PR Girls We Love: Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, TishTash PR

Natasha Hatherall-Shawe made the move from the UK to Dubai in 2010 after being made an offer she couldn’t refuse. A year later she branched out on her own after finding a gap in the quality of agencies and founded TishTash Marketing and Public Relations. Four and a half years later, Natasha has grown TishTash into the go-to PR agency for beauty and lifestyle in the Middle East with more than 45 brands on their client sheet and a multi-million Dirham annual turnover.

Ask any employee of TishTash, or even Natasha herself, and they will tell you that their success comes from a love of the job and the brands they represent as well as an unbreakable ethos that being kind, caring and respectful can lead to great things.

TishTash Dubai PR Agency Lifestyle BeautyName: Natasha Hatherall-Shawe
Title: Founder & Managing Director
Location: Dubai, UAE
Agency: TishTash 
Instagram: @tishtashtalks

Where did you attend college and what was your degree?

I was born and educated in the UK, where I earned a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Upon graduation, I signed up to do a Masters in the same field, but a summer job at a marketing agency changed my mind. I swapped onto a Masters degree in Marketing instead.

A poster in the faculty building advertising for Ph.D. applications in Consumer Behaviour sparked my interest as it combined my background in psychology and marketing. I graduated as a specialised in shopaholism –the irony of being a ‘Doctor of Shopping’ is not lost on me, or my friends, as I love to shop.

How did you get started in PR?

I quite literally fell into the world of PR! I was sitting in a tort law class when I got a call from a friend in LA saying he was producing an awards show in London and asked if I could help out with PR. Being a nerdy law student, I repeatedly refused until I got dirty looks from my professor and eventually said yes just to get him off the phone. That night I went home and googled “what is PR” and “how do you do PR”.

How did you get started in PR?

I was working at the University, studying for my thesis and lecturing on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in marketing. Sitting in my university office, I had an epiphany that I did not want to be still sitting here in 20 years time. I realised I wanted to be out in the business world and wearing beautiful clothes every day!

My first job was a graduate position at a small media agency called BLM Media, which is now part of the global network Euro RSCG. After a few years working in media planning and buying, I moved into more general marketing and communications roles at agencies such as McCann Erikson and Havas.

What is Tish Tash’s “Birth Story?”

After working for more than 16 years in public relations and marketing in the UK, I jumped at the opportunity to work in the Middle East; it has always been my ambition to experience working internationally.

In 2010 I began work in the UAE for a government-owned media company, Abu Dhabi Media, marketing some their digital brands. It was a challenging role that created great opportunities in the region in a very short period. At the same time, I was concerned about the standards and quality I saw in PR agencies, and communications as a whole, within the region. So, in 2011 I took a leap of faith. TishTash is a boutique lifestyle PR agency which specialises in beauty, health, and wellness brands.

What type of person thrives at TishTash?

For me, choosing people that reflect the ethos of TishTash is as important, if not more, than experience and qualifications. We are at work most of our life, so a team that works well together and that echoes my ethos is important to me. I pride myself on having a really lovely team. While we work in a very female industry and a notoriously catty one, my team is made up of genuinely nice girls (and one boy!). We support each other and have each other’s backs and that is something I am very proud of.

I have no time for preciousness and diva behaviour, and I like people who will roll their sleeves up and do whatever they need to get the job done. Even though I own the company, you will often see me crawling around on the floor tidying up cables, erecting banners or packing gift bags – it is just what you have to do.

What is the mood like in the office? What do you have going on right now?

It is peak launch season for the beauty industry, so right now our office is pretty quiet as we are all working hard on lots of launches and events. We have over 20 events this month, so juggling it all is challenging, especially as we are known for our attention to detail and personal touches. We have a big launch for Neutrogena coming up which we are very excited about, and we are also in the process of launching Australian brand Grown Alchemist in the UAE.

What’s a recent success story that makes you especially proud?

Dubai hosts so many events, and before the season closed, we hosted a fantastic breakfast in support of the global Neutrogena campaign #SeeWhatsPossible. A group of amazing Emirati women who had achieved so much were invited to share their stories, and openly discuss the barriers they faced and how they overcame them to show just what is possible, especially in a region where historically women have been limited in what they can achieve. In my entire career, I have never witnessed a media event where people in the audience were openly crying. It was one of the most uplifting and empowering experiences I have had in a while. I feel proud TishTash supported such an important cause in an authentic and genuine way that resonated so well with people.

After working for more than 16 years in public relations and marketing in the UK, I jumped at the opportunity to work in the Middle East; it has always been my ambition to experience working internationally.

Most memorable moment in your career ?

This is a tough question! In the 16 years I have been working in marketing and communications, I have been blessed with some amazing career moments, so picking one is impossible! With regards to my own business, the success I have achieved in just four years makes me pinch myself every day. Representing over 35 amazing beauty brands in the region and becoming one of the biggest beauty PR agencies is something I never dreamed of. Also having one of the largest global beauty brands approach me saying they heard I was the best at beauty PR and choosing to hand me their business without a competitive pitch was a little surreal and amazing.

Most glamorous moment in your career?

I was recently featured on the front cover of a magazine in the UAE as an inspirational woman. I love my job and achieving publicity and coverage for my clients, but I struggle to do PR for my company and myself, so many people had to persuade me to do it. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life as for a month I kept spotting myself on the front cover of this magazine. I doubt I will get the chance to be a cover girl again in my life, so it is something I will cherish and be grateful for forever.

In my entire career, I have never witnessed a media event where people in the audience were openly crying. It was one of the most uplifting and empowering experiences I have had in a while.

Least glamorous moment in your career?

Work/life balance as a whole can be tough. Since launching my agency I have worked pretty much seven days a week, 20 hours a day. I have sacrificed a lot, including holidays and sadly, relationships. Our industry can have very anti-social hours with events in the evenings and on weekends, and is rarely as glamorous as it seems.

However, TishTash is more than I ever hoped for and I am happy to invest my time and love into it, with a view that it will pay off in the future and will leave a legacy that I am very proud of.

How does the PR industry differ in the Middle East?

The Middle East can be a challenging terrain to operate. It is made up of many different countries, and there are different ways of dealing with each, as well as between the Arabic and English media. It is important to understand each market well and the nuances such as language variations and cultural variations to manage regional PR effectively.

It has been a while since I worked in the UK market, but from my experience and what I see now, while influencers are important everywhere, I see their role, foothold and influence in the Middle East being far stronger than elsewhere in the world. Compared to markets such as the US and the UK, the Middle East region was very slow to develop a digital footprint for its traditional media outlets. When the Us and UK magazines were spending time developing their digital presence through online portals and apps, many of the Middle Eastern media companies were still investing money in traditional channels and barely had a social media presence, yet alone a proper digital one.

As such, brands needed to find ways to establish an online presence to get the word out and to drive their own digital channels forward. Bloggers and influencers became the easiest way to do this and very quickly brands were investing their time and budgets in them. Now we do have some fantastic online portals, including Gheir.com, AnaZahra.com, nawa3em.com, Yasmina.com, Savoir Flair and PopSugar, but the bloggers and influencers had already carved their space and dominance and as such we still see budgets allocated to influencer campaigns over traditional media.

What challenges do you face when introducing a new product or brand into the Middle East?

I am not sure our challenges are much different from the rest of the world right now, but some of the biggest challenges we face are as follows:

  • The market is very cluttered – The Middle East is a very attractive market for fashion and beauty brands to launch in and as such it is competitive in terms of reaching and persuading consumers to try/buy.
  • Packaging/brand campaigns that are not culturally relevant/suitable for the market – this is often the case with beauty and fashion brands who end up having to invest a lot of money adapting their products/packaging, so they are acceptable to the region/able to get approved by the Ministries.
  • Accessing critical Arabic media can be very hard for smaller or niche brands as this is largely commercially determined.

PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?

You cannot take it personally. You just have to dust yourself off and move on, especially when working in a small media pool like the Middle East. Just because someone says no to you one day or may be rude to you, doesn’t mean they will not say yes to something else the next day or be helpful. I always try and see it from the other person’s perspective; perhaps they were having a bad day or had a bad call before you. It can be stressful working on both sides, and I find putting yourself in other people’s shoes sometimes helps.  On a practical note, I try and exercise regularly, eat well, get regular massages, laugh a lot and surround myself with good people as it all helps deal with the daily stress.

My mantra is always “Kill with Kindness” so if someone is rude, unprofessional or downright awful, rise above it, be professional and courteous. You will never regret it, I promise.

What’s the biggest challenge facing lifestyle communicators right now?

We have quite a few, but one challenging area that I alluded to above is bloggers/influencers. It is clear that they have changed the face of fashion/lifestyle PR and communications. Today fashion, style, and beauty bloggers are as influential, if not more in many cases, than magazine editors; they are also replacing models in editorial shoots, as well as in advertising campaigns. They are the ones influencing and shaping the landscape, which is why brands cannot ignore them.

As such we have seen many changes in the way brands are doing marketing today, but these changes go further than marketing and point to bigger transformations ahead.

Honestly speaking, the whole area of influencers and bloggers is currently a minefield, and it is something that the majority of marketing and PR professionals I know are struggling with. In my agency, it is one of our most talked about topics! From mind-blowing fees to a lack of regulation, quality of content and dealing with unprofessional and unpredictable behavior, something has to change, as long-term it is unsustainable. I predict the next year will see some variations in this area.

Many of the PR regulatory bodies such as PRCA are actively looking at how they can regulate/standardize to some degree. I think guidelines for all sides – agency, brand, and influencer would help a great deal as we are all still finding our way in the dark to a large extent.

What would you tell someone who wants to be you when they grow up?

That you can be successful, and do well in life, by being nice. I have heard it said many a time that you cannot do well in business by being nice, but I totally disagree, and I have made it my mission to prove otherwise. I have always firmly believed that you treat people how you want to be treated and that you should be respectful to everyone you engage with whoever they are. The same applies even if they are rude to you.

In a market as small as Dubai, you never know when you will cross paths with someone, so this is even more important. The importance of being nice, giving everyone the time of day and being kind and generous at all times is something I believe in wholeheartedly and instill in all who work for me.

Secondly, love what you do! Passion and love for the job go a long way in marketing and PR. It is essentially a sales job, so you need to enjoy the brands and respect the people you represent, and if you do, this always shines through and is visible to media and those you engage with. This is my personal policy for my agency – I only take on brands and clients that I 100% believe in and know have an amazing product or offer, as this makes my job so much easier.

Thanks, Natasha!

About Hayley Jaqueline Ashworth: 

Hayley graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, England with an MSc in International PR. Having spent the last couple of years traveling and exploring the world, during which she completed the PR Couture PRISM course, Hayley has settled in Dubai where she is currently interning and finding her place in the Middle East’s communication industry. You can follow her Instagram and Twitter to keep up with her adventures.