CAREER SPOTLIGHT: I’m a Global PR & Events Manager. Here’s what you should know.
Poppy Royds, Global PR & Events at Natoora
We love Poppy’s description of cities ticking through the lens of food. This perfectly describes one of the best things about hospitality – that for every restaurant that exists, there’s a huge ecosystem around it which feeds into it and out from it. That creates some incredible opportunities for anyone who loves food – if you’re passionate about something, you can find a way to express it within the huge network of hospitality.
For Poppy, that was sustainable agriculture AND restaurants AND communications. Sure, it’s a bit niche, but reading accounts such as hers really show us that careers need never be pigeonholed: with a few careful manoeuvres there is so much opportunity to find yourself in a career which truly fulfils and encompasses all of your passions and interests. It’s about a little bit of determination, a little bit of focus, and making damned sure that you’re in the right place – then the right time will come. Poppy tells us how.
How did you get into your current role, and what were you doing before?
I think mainly just by being incredibly over excited about food and farming. I’m not really driven by my love of PR or organisation, I’m really only driven by creating something that’ll inspire and connect people to the wonderful world of farming (agro-ecological farming to be precise)…and I like to use delicious produce and parties as the Trojan Horse to get more people into it.
After studying Ecology & Environmental Sciences at Edinburgh, I worked for the brilliant Tanya Layzell-Payne at Gerber Comms. Among the many restaurant clients I got to work with, the person that had a lasting impact was Skye Gyngell and getting to launch her restaurant Spring. Her produce driven, no fuss, no foam or frills approach to food and working so closely with Fern Verrow and Natoora, was deeply fulfilling to be a part of. I knew I wanted to work somewhere that had a bigger impact on the future of food and Natoora was that perfect bridge between the London food scene and agriculture. I did whatever I could to work there, taking a role in sales initially, building up some great connections with chefs and my knowledge of farming, before weaselling my way into the brand team three years ago.
What’s the most unexpected thing about your role?
I’ve been at Natoora for 7 years now and I think the one thing that always constantly surprises me is the flexibility and freedom my role gives me. As Natoora is constantly changing with the seasons, bringing in new produce, working with new growers, making new connections in the farming world there are always wonderfully inspiring stories to work with. At a time when people are asking for more transparency in their food, it also means there’s a never ending need to continue to connect more people with the deeper issues surrounding our food system.
What’s the best thing about it?
God, so much. Constant food porn, and not the slutty egg kind, but ‘The good life’ kind, which is the kind I love. I love working with delicious food and seeing the hard work and artistry that goes into growing everything. You really get to appreciate it in a whole new light when you have that close relationship and knowledge of how and who grows it. Also, the fact that Natoora’s supply chain is incredibly diverse and complicated, working with more than 800 growers across the globe, with each hub in London, Paris, New York, Melbourne and Copenhagen having their own network of growers to work with and all the different varieties and seasons they bring, you get a sense of how all these incredible cities tick through the lens of food. Being able to travel to these cities and work on educational campaigns and events that are unique to the needs of the different audiences is such a privilege and it’s so exciting to be a part of something positive in so many different places.
The flexibility can also be a little stressful, one minute a project is full steam ahead and the next it’s dropped. You have to learn to let things go and move on, adapt and understand that some things are out of your control. I find this very hard, especially if I’m particularly passionate about the project.
What does a typical day look like for you?
This is a cliche but honestly no two days are the same. Usually I work from our Bermondsey office, under the railway arches next to Neal’s Yard/Spa Terminus. The day starts at 9am with tea, some toast from Natoora’s bakery Alma (we get a constant supply of loaves, made from population/heritage wheat freshly milled and baked around the corner, perks!) and Gemma, our incredible kitchen lady, hassling me to eat a heartier breakfast with some smoked cheese or ham she’s brought over from Slovenia.
I’ll try and catch up on a constant stream of emails. We get a lot of sponsorship requests for dinners/launches and people looking to partner in some way, so I’m often working out whether we have the budget for these and if they’re the right brand/person for Natoora. I’m always planning or producing some kind of event, at Natoora we have our wholesale customers (chefs) and since Covid we’ve launched our app and now our e-commerce website for home delivery, so I try to balance the focus between these. We have quite a lot of internal meetings, ensuring all the campaigns are coming together and checking in with our teams globally. Each hub is at a different stage, and we need to work out what activations we can do to suit their point of progress, the workload for their team and the audience.
Lunch is at 12 o’clock in the office, our kitchen team (who also make those epic Natoora soups and dips) whip up something delicious and seasonal using our produce and everyone eats together. It’s a great way to create an office community.
If an event is nearing, I’ll be off the computer, prepping a space, sourcing decor and equipment or working on the menu. Or when I’m in between events I’ll be focussing on pitching, working on guest lists or press drops for a particular campaign that’s coming up. We’ve just finished our series of ticketed talks called ‘Earthrise Evenings’, covering some important topics, including nuances of eating local in a global world, with the incredible writer and journalist Anna Sulan and Adele Jones, Executive Director of the Sustainable Food Trust. I’ve really enjoyed working on smaller, more educational talks, and there will be more like this in London, Paris and New York soon.
Right now it’s my favourite time of year, when the busy summer is over and I’m planning for 2024. We’ve got so many exciting projects coming up, producing the second series of Natoora’s ‘How to transform the food system’ podcast, launching our latest REACT report and working on a big industry event to celebrate 20 Years of Natoora…stay tuned!
What advice would you give to someone hoping to get into your profession?
If you’re interested in sustainable food systems and passionate about it, read all the books, do a permaculture course, visit all the farms, eat at all the good restaurants and have fun with it! Follow what you love and you’ll find a job in there somewhere. There’s so much good stuff out there and adventures you can have in this field. My first year at Natoora I took my holiday to go work at one of our farms, use your time to get that extra experience and if you love it, it won’t feel like work.
Hit up Chelsea Green’s website and order all their books. In my early 20’s I read Dan Barber’s ‘A Third Plate’ and Michael Pollen’s ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’, they really struck a note and helped give me some direction. In more recent years books like ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Dan Saladino’s ‘Eating to Extinction’ and ‘Visionaries of the 20th Century, A Resurgence Anthology’ by Satish Kumar have opened up my world to the more ethical, historical and social issues surrounding ecology and our food systems.
Instagram is also an incredible tool, and a great way to connect with people, especially farmers who use it as their main marketing platform.
What’s the best piece of advice that YOU were given?
My super boss Mary Coote and Natoora’s Chief Brand Officer, always advises me to ask for help. I’m not sure I’m very good at it! But it’s great advice and I try to take it on board. No one can do everything alone and most of the time people will jump at the chance to support.
What did you want to be when you grew up? And how is this similar?
I wanted to be a forager, and still do! It’s just that great mix of food and being in the wild, and what’s better than being able to find your own food? And a million times more nutritious than anything modern agriculture can offer. I still like to forage in my spare time and bore people about mushrooms at the office, and we supply plenty of beautiful foraged ingredients, so I’m not too far away from that childhood dream!
Tell us the weirdest thing you’ve had to do in your course of work?
Going to Cardiff to hunt down a 1960s step dodge van that was meant to have been converted into a taco truck, only to find zero conversion had taken place and the guy had done a runner with the keys. Maybe that’s not that weird, maybe that’s just traumatic…exceptionally weird from him though.