‘Impostor syndrome is holding a lot of women back’
Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1984, Liz moved to England with her family at eight where she continued her education at Handford prep school, then to Sherborne School for girls. She had her higher education at the University of Birmingham and graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Civilisation. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for running and leading a successful communication agency five years after, as well as her drive and vision to keep achieving her goal.
Take us through your career journey?
INTERESTINGLY, I started my career in the media world as a Television presenter in England. I also handled PR for various afrobeat events in London, but I didn’t realise it was public relations at the time. I tagged myself as a promoter, but essentially, what I was doing was utilising social media, press, and events to create buzz for various entertainers in the industry, including Dbanj, Wande Coal, Basketmouth, Wizkid, and more.
I moved to Lagos about nine years ago and started my career in Lagos at Genevieve Magazine. I served as a website manager for the brand, which is one of Nigeria’s leading lifestyle magazines circulating across Africa, America and Europe. Incidentally, my boss at the time noticed my passion for events and my role quickly became some sort of event|campaign focused one, which led to me working with her as a project manager of The Pink Ball; a breast cancer awareness initiative.
Around five years ago, I started So.Media solutions, a communications agency. So.MeSolutions has helped a huge number of brands boost, achieve their goals and increase visibility positively. We have fostered strong relationships with the media and key news stakeholders continent-wide to ensure that our clients have direct channels to market. We facilitate speedy responses to short-term opportunities and enable follow-through of long-term strategic plans. We craft communications for building, maintaining, and managing client reputations and visibility. Our key strengths lie in content development and content dissemination, which is why we are known for telling our client’s stories uniquely.
As a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about servicing SMEs, government, corporate organisations and delving into journalism, what informed these decisions?
To be honest, my journey to PR was not planned. I found myself naturally drawn to communications – though this was not something I studied for. My background was initially in recruitment in England. I enjoy PR because there’s a never-ending range of opportunities. As a PR professional, there’s a never-ending supply of new ideas, new projects to be tackled, new problems to be solved and new technologies to help get our job done.
What are some of the services you render at So. Media Solutions?
So.Me solutions is an award-winning communications agency. Our strong relationship with the media ensures we can communicate effectively in building, maintaining and managing the reputation of our clients and also analysing their corporate identity with examination of the potential for improvement. We help our clients whether it be a brand, a business or a person tell positive and interesting stories about the work they do. We handle the reputation of our clients through owned, earned, and paid communications.
Our key tasks are strategic planning, campaign creations, and key messaging where we distill stories into accessible messages. Our services include storytelling, media relations, influencer management, as well as event management, and support.
How long have you been in practice and how would you assess your impact in the industry?
We are now five years in business. We have been able to help many brands over the years by promoting brand image and values. I would say what makes us different is our passion. Passion is everything and hard work beats talent. We’ve impacted the industry in such a way because we’re known as the agency that goes the extra mile, we see ourselves more as strategic partners with our clients and that is evident in the work we put out.
We have helped many of the brands under our belt to change the way they are choosing to tell their stories. We also pride ourselves in supporting our clients to be less conventional. During COVID-19 lockdown, we were able to pivot and work with our clients to enhance the way they communicate – helping them leverage more digital communication and keeping maximum visibility. Many companies went into panic mode at the onset of the pandemic, and we found ourselves implementing more crisis communications, helping our clients determine what strategies and tactics would be the most effective in a rapidly changing environment.
Our impact was especially felt during the mandatory lockdown, as organisations rapidly moved operations online and adapted to a work-from-home format. Planned events were cancelled or moved online – this was where we stepped in, helping our clients curate interesting online campaigns and events; helping them captivate and engage a virtual audience.
What has kept you going in this field and how are you able to transition effectively having lived and started out your career in England?
I love the fact that we get to create a tremendous impact through the work we do. It gives me great joy to know that I have been part of so many amazing and impactful projects across various industries. I love PR, I’m a curious and quick learner, I love a new challenge every day, and especially love when I’m prepared to face that challenge. I also love keeping up to date with new media, the tools, new tactics, and honing in on learning amazing strategies.
In regards to transitioning, it was easy, but where there’s a will, there’s away. And I was determined. I had tried to move to Nigeria before the eventual move, and I only lasted three weeks before I packed my bags and ran back. No one forced me to relocate, I decided on my own, and to be honest, Nigeria is what you make of it. In 2012 when I came again on the premise of ‘relocating,’ I decided that I was going to make the best of things and stick it through.
Running a business in Nigeria can be challenging, what are some of the challenges you have been confronted with?
Recruiting has been a challenge. Finding the right fit for the business, people who are committed, understand the vision, and bring good energy to the brand. Nigeria is very different from England and I didn’t own my company in England. However, the struggles of an entrepreneur in Nigeria are many; from lack of capital, difficulties in getting loans, the poor state of infrastructure, the unstable Nigerian economy, and politics. I believe the government can help entrepreneurs by understanding our pain points and working with us on friendly and capacity-building SME policies.
What advice do you have for women who are struggling with chasing their dreams while delivering at the home front?
Carving out a successful career can be hard to accomplish; sometimes, it’s made even more difficult for women raising a family. Beyond the stereotypical roles of a daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother, the modern-day woman is now also adorning the robes of entrepreneurship. We are often fighting a battle against time to achieve our professional goals and fulfill personal responsibilities, both at once.
I am a woman’s woman. And I firmly believe women have been blessed with the capability to manage everything. For me, my advice for women would be to put themselves first. Mental health is a priority; you cannot pour from an empty cup. It’s also worth noting that women can also have it all, but maybe not all at the same time. So, it’s wise to be realistic about the stage you are at, be honest and kind to yourself.
There will be times to have both a healthy work and family life and you will need to make sacrifices and realise you can’t do everything yourself. Help is there to be accepted. Not having a clear picture of what you want to accomplish as an entrepreneur could result in many challenges as you grow and scale your business. But having concrete goals will allow you to create more defined objectives that will, in turn, make it easier to execute your goals and make your entrepreneurial journey a little clearer.
Also, don’t let imposter syndromes stop you. A lot of women out there deal with feelings and symptoms of ‘impostor syndrome.’ It holds so many people back, the second-guessing, the fear. If you know what you’re doing is worthy, absolutely no one can stop you, not even yourself.
In your opinion, what should women do differently to sit at the top like you?
Having a support system and a team you trust is integral to helping any professional to the top of their game. This includes everyone from staff and colleagues to a professional mentor or coach. I have had a mentor for nine years now; we get to discuss any and everything and she helps me stay focused with ‘checks in’. With her, I am myself and get to think through everything. It’s a two-way stream though; I bring something to the table of our relationship too.
Entrepreneurship can be lonely. So, I will implore women to keep an open mind, get to know people, and understand that your network is your net worth. As I continue to break barriers, I pay it forward and I invest in and mentor other women (including many women who have worked with me in some capacity or the other). I encourage them and help them grow to get to the same outcomes and beyond.
How are you able to manage all your portfolios and still be at your best?
I rely a lot on my team and delegate where necessary. We outsource where needed and make time for relaxation. Though PR can be gruelling and it sometimes feels like you’re always on call, I always want to put my best foot forward and I do my best to take breaks and plan ahead to maintain my schedule; I keep myself organised. I’m passionate about discussing the choices you must make to be successful; sacrifice is important and building a culture of ownership in the workplace.
What is your life’s mantra?
When the dream is big enough the facts don’t count. Continue to dream BIG!
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