How I Got My Job: Victoria Mackenzie, Head Of Communication At H&M

Victoria tells us about her route into PR – and how she made it to where she is today.

Victoria MacKenzie

Name: Victoria Mackenzie

Age: 30

From: Worcestershire, England

Job Title: PR Manager and Head of Communication at H&M UK and Ireland

Studied: Nottingham Trent University

Tell us a bit about your job

I’m PR Manager and overall head of communication for H&M UK and Ireland. I look at the global communication strategy for H&M and implement it for the UK and Ireland. It’s my team’s responsibility to ensure that press are writing about us and, in turn, that customers are talking about H&M in a positive and dynamic way. I work on fashion, corporate and sustainability PR, so my role is very varied and I work with an incredible team who all bring their own experience to ensure we deliver the best results.

What was your path to your current career?

I started interning at the Arcadia Group [Topshop et al] in 2006 in the press department, and knew it was the career for me. I gained some experience working in marketing there, but the mix of working with fashion and building relationships with stylists and journalists really motivated me. I joined H&M as press officer for special projects and expansion in 2012, and took on my current role in December 2013.

Understanding how media can affect people’s behaviour is relevant in my role.

Did you always want to work in this area?

Growing up, I didn’t have a grasp of the opportunities in the fashion industry outside of the design route. I still think this is a challenge for anyone wanting to get into the industry.

Did your college or your previous experience help you?

I knew I always wanted to work with people in a team where there was lots of interaction with others. I’m a people person (and also very nosey!) so PR was the perfect route. I studied media and psychology at university; understanding how media can affect people’s behaviour is still relevant in my role now.

What does a typical day look like in your job?

There’s never a typical day; every day’s different and that’s why I love my job. From launching new collections to the British and Irish press to hosting small, intimate events for VIPs for the latest range, we do it all. Mostly, though, I’m focused on the season ahead and planning strategy for the PR team, working closely with the other departments such as marketing and visual. One day I can be behind the scenes on a H&M campaign film shoot, the next I’m discussing how we can increase the awareness in our sustainability programmes for our customers.

I think it’s important to remain open minded and positive, not to panic under pressure and to look on the bright side.

What challenges have you experienced getting to where you are now?

I’ve been very lucky; I had a great mentor who believed in me and gave me the chance to prove myself and take on a role that challenged me. I think that’s what’s so fantastic about working for H&M – there are always opportunities, and there’s room for constant improvement, which keeps you inspired and motivated in your role, to take on that next challenge.

In your experience, what’s the best way to deal with those challenges?

I think it’s important to remain open-minded and positive, not to panic under pressure and to look on the bright side. I’m very lucky to have a job I love, and it’s important I keep that in mind when I’m feeling under pressure. We’re a very close team who pull together in busy times, and that makes any stressful situation more bearable.

My ultimate career goal was to meet David Beckham.

Tell us about some your career highlights

Visiting Bangladesh and seeing the garment factories H&M is producing in made me feel so proud to work for a company with such a strong sense of responsibility and long-term investment in improving the lives of those working to produce the garments we sell in store. That was a life experience I’ll never forget – and certainly a career highlight. I guess when I joined H&M, my ultimate career goal was to meet David Beckham, which I got to do when we launched his swimwear collection in 2014 at a pool party we hosted for him.

What’s the best bit about your job?

Seeing the latest collections first and deciding how to present them to press, working on incredible projects like the H&M designer collaborations and, most of all, being a manager; I love working with a team and managing people. It’s a completely different skill that I’m still learning, but it’s so rewarding to see the results we can achieve and watch people in the team grow and succeed.

Work very hard, be open to new opportunities and remember to always treat people how you wish to be treated.

And the drawbacks?

Sometimes the travel. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to travel regularly for my job, between Stockholm, New York, Paris and of course Ireland, but living out of a suitcase can become a struggle; my personal admin definitely gets neglected.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Being open to new opportunities and taking them on without hesitation and working for someone who saw the potential in me and invested in me and my ability to develop before I realised it myself.

What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to follow in your footsteps?

Work very hard, be open to new opportunities and remember to always treat people how you wish to be treated.

What sort of career progression is there in your job?

At the moment I’m so happy in my role, growing the team and learning new skills, but the beauty of working for H&M is that there really are so many opportunities. We have 59 markets and brands including Cos and & Other Stories, so there’s always a new exciting opportunity as we grow as a company.

See Victoria’s style CV in the September issue of STELLAR – out 12th August!