Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Interviewing the Interviewers: Maja Pawinska Sims, PRovoke Media

Maja Pawinska Sims is Associate Editor, EMEA, PRovoke Media. She has been writing about public relations and communications for more than 20 years, first as features editor of PRWeek and then as a freelance writer and editor for PR agencies and their clients. She was named Journalist of the Year at the Global Women in Marketing Awards in 2019.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the industry in 2020?

My biggest hope for the PR and communications industry is that it not only survives Covid-19 but actually thrives: businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes have recognized the mission-critical importance of effective comms this year, from internal communications and employee engagement to crisis and reputation management, and I hope it’s given an industry that can sometimes be a little insecure a real boost.

My biggest fear is that in-house comms teams and PR agencies are knocked sideways by continuing economic pressure and budget cuts, and even exceptional firms will suffer or die.

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2019?

Last autumn seems like a very long time ago, but winning the Women in Marketing global award for Journalist of the Year was a huge surprise and a real honour in my 20th year writing about PR and comms. The judges said some very nice things about my track record of championing and challenging an industry I know inside out and am extremely fond of.

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed over the past year and why?

I did a PRovoke podcast with Katy Howell, the CEO of social media agency Immediate Future, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, and it was such an inspiring conversation.

She’s one of those incredible people who manages to remain, optimistic, constructive and collegiate even while, quite understandably, simmering with anger about the PR industry’s shocking record on equality, diversity and race.

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

Given that we’ll be “Living on Teams” or Zoom, at least part-time, for the foreseeable future of work in our industry (and as a small global team, we’ve always worked remotely using a range of tech tools) I’m hoping the video call experience can be made an awful lot better.

I’m particularly excited about the mmhmm app beta, which looks like it’s been really well thought through.

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of the past year?

Lockdown has led to some great lighthearted creative brand campaigns to relieve the seriousness of the times we’re living through. I loved Taylor Herring’s work with Paddy Power, with Peter Crouch fronting a PSA on social distancing, touting human bubbles as the safest way to take in Premier League games.

And Just Eat’s spot featuring Snoop Dogg, by McCann London and Byte London, is already a classic.

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?

There is a very long list, I am a ruthless pruner of jargon and meaningless phrases!

My most enduring loathing, though, is for “unique”, since almost nothing is, and the super-lazy “solutions”: if you can only describe your tech product/service by adding that on the end, you need to try harder.

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?

We’re pretty lucky at PRovoke in that we have really good relationships with the most senior people in global comms as we’ve all been writing about the industry for decades, so I can’t think of many people in PR who would say no to a chat.

In the wider marketing field, I’d like to sit down with Bozoma St John, the new CMO at Netflix; she is so badass she actually runs The Badass Workshop.

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

I’m extremely nosy and interested in loads of different stuff, so as long as you’ve got something shiny I’ll have a chat with anyone, whether it’s new behavioural science research or a tech innovation for the industry or a great personal story about building an agency.

I like to get to the human stuff under the topic as much as possible – whether that’s just a sense of excitement or more complicated emotions – and have real conversations, so if you keep the barriers up and refuse to deviate from approved messages, that’s really dull.