Interview with Nicola Nolan Founder of Black Book Comms
e caught up with Nicola Nolan, Founder of Black Book Comms, to find out her journey in becoming the founder of Black Book Comms, what her advice would be to anyone looking to start a career in PR and why she’s a huge fan of guided facial massages.
We would love to know more about Black Book Comms and how it started?
It was a total accident, but I can’t imagine my life without it! When I left my amazing job at Neal’s Yard Remedies, I stayed on as a consultant to steady the transition over to the new Marketing and PR Director. Once my work there was done, the lovely team at the Soil Association got in touch and wanted some help to build and grow their Organic Beauty Week Campaign and then, as they say, everything else went from there and before I knew it, I was a year into consulting and had never been so happy. I work in the natural and organic space, specialising in niche and luxury beauty and wellbeing, with some lifestyle too.
Tell us about the services you provide?
I mostly work with Founder brands who are looking to make the step up to grow their brand awareness and I work across all marketing disciplines from NPD and campaign strategy and calendar creation, to PR, social media, events and anything else in between. No one day is the same and having a small mix of clients keeps it exciting and busy too which I love.
What would you say is key to getting your clients to stand out?
It’s hard to stand out in a busy market place and as a small brand, budgets aren’t always there to do the big showstopper events so I think the key is to take a personal approach always.
I’ve been working in PR for over 12 years now and it’s all about who you know and how much time you invest in the relationships you have. Knowing people and knowing what they like and more importantly what they don’t like is absolutely critical. Imagine pitching a new luxury bath oil to a journalist that hates baths and doesn’t even have one in her house! Simple, but it can make the difference between coverage and a total fail.
Covid-19 has of course created a lot of challenges for PR companies, have you learnt a new way of working during the pandemic?
I think we’ve all learned a lot this year – about ourselves, about one another and about what’s important. Taking the time to invest in relationships and learning to be flexible as things change have been key.
Lots of projects moved around last year and press were all working from home and were suddenly dealing with huge volumes of packaging so taking time to consider new elements and being conscious of that was key. Luckily, working with natural and organic brands, excess packaging wasn’t an issue but I saw it cause a lot of issues for other not so conscious brands. We’ve all had to adjust and we can all just do our best really.
While being in lockdown, have you adopted any new self-care routines or started any new hobbies?
Beauty has always been something I’ve loved and I’ve worked with skincare brands for a long time now but being locked down and being forced into a slower pace made me re-look at my routine.
While the products I use have not changed, I’ve become a huge fan of guided facial massages that so many incredible facialists have been doing on social media and I’ve developed a bit of a hobby for buying new skincare tools – gua shas, facial rollers, ice balls, you name it, I’ve got it! And I’ve loved building them into my routine and found they’ve helped on the days when things have felt a little overwhelming.
What advice would you give someone who wants to break into the PR industry?
It’s a long time ago since I started but I think the principle is the same – go in and be prepared to get involved in everything. I got my start via an amazing lady, Jen Burner who offered me a job at Halpern PR after I interned there for a month.
I worked on launching bareMinerals into the UK and worked on Avon, Molten Brown and a good number of other brands and that agency experience and beauty grounding set me on my path and gave me something to love! Use your network, get in touch with people from brands you love and ask if you could get involved. PR is as much about who you know, as it is about how hard you work so I’d say go out there and go for it.
Do you miss London life?
After 3 years of running Black Book, I realised I didn’t need to be in London anymore as most of the work was remote and when I did need to be there, I could travel so on a total whim. I upped and moved home to Scotland to be closer to family and I’ve not really looked back since. When restrictions begin to lift, I’m going to be heading back for a few days of catch ups and I can’t wait.
If you had a free day in Glasgow to do whatever you want to, where would you go?
Such a good question! I love this city and I love the people who live here – there’s a reason it’s voted as one of the friendliest in the world! My perfect day would start with breakfast at home with my husband and dog – usually tea and toast on the sofa while we watch the news. We’re lucky enough to live by the Botanic Gardens so we usually head out late morning for a big walk, no matter what the weather – and we get it all up here! If we’re doing a perfect day, I’d walk us all the way to Kelvingrove Park – walking along the river and taking in all the sights and sounds as we went. I love Kelvingrove Museum so that would be on the cards then it would be lunch in Finneston. There’s so many great places to eat round here but I do love Crabshakk so that would probably be top of the list. After lunch, I’d walk back towards the West End via my favourite plant and flower shop, Blooms and pick something lovely up.
I absolutely don’t need any more plants or pots but their shop is too nice not to buy something. I would then stop in at 33 Dowanhill and see Founder Jo for one of her signature facials. She is one of the things I have missed most about lockdown. No one knows skin better than this woman and I leave her studio looking and feeling years younger! After that, I’d float home, have some more tea and then make a start on some evening plans which, on a perfect day would involve some drinks at The Chip on Ashton Lane and then dinner at No 16, just a short walk away. Staying local and living well!
Photography by Nyla Sammons