Meet the MD: Jane Whitham, Cream Consultancy

Meet the MD: Jane Whitham, Cream Consultancy

After a successful career as a journalist, Jane moved into the lucrative world of public relations, eventually set up her own firm in 2011, and is now focused on growing her brand across the UK.

What is it the company does?

Cream is a public relations and communications consultancy.  We help businesses understand their audiences, grow and evolve through the use of simple, effective communication.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

I’m a director at Cream and my role is very hands-on – in a small team it needs to be! I take the lead on business development and I also still enjoy getting stuck into client work. My job is to help Cream grow and to ensure clients’ are getting the very best service from the Cream team.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I trained as a journalist and spent 16 years as a print journalist writing for titles as diverse as The Star in Sheffield and the Sunday Sport. I moved to PR almost 10 years ago via a couple of national charities and a short stint in the NHS. I set up Cream in 2011 after leaving national volunteering charity TCV with my then colleague Elizabeth Hudson. We haven’t looked back since then and recently relocated the business from Barnsley to Leeds.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Great leaders understand how to get the best out of people. Being a great leader requires humility and the ability to listen. Having passion and courage goes without saying. What really matters is having clarity of thought. With clarity comes the ability to make decisions and stick to your guns. It won’t always go right and that’s when real leaders excel. Fighting your way out of a crisis demands true leadership. I’m a firm believer in continuous learning and professional development. Great leaders never stop learning.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

The lack of understanding around PR continues to be our biggest challenge. Many companies do not understand PR and see it as part of the sales process. It isn’t. It’s about building trust as well as influencing and changing behaviour and perceptions.

PR is notoriously difficult to quantify and the benefit it brings to a company or organisation can be quite intangible, especially when delivered as part of a suite of marketing interventions or business improvements. For this reason, and compounded with lack of understanding generally, it can be a very difficult “sell”.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I love running. It clears my head and is a great way to switch off. I’m running the Great North Run in September for the Stroke Association. It’s my first half marathon. I’m a season ticket holder at Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town. Although a lifetime of watching Town has brought more stress than it’s alleviated.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a journalist from the age of 13. I initially wanted to be a sports reporter but didn’t fancy working weekends and missing Huddersfield games.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Business jargon drives me mad. Heads up, blue sky thinking etc. I can feel my blood pressure rising! I’ve banned all jargon from Cream. I also have a thing about smelly lunches. This developed after an ex-colleague cooked smoked haddock in the office microwave. Smoked fish and the work environment just don’t go together.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

Totally embedded in the Leeds creative/digital community and working across the north of England. I would like to see Cream to be the go-to company for high-level strategic communications consultancy, particularly in the manufacturing and education sectors.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Stick to what you’re good at. You might be tempted to expand your services or say yes when you should have said no. Make sure you can deliver what you promise and make sure you’ve got a good support network around you. Being in business can be a lonely place.