In the latest of our series profiling ‘Women in Sustainability’, we interviewed Helen Bell, Senior Associate Director at Greenhouse PR.
Helen Bell, formerly an Associate Director at Grayling and Head of PR & Media at Bristol 2015 Ltd, joined Greenhouse PR last year to head up the Bristol office.
1. As a changemaker within your industry, tell us a bit more about your background?
I started working in public relations when I graduated from university in the late nineties but I specialised in technology clients back then. I’ve always been passionate about the natural world, particularly the need to conserve our marine environment.
My husband is a marine biologist and taught me to dive off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and I fell in love with the underwater world there and then. I did some voluntary work for the Marine Conservation Society and realised what a thrill it is to work on a campaign that makes a positive difference.
National campaigns for Defra and the Environment Agency followed and then in 2015 I was lucky enough to head up PR and media relations for Bristol’s momentous year as European Green Capital. After that experience I knew I had to find another role that would enable me to specialise in environmental communications and Greenhouse was the perfect fit.
2. What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get you where you are today and how did you address them?
PR is a very competitive sector and it can be hard to get a foothold but I was fortunate to be trained by some of the brightest stars in the industry and I now get a lot of pleasure from mentoring junior colleagues who are starting out on their own career path.
Another challenge is staying up to date with new technologies, which can feel overwhelming at times if you’re someone that still remembers faxing press releases! However, I’m fortunate to work with an incredibly committed and energetic team, most of whom grew up with digital media, and I learn something new each and every day.
3. What unique qualities do you bring as a woman that make a difference in your sector?
My sector is dominated by women and Greenhouse is no different, so it’s consequently a very nurturing environment where everyone looks out for one another. I believe women have so much to offer the working world – especially working mums who can multitask better than anyone!
I feel very inspired when I get to meet some of the women that are pioneering sustainable approaches in traditionally male dominated sectors, such as finance. Examples being Zoe Sear and Whitni Thomas at Triodos Bank, two strong, influential female leaders that are paving the way for a more inclusive and transparent financial system.
4. What advice would you give women who want to create more impact and influence in the workplace?
I believe impact and influence come from confidence and having the courage of your convictions. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t listen to the nagging voice in your head that questions everything. Women have a peculiar predilection for self-effacement that we really need to get over if we are going to achieve genuine equality in the workplace.
5. What successes have you witnessed that we should all be celebrating?
Gosh, there are so many! Just the sheer fact that it is now the norm for women to have a thriving career as well as a family life is worth celebrating. I adore my children but working gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment that I would be lost without.
On a personal note, Greenhouse being named Communications Agency of the Year 2018 at the Business Green Leaders Awards last week was a huge thrill. We work incredibly hard to achieve exceptional results for our clients in order to amplify their impact, and to have our efforts recognised and rewarded by a panel of green industry leaders was definitely cause for celebration.
6. When it feels like the world is going crazy, what keeps your vision and passion alive?
These days it feels all too often that the world is going crazy and sometimes the void between people’s knowledge and actions when it comes to sustainability is a little overwhelming but we have to maintain faith in a better tomorrow.
When you think about the scale of innovation that the human race has accomplished thus far, you remember that anything is possible, and that belief sustains me when the chips are down. On a personal note, a cuddle with my children is also a great leveler and a constant reminder of why I do what I do.
7. Who inspires you and why?
I am constantly inspired by my boss, Anna Guyer, who founded Greenhouse over ten years ago with a deep-rooted commitment to use the power of communications to combat climate change. She has held firm to that mission and vision and has the most incredible drive of anyone I’ve ever met. Also the team at Greenhouse, who care so deeply about the campaigns we deliver for our clients that it is honestly a joy to work alongside them.