Catherine Frankpitt has worked in PR and communications for more than 20 years, in a mix of in-house and agency roles.
Prior to launching her own company, Strike Communications, Catherine was director of communications at UWE Bristol. Notable projects include working with the Bristol Beacon – formerly the Colston Hall – team on their multi-million-pound transformation campaign and managing the communications for Bristol’s bid to become European Green Capital.
Can you describe the career journey that has led you to where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to do something that involved media and writing, so I studied a degree in English literature and media studies. I was lucky enough to get an internship with the Mail on Sunday after university, which was an amazing experience for a 21-year-old. But after months of seeing the press releases come in on the fax machine from PR agencies, I decided that I wanted to move over to that side of working with the media and I’ve been working in public relations ever since.
I’ve had some great roles and experiences since then that have given me the confidence and passion to finally launch my own consultancy in 2020.
Tell us about one (or more) of the people who inspired you along the way.
I have the privilege of working with the team at Bristol Beacon. They have had a huge weight of responsibility on their shoulders to sensitively deal with the issue of the name change, which has been so divisive in the city. This, on top of dealing with the complex transformation of the building and coping with the challenges of Covid-19.
I’m genuinely inspired by the way they have managed it all. Louise Mitchell is a fantastic leader, and one of the most inspiring people I’ve worked with. Sarah Robertson, Andy Boreham and the whole marketing team are brilliant and what I particularly love is their team approach to everything they do – they support each other totally.
Are there any memorable challenges you have faced along the way?
The biggest challenge for me for a long time was juggling parenthood with building my career. I’ve been a single parent since my daughter was three (she left for university last month). When she was little, back in the early 2000s, I felt very conscious of being judged or overlooked for bigger jobs.
It’s terrible, but I actually tried to avoid mentioning that I had a child and I felt that I had to work much harder to prove that I could do a good job. I think there is less judgement now but there is still more to be done. I go out of my way these days to talk about the fact that I’ve managed to build a successful career and bring up my daughter on my own – I think it’s important and I’m proud of it.
What is the most important thing for you to focus on in business?
It’s all about relationships, whatever the business. People buy people. My consultancy offers a range of PR and communications services but, beyond that, my clients need to know they can trust me, that I understand them and that I will always have their back.
If you had one piece of advice to offer people aspiring to your role, what would it be?
Listen more. A long time ago an old boss told me to “suck your tongue”. It was great advice. Whether it’s listening to the view of your teammates, your seniors, a journalist, or your client. The more you can understand other peoples’ viewpoints and experiences, the better job you will do in communications.
If you could change one thing about your sector, or Bristol as a whole, what would it be?
I’ve worked in Bristol for 20 years and love so much about the city. But I am well aware that I have a privileged experience of it. I am passionate about doing more to tackle the inequalities that exist here, particularly among our young people. There is great work going on by different organisations around the city (Community of Purpose being my favourite – they are amazing), but if I had a magic wand, I would use it to ensure every young person was able to have equal opportunities and chances.
What are your aspirations for the future (personally and for Bristol)?
My career has been a series of opportunities rather than rigidly planned and, as a result, I’ve found myself working on projects and having experiences that I would never have imagined. So beyond wanting to continue to build Strike and hopefully even get to do some work internationally when the world opens up again, I’m quite open to whatever the future offers me.
For Bristol, I would love to see the city leading the way in sustainability and tackling climate change. I genuinely believe it has the potential to. It was European Green Capital and has loads of environmental organisations and passionate campaigners here.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees talked about the importance of it recently in his annual State of the City Address too. Wouldn’t that be great if we could be the place to lead a post-Covid green recovery?
Main photo courtesy of Catherine Frankpitt