Sheeraz Gulsher | Innovator 25 EMEA 2022

Sheeraz Gulsher

EMEA Communications Manager, Snap
Co-Founder, People Like Us


“Outside of the environment, the biggest challenge facing our industry is a lack of representation. It's important to embrace brilliant people from all walks of life.” 

Sheeraz Gulsher has not only pivoted from working for leading UK consumer PR agencies to a senior in-house regional communications role for Snap, one of the world’s hottest social media platforms, but is the co-founder, along with Darain Faraz (LinkedIn’s international brand marketing director) of non-profit People Like Us, which celebrates and supports media, marketing, and communications professionals from Black, Asian, mixed race and minoritised ethnic backgrounds. A passionate campaigner for equal pay for ethnic minority workers in the UK, Gulsher’s mission is to break down barriers, create foundations for genuine inclusion in the workplace, and help foster a fairer workplace for all through equitable pay, whatever their heritage; People Like Us produces annual research highlighting pay disparities in the comms industry and has also recently carried out research showing that the pandemic has disproportionately affected people from Black, Asian, mixed race and minoritised ethnic backgrounds, at all levels, in terms of pay cuts and career prospects. The organisation has also created a free toolkit for companies to measure their own pay gaps, with the ambition of making race pay gap reporting mandatory in the UK.  
How do you define innovation?
A creative solution to an age-old problem.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
My favourite is LinkedIn's sponsorship of the Women's Euros. Once England had won, I saw a tweet (I think from Ian Wright) saying other brands/organisations that want to support were now too late to the party!

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Hope&Glory, The Romans and Mischief PR are outstanding with their insights and speed of turning around reactive ideas with the news agenda. The Kiyan Prince FIFA campaign is still the best campaign I've ever read about.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
1. Co-founding People Like Us with my brother Darain. We're here to celebrate and support journalists and comms professionals from minority ethnic backgrounds. In under three years we're proud to have helped tons of folks land new roles, land new business for their companies, but above all, show the rest of the industry what people like us are made of. We haven't accepted a penny and we're now lobbying the UK government to make race pay gap reporting mandatory - we feel without transparency, it's impossible to improve this over time.

2. Setting up the Pay Gap study with PR Week UK. I felt that you can't truly be considered the best in the field if you aren't paying women and ethnic minority professionals fairly. The study has been running for two years now and there has been an improvement year on year (the system works!).

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
My dear friend Greg Bunbury, founder of the Black Outdoor Art initiative. He has a gift of telling a striking story with just a few words on the breathtaking billboards he designs. Check out his recent campaign in support of justice for Chris Kaba, and his work following the murder of George Floyd.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Reading and going for lengthy walks always helps (Murakami is my all-time favourite author, though just finished reading An Olive Grove in Ends by Moses McKenzie which was outstanding). And calling old friends also helps me get out of a rut.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Outside of the environment, the biggest challenge facing our industry is a lack of representation. It's important to embrace brilliant people from all walks of life, they have a lived experience we have no idea about that I guarantee will add value (and joy) to your team. Otherwise we risk falling increasingly out of touch.
There are tons of studies that show that teams that are more diverse (by gender, sexuality, race, people with disabilities) earn more money, teams feel much more fulfilled with work and overall much better culture.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Either a police officer in the London Met or a script writer for film.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I watched the Sopranos for the first time last year (I know, late to the party), it really blew me away. Tony is such a brilliant anti-hero, what a rollercoaster.

I've started reading some Vonnegut too, Slaughterhouse-Five was so special.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
More open discussions on mental health and where to find support, there's still a stigma around it and there really shouldn't be.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
There are many organisations out there that can help you do this - the first step is to not be afraid to ask for help and being willing to make investments. Take your time and find the right support for your business - my door is always open if you'd like to bounce some ideas.

It's also important to take a look at representation around the company and how you are paying staff from different backgrounds. Here's a free tool you can use right now to determine this: