In honour of International Women’s Day, our founder Rachel Cullis Dorsett, shares her career history and the impetus for starting Silver Pear Communications.

How did you get started with a career in public relations and who has inspired you along the way?

In the late eighties when I left school, career advice wasn’t really on offer. I had no idea what I wanted to do so I ended up taking a shorthand and typing course at college, and then falling into a secretarial job for a wonderful marketing manager called Dianne Roberts at a firm of accountants in Nottingham. I must have been the worst secretary she’d ever had and I think she was very relieved when I eventually left, but she very generously introduced me to marketing and from there I was lucky enough to get a role as assistant press officer at ITV Central TV which was responsible in its day for bringing light entertainment and drama classics like Boon, Inspector Morse, Family Fortunes with Les Denis and $64 Million Dollar question with the legend that was Bob Monkhouse.

One day I was interviewing Bob Monkhouse at home with his wife, the next day I might be on a drama set or on location or at a press launch at a fancy hotel in London with a few celebrities and a pack of national showbiz journalists, who included Piers Morgan. They were exciting times, and I learned my craft on the job and very quickly. It was a new world to me and one I absolutely lapped up but I was lucky enough to have a great teacher and mentor – a fellow but hugely experienced press officer called Wendy Dickinson – who I thank to this day for showing me the ropes, taking me under her wing and generously teaching me how to write, how to develop a story, how to pitch a story to a journalist and importantly how to overt a media crisis – and in the world of TV showbiz, there were many. I remember being called by a News Of The World journalist at 4am asking me why there was a production secretary climbing through the window of an actor’s hotel bedroom….. clearly delivering the call sheet for the next day’s filming, I think. My mum framed that one as I was quoted on the front page of that Sunday’s News of the Screws.

She was the second woman who was instrumental in my career – two fabulous women bosses before I even reached the age of 21. I was lucky and I’m hugely grateful to them both for everything they taught me and the fun we had.

What’s the biggest change for women in the workplace, that you’ve noticed within your career to date?

When I first started in my career there wasn’t a word for misogyny in the workplace. It was just something you had to put up with and we supported each other when the bad time hit – not really daring to call it out. I’m pleased to say things have moved on and although it still exists, at least its recognised and there are now ways to combat it. I’m pleased my own daughters won’t have to experience it in the same way I did and hopefully it will continue to get better for every generation of working women going forward.

The second huge change in my career lifetime without a doubt is flexibility in the workplace and this has only happened in the years since Covid. Let’s allow women to continue their careers once they’ve had children. Let’s not continue to make things difficult for women with presenteeism which just stifles productivity and creativity. I hope things are improving here and certainly in my own organisation, this is something which we hold dear as an absolute basic. If you have children, you shouldn’t have to make a choice between them and your career.

What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

I have always enjoyed PR and still get a buzz from securing coverage, but my job is very diverse now and I love every aspect of running my own business. It’s exciting, daunting, hugely rewarding and very hard in equal measures but I wouldn’t change it. I’m still learning and that’s what I love about it the most. The PR landscape has changed beyond recognition in the 35 years I’ve been in the industry – some things for the better and some very much not for the better – the biggest challenge is the loss of talented journalists who aren’t there just to produce content like influencers do, but are there to challenge, report injustice and expose wrongdoing. The decreasing size of our newsrooms across regional and national press is a travesty and something we need to reverse but don’t get me started on that one.

What have been your career highlights to date?

There have been too many to mention, and I’ve worked with some pretty amazing women along the way – Kirsty Wark has always been a hero of mine, so it was an honour to work with her whilst doing the PR for Women In Film & Television – an organisation filled with talented women from across the industry, led at the time by the unstoppable Kate Kinninmont. I had the pleasure of working for Kate first at the BBC, when she produced Ken Hom’s Hot Wok. We did the PR launch at the Chinese Embassy in London – a venue and an event I will never forget.  The second highlight has to be working for the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest at the NIA in Birmingham. Four days spent behind the scenes of one of the greatest live shows on television – the iconic Sir Terry Wogan was compere at the time, and it was one hell of a week and a definite career highlight.

What most excites you about the year to come?

My husband’s 50th, my daughter’s 30th, my son’s 21st, and my youngest daughter’s 18th – I should have really planned this better! In recent years, I’ve realised how important it is to have a healthy and balanced work/life. Having downtime gives me the energy to be better at my job and in the past, I’ve got this balance very wrong but luckily for me I’ve had the support of husband who has made up for my work-fuelled absences and I like to think I do the same for him. It’s all about teamwork and I couldn’t have had the career I’ve had without the support of him and my dear mother. Very early in my career a female boss said to me that being a working role model for my children would be the most important thing I ever did, and I believe she was right.

If you hadn’t started Silver Pear, which other role would you like?

I’ve always been interested in historic buildings so something in this field would have suited me down to the ground. I wasn’t clever enough or creative enough to be an architect but that was the dream.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Everything, but we also need an International Men’s Day in order to be able to recognise true equality. We shouldn’t have one without the other and this needs to be the baseline. Recognising the achievements of both men and women, and rewarding the brilliant people that do amazing work, whatever your gender. This is what feminism means to me – calling out equality and making it the norm.

Explain what Silver Pear means to you in 3 words

Independence, creativity and challenge.

If you have a day off, what is on your list to relax and unwind?

Taking Trevor my black lab for a good long walk with a husband or friend – rewarded with a long pub lunch and then mooching around a few interiors shops on the way home.

Are there any clients you’d particularly like to work with?

I’m already working with all the people I like to work with. We have some amazing clients and I feel so blessed they continue to work with us.



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