Kamiqua Pearce | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2020

Kamiqua Pearce



“Never underestimate the power of your gut instinct."

Former Weber Shandwick exec Kamiqua Pearce launched Coldr in June this year as a communications agency for brands and organisations that want to become ambassadors for social change and what “good” looks like, operationally and culturally. One of a new breed of communications agency leaders whose stated aim is to challenge clients to be better businesses, Pearce is coaxing brands who are committed to change out of their cultural comfort zones. In the year that the Black Lives Matter movement gathered pace, Pearce shared her powerful experience of being a Black woman in PR, and in August accepted an invitation to become one of the first Black members of the PRCA board.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry?
More inclusive business practices and better ways to measure success. Being an inclusive employer is rightly becoming more of a focus however there’s a lot more to do from a business perspective. We need to think more about who is awarded the slice of the comms budget, and partner with a more diverse pool of creators, creatives, influencers and businesses. There’s a whole world of talent that the industry just doesn’t tap into and building more diverse teams will likely support this. In regards to measuring success, it’s something our industry continues to grapple with, we need better data and approaches for evaluating what good looks like.

How have the events of 2020 impacted innovation in the PR and communications industry?
For some sectors there has been more investment in PR and comms this year, particularly around corporate communications and reputation management. Largely this has resulted in traditional, tried and tested comms approaches – a great way to show our value, but not necessarily a driver for innovation. For a few the pandemic and the BLM movement have presented opportunities to be more innovative and disruptive.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Integration and more partnerships with companies and organisations outside of comms.

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
Great conversations with people who think differently to me, followed by quietude and stillness to process my thoughts.

Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
Yes it has. For me, innovation is now more about confidence, true permission to fail and timing.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year?
The professional networking app Guild was launched in 2018 but this year it was opened up to individuals. There are some great networking groups on the app including ‘FORT’ (for those who have been furloughed or made redundant) and BLAGENCY for Black agency founders. It’s been great to see these supportive micro communities being formed; tailored content and opportunities to connect for specific groups outside of the traditional has been a very welcome addition to this year.

What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
Never underestimate the power of your gut instinct.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Establishing Coldr has been a career-defining moment for me. I had my ‘aha moment’ earlier this year and was compelled to create a new kind of consultancy that fuses strategic communications, business strategy and inclusive business consultancy. For too long underrepresented voices and expertise have been excluded from boardrooms, decision making, campaigns and business strategy development - we exist to change that. In addition, comms can play a great role in embedding D&I strategies into the workplace - often the best laid plans fall apart because the communications fail to engage or lack nuance and understanding of smaller communities. It’s been great to support companies and organisations with better internal and external communications, I love the variety of work that I do.

Any habit/activity that you have added to your life this year that you hope to take forward post-pandemic?
This year I discovered meditation. I completed Deepak Chopra’s 21-day challenge, alongside friends and family who I convinced to do it with me, and it changed my whole perspective on the practise. It’s the only way I can completely relax and switch off during extremely busy periods that doesn’t involve getting on a plane!

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and what is the biggest obstacle?
Given telling engaging stories, creativity and inspiring audiences to act are core to what we do it’s difficult to understand why the pace of change has been so glacial. There are a number of things the industry can do; these are my top five:

1. Be more specific. Which groups are being othered? Who in your company is facing daily discrimination and what can you change in the short, medium and long term? Invest time and budget in getting to know your teams better first then put a strategy in place to make a difference. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Listen first, solutions second. I’ve yet to visit an office that does not have a disabled toilet, yet you rarely see disabled professionals at work in these companies. Whilst not all disabilities are visible, it’s a great example of how doing inclusion without diversity and vice versa serves no purpose.

3. Expand your network. We rely on networks in PR which are important and are one of the reasons for establishing the UK Black Comms Network - having relationships and people that you can reach out to is critical. Smaller communities within the industry tend to have fewer relationships with those who have similar lived experiences to them. For the majority working in the PR industry the reverse is true: expand your network, gain different perspectives and seek new partnerships with those who are different to you.

4. Collaborate and support. There are a whole host of initiatives that are taking different approaches to breaking down barriers, challenging norms and championing those who often don’t get a moment to shine. I particularly enjoyed attending a People Like Us event earlier in the year which showcased Black and Brown talent.

5. Make space. This year four members of the PRCA Board made space for myself and others to join. In one swift move the Board is now more diverse. Yes, it’s a long time coming and yes, it’s not the only change that needs to happen, but it’s a start. It would be great to see more institutions, agencies and companies following suit.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
Giving my son as much of me as possible, my impending nuptials, growing Coldr and the UK Black Comms Network. Oh, and a two-week holiday in the Caribbean sun. 

Your bold prediction for 2021…
More people, particularly those who are in a position to do so, will be seeking ways to balance following their passions, looking after themselves whilst earning a living. People are making plans to spend more time doing things they love.