Anna Hope is a one-woman powerhouse. Not only is she one of the best PRs I have had the pleasure of working with – she is also a total inspiration for me as a working mother. She juggles running her own company – she is the director of AKH Communications Ltd, working with some of the biggest names in the business (Hampton Court Festival, Winter Wonderland, the tennis Masters, Claudia Schiffer…), with being a mother to her two adorable children, Isabella and Blake. Anna is also the one who told me, unequivocally, to ‘go for it’ when I was hovering on the brink of a big career decision; she is a cheerleader for other women, a savvy businesswoman and a fabulous mama.
To coin a cliche: if you could bottle what Anna has, you’d be thrilled. So we were delighted when she agreed to talk us through how she makes her work/life/family balance work.
How did you get where you are today – running your own PR agency?
I began my PR career working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and from there I fell into the comedy world, working for Avalon Public Relations looking after comedians, Jerry Springer – The Opera and TV chat shows. After this I joined the Outside Organisation in 2005 and looked after Claudia Schiffer, live events, award ceremonies, festivals – everything and anything in the entertainment and showbiz world. This was followed by a stint with more supermodels (Helena Christensen, Erin O’Conner) and beauty brands before working for P&G on their prestige beauty brands – D&G, Dolce Gabanna, Valentino and Gucci.
Then I went on maternity leave and after a year I started AKH Communications and haven’t looked back. My clients include Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Royal Albert Hall, IMG Tennis and Hampton Court Palace Festival.
How many days do you work?
Between 4 & 5 days a week, depending on the volume of work.
What’s your domestic set-up?
Happily married for five years with two children, Isabella, aged 4 and Blake, aged 1.
Talk us through an average day in your life.
I walk into my office at 9am with a big coffee after doing the school run. My day involves client meetings, securing coverage, organising launches, photo-shoots… all sorts. I usually lock myself in my office until 5pm and then it’s time with the kids. When my events are live then I’m on site running a team handling photo-shoots, broadcast crews, press launches, press conferences. No day is the same.
How do you deal with the childcare issue?
After my second I wanted to get back to work as quickly as possible. So much so, that I worked during my labour. I sent my last email at 5pm, and my baby boy arrived at 6.15pm! (Yes, I was that crazy woman. Well it was the night before my biggest event opening of the year and it took my mind off things).
I went back after three months and worked from home where I could keep an ear out for Blake who was looked after by his nanny. I felt that he was too young to be away from home and I wanted to ease my way back in. I wouldn’t be able to do it without our nanny. My husband and I both work in the entertainment industry, so we’re often out entertaining, so having someone we can rely on with the kids is paramount.
Isabella is now in reception. She loves it. We put her in nursery school for a year before hand so the transition worked nicely. We’ll do the same with Blake.
What do you like best about your current work/family/life situation? And what do you find the hardest?
Since I had my second I’m genuinely happy. I feel at peace with myself, as I’m no longer thinking whether or not I’m going to get pregnant again. An added bonus is that I can wear my normal clothes again and not worry about needing to take a break from my career. I love being my own boss as I’m in control of my time. I can be there when the kids need me and I don’t miss out on important things like sports day and nativity plays. The hardest part is juggling everything, as every mother knows. My thinking is ‘there’ll be good days and bad days, but if you’ve had a good week, you’re onto a winner’.
How do you find time for your relationship with your partner?
Forward planning is the key. Spontaneity goes out the window when you have kids! We try and sneak away for the odd night without the kids. 24 hours away can make the world of difference. I’m lucky enough to have wonderful parents who will gladly take the children now and again. Since they’ve retired they have such a ridiculously busy social life, so I try and get them booked in quickly as possible. We’re also lucky enough to go out every week whether it’s a work do or friends, so we get to be with each other out and about.
How much time do you honestly have for yourself?
But my husband and I made a deal when our first was born: we’d each give each other a morning off a week so we divvy up the weekend. He encourages me to take time off for myself, but I feel guilty whenever I do… I’m learning not to though.
What would you change, if you could, about your current set-up?
I’d like to put a big lock on my office door so my kids don’t disturb me when I work and I’d like an extra room in the house for all the kids’ paraphernalia!
If you could choose what, in an ideal world, would be your perfect work/family balance?
I learnt from a PR friend of mine that in order to be happy one really needs a life/work balance. She found it late in life but I want that now. If you can be your own boss, pay the bills, be excited about your work AND collect the kids from school now and again you’re onto a good thing. She passed away not so long ago and this always stays in my mind.
If I could request one extra thing, it would be more sunshine. Not just for the summer, but at least 10 months of the year!