye, we do have one more unusual question. If you ask yourself any question what would it be and how would you answer it?
Abbi Head: My question would be “How do I strengthen my personal brand so that I am not judged by my past?” Rebranding a business involves the creation of a new public image by changing its name, altering its logo and other visual elements, and marketing with a new set of values. You can translate these to your personal brand.
A first step is to monitor and measure the difference between how you want to be seen and how others receive you; then, you can respond accordingly. The second step is to establish and protect your personal brand. Create a reasoned narrative that explains exactly how your past fits your present. With so much social media overwhelm, we cannot expect everyone to remember the details of our lives. So we have to re-educate them strategically to give our past a context through our perspective.
The third aspect is to make sure that your content online and in-person offers something of real value. When you build a personal brand that is reliable and robust, you can be consistent in your interactions with the target audience and quickly become familiar with them. This consistency will build trust among your target audience, allowing an emotional connection between your company’s brand and the target audience.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Abbi Head for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Abbi Head or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.