Career background & highlights…
I started my PR career way back in December 1998 when we were dialling up for internet connection, queueing for the fax machine to send all our releases to media and sending transparencies in the post to the picture desks. How times have changed!
My first role was a work placement at a small travel PR agency for four months where I started to build my skillset and developed long-lasting relationships with some key media. When that came to an end, the MD recommended me to a number of her contacts and I quickly landed a role at one of the best travel PR agencies in the business, BGB & associates, now travel at Four Communications. I spent four incredible years there working before moving on to a small start-up agency, Beth Cooper PR, as a career goal was to become an integral part of making something small, something much bigger. There was just Beth, myself and a work placement student when I started (now the formidable Lucy Mart, managing partner at Pretty Green). Within five years we were a thriving, brilliant team of 13. We worked really hard with lots of early starts and late nights but carved out an amazing reputation, had the best fun and enjoyed the opportunity to work on the most incredible clients across the hotel and hospitality, aviation, tour operator and aviation sectors. I stayed for nine and a half years but not long after I had my first child, I decided it was time to go it alone and set up Gallivant PR in 2011 with a colleague which was a huge step change. A couple years later, baby number two made me reassess my priorities and my children became my number ones so I took some time out doing the odd bit of freelancing that came my way. Most recently prior to Aspire I was working for a boutique weddings, parties and lifestyle agency.
In terms of highlights there are way too many and if I start listing them, I’ll never get to the next question. BUT having the privilege as an account executive to be part of the Woman’s Own Child of Courage PR team (a non-travel client for BGB at the time), meeting some truly inspirational children at the Houses of Parliament followed by tea at Number 10 is a highlight even 20 years later! Overall though, simply having the opportunity to represent some of the greatest brands across the globe and making a difference to their brand growth, reputation and visibility, is something I am both grateful for and very proud of.
Role at Aspire…
I am the Associate Director here at Aspire, having joined in a freelance capacity in September 2020 to initially offer some additional senior support to the PR team. My role and responsibilities see me leading the delivery teams, acting as senior counsel to clients, heading up our Aspire People Function – which is all geared around supporting and developing our brilliant talent – and working closely with Layla on business growth. Just recently, I worked on launching a new initiative for Aspire – Aspire Global Associates, our international PR service to help active lifestyle clients achieve global success.
How far removed is your childhood dream for what you are doing today?
Not massively – very boring I know! As a child I went from wanting to be a teacher, to being in the army, to being the next Kylie, but as I hit my late teens and crunch time with university applications, I found myself most torn between journalism and law (LA Law and Ally McBeal were my early 90s inspiration!) I decided in the end, that if I was going to spend three years working hard in higher education, I needed to opt for something I knew I would really love and enjoy and that was English Literature, with my sights on journalism.
I have to say that having been so lucky to have basically seen the entire world with my job, I have way too many stand-out moments and best adventures. From India and Sri Lanka, Manhattan and Monte-Carlo, the Seychelles and Cyprus, the Maldives, Mauritius and pretty much everything in between, I hold the most wonderful memories (hosting challenging media included).
Away from my travel career though, I’d say a surprise trip to NYC with my now husband comes pretty high up the list. He turned up at the office and told me we were going out for the afternoon. At first I refused to leave my desk because I was in the middle of a proposal for our biggest paying client, but eventually had to relent as the team were backing his corner and as it turned out, had helped him organize the whole thing. He blindfolded me, put me in the car and the next thing I knew we were at London Heathrow with a bag my sister had packed for me! NYC, a month-long honeymoon in Australia just six months later and a return to NYC for our first wedding anniversary. Definitely tick the best personal adventure box.
Adventure you most desire?
To be able to go back to some of the places I have been with my children. They are now thirteen and nine and I would love to see them in awe of the extraordinary destinations and cultures across the globe.
Someone you really admire?
There isn’t one person I admire. Broadly and as a collective I guess, I admire and really respect those who never forget where they have come from, and even better if they can do some good with that. Marcus Rashford was stand-out for me in that respect during lockdown; he used the platform he had and his personal story growing up, to ensure no child went hungry during lockdown when free school meals weren’t an option. Pretty epic in my book.
Closer to home, I’d say my mum and my late father who both came to England in the early 1970s to work. They worked incredibly hard in low-paid jobs and sacrificed a lot to ensure my sister and I didn’t go without, they put us both through university so we didn’t start our independent lives in debt and got us on the property ladder. As well as a huge amount of respect and love for them, I admire their absolute selflessness. If I can do the same for my children, I will feel I have done a good job as a parent. I might have to mention the old husband too – he has the most insane work ethic and wants our children to have more than he did but understand that you have to work hard for the future you want.
What kept you going during lockdown?
Lockdown has so many negative connotations but for me, the first time around was precious as it was a very rare chance to live on my time and not be tied to any other clock – be that work, school and generally the demands of juggling work and family. I appreciated (nearly!) every minute of it, remaining very mindful of the heartbreak of so many lives being lost. Lockdown number two was slightly different; I had recently joined Aspire so was balancing early days in a new role with home schooling so my daily walk alone was much needed.
Something the team doesn’t know about me but they do now?
I was on TV as a child! Well, slight exaggeration there but my sister and I used to be members of a dance school and a number of them got together with the aim to get the most children tap dancing at the same time for Children In Need, so we all traipsed off to Brentford FC Stadium to tap our toes away. The cameras definitely panned past me and as we didn’t have a video recorder at the time, I’m just running with the ‘I’ve been on TV’ line! Funnily enough, that level of TV presence must be in the genes as a few years ago, my son was named checked on Loose Women by a friend, the actress Zoe Lucker, as Carlito and her daughter were then six year old ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’. Honestly, hilarious!
What’s recently grabbed your attention?
I’m intrigued about so much and often find myself delving into a topic that’s caught my eye, The speed at which the metaverse and NFTs have grown and are feeding into the every day is pretty mind-blowing. Also, the brilliant Butterkist popcorn print ad that tapped into the Wagatha Christie drama of the Coleen Vs Rebekah court case – I love it!
What do you love about this industry?
The active lifestyle industry was completely new to me before I joined Aspire – I had spent years in travel and it was one enormous family; I didn’t think that could be replicated elsewhere but I have to say, in all honesty, this industry is on a par. Everyone is so supportive of each other, there is only positive competitiveness and the energy levels are out of this world!
Outside of work Monica enjoys
Running around after my children who as they grow up, actually need me less, attempting to replicate my Italian mum’s amazing cooking skills, spending time with family and friends, trying to improve my running and actually, keeping my house clean and tidy. There are many a swear word that leave my husband’s mouth when he’s realised I have tidied, hidden or usually thrown away things he has dumped on the breakfast bar! Ooooh that makes me mad!