Episode 41: Navigating the Barriers to Diversity in the Evolving World of Public Relations and Digital Marketing

Happy new year, listeners, and welcome back to Tech Forward! On this week’s episode, I’ll be speaking with Nesh Pillay, the founder of Press Pillay. With a focus on empathy, equality, and sustainability, Press Pillay is a digital communications agency on a social mission. As a former journalist, Nesh covered international advertising and marketing as a founding reporter of The Drum’s New York team. At Press Pillay, she leverages her knowledge of marketing, PR, and branding from “the other side” as the secret weapon to making her clients successful. Today, she’ll be sharing her experience returning to the workforce after becoming a mother, as well as the lessons she has learned working with tech startups through her agency.

Though motherhood had always been in the cards for Nesh, after the birth of her daughter she had to confront many of her own internalized feelings about being a mother in the workplace. As one of only two women on the team, it’s no surprise that she felt pressured to return to work as quickly as possible, even as she struggled with postpartum depression. At the same time, she was being approached for public relations work on the side, and realizing how much she enjoyed it. “I knew I needed to pursue a job that I really loved. [...] For working mothers, if you are in an environment where you don’t feel comfortable just existing, this might not be the right environment for you.” In founding Press Pillay, she has created a PR agency that recognizes the importance of adapting to the digital landscape, and the natural harmony of technology and lifestyle brands.

In an age when brands are easily accessible to their customers via social media, Nesh urges companies to be mindful of their target markets, as well as how they approach them. “Consumers want to spend their money on brands that represent them, but if you’re reaching out to diverse customers, you need a diverse team.” The benefits of diversity go beyond just expanding your customer base. Many companies, Nesh says, “have wasted millions of dollars on campaigns that made them look bad.” Having a variety of diverse voices in the room, and a company culture where everyone feels supported in speaking up, can help brands avoid costly PR mistakes.

When it comes to attracting a diverse team, Nesh emphasizes the importance of creating an inclusive environment. For example, prior to the birth of her daughter, “during the interview process with some of these younger tech startups, when I asked about maternity leave I got a lot of blank stares. You need to create a workplace where a woman wouldn’t be afraid to get pregnant.” The same goes when hiring for all facets of diversity. She recommends hiring and mentoring initiatives that go beyond the standard search for candidates with 4-year degrees from prestigious schools.

Nesh, thank you so much for coming onto the show and sharing your keen insights into PR, marketing, and diversity. Thank you as well to everyone out there listening, reviewing, and sharing the show. See you next week!


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