Hustle culture is overrated. After leaving my fast-paced global PR role, I took a career break to solo travel through Central America and train as a yoga instructor. That trip provided me with a lot of perspectives. In fact, it is the reason why I choose to work with conscious brands and now prioritise a healthy work-life balance. I’ve landed some of my highest profile coverage since adopting this approach, including the New York Times. PR can be an incredibly high-stress job, so it’s been a joy to
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Eilersen, yoga teacher and founder of Be Conscious PR, a coaching consultancy teaching conscious brand owners how to amplify their mission through the media so they can make a bigger impact.
With a degree in journalism from NYU, global PR experience in the start-up space, and over 300+ hours of yoga teacher training under her belt, Maria Eilersen is passionate about making the world a better place, and so are the people she works with. That’s why she started Be Conscious PR, to help conscious brands reach millions of people with their mission through the media.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My journey into PR wasn’t typical. Studying the creative boundaries of nonfiction at New York University, I was interested in where one draws the line between truth and fiction when writing for an audience and had my heart set on being the next Anna Wintour. Long story short, that didn’t happen.
After years hustling in New York City, attending fashion shows, working at various independent magazines, writing and networking my heart out, I wasn’t able to extend my visa and moved to London on a whim.
Within two years, including a stint at a marketing agency, I was heading up global PR for a travel company without any direct experience — thanks to my editorial background. Building close relationships within the business, and soaking up knowledge like a sponge, I learned by doing and it paid off. I traveled the world with journalists, built up an internal crisis communications strategy from scratch, and the company saw a 162% increase in US bookings following the launch of our PR campaign in the region.
Stepping off the corporate ladder, I went soul searching in Central America, where I immersed myself in a 200-hour yoga teacher training. When I returned to London, I was committed to continuing along the mindful path and knew I didn’t want to get back into the corporate world, promoting companies whose values did not align with my own.
During this time, while working at a PR agency, I began a side hustle providing PR support to intersectional feminist travel publication, Unearth Women, and it didn’t feel like I was doing any work at all. Having experienced sexism both in the industry and on the road first-hand, the publication’s founders set out to unearth womxns’ travel stories and provide a platform for womxn writers. Their mission spoke to me on a deep level and I knew this team could make a real impact on the world. Driven by their purpose, securing press for the publication felt meaningful, and working with a team of like-minded women was a breath of fresh air.
Ever since, I have been using my PR skills to help conscious entrepreneurs and brand owners get their voices heard in the media, promoting products and services that make the world a better place.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Since launching my business, Be Conscious PR, earlier this year, one of the first projects I worked on was for MoreYoga, London’s largest independent studio. As part of my work for them, I secured a video feature with CNBC International on a report on how the fitness industry adapted to the initial Covid-19 lockdown. The feature was originally focused on exploring the popularity of yoga in the West, but with lockdowns taking place across Europe, we had to adapt my client’s story to reflect the media narrative surrounding the impact of Covid-19 on businesses. The result was a brilliant broadcast piece including both one of MoreYoga’s yoga teachers. and their CEO speaking to their experience and showcasing their expertise. This was a proud moment for me as a new business owner — and certainly an unexpected and interesting pivot to what has become our new normal.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Just before I was promoted to head up global PR at a travel brand in my 20s, I really wanted to impress my new boss and got very carried away with plans to host the most epic launch party the company had ever hosted, to celebrate their new Asia product line. My team and I were envisioning hiring Charlie XCX to perform and spending upwards of £150K, which the new senior management was prepared to invest if I really felt it was going to deliver ROI. After a long weekend away from the drama and excitement, my intuition told me this was a terrible idea and naive of me to think we could pull it off on such short notice. I ended up telling my new boss and her boss that I’d made a mistake and we pulled the plug. That’s when I learned to trust my gut and to always assess ROI on any kind of spend — large or small. I did eventually land the promotion, so I think all was forgiven and it’s something we can laugh about now.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m currently working with the founder of blended+, a London-based nonprofit movement dedicated to creating positive, calm, and loving environments for the LGBTQ+ community through yoga and meditation. As a queer yoga teacher myself, I’ve seen the impact of the practice first-hand, so this is a project I’m really excited about supporting.
Our current focus is on promoting a biweekly workshop series led by different BIPOC teachers exclusively for the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community that will run for as long as attendance demands.
With countless studies finding that people identifying as LGBTQ+ are at higher risk of experiencing poor mental health, access to therapy, and alternative forms of healing are especially important for this community. That’s why Giorgia Sunderland founded blended+ and, after marching at the Black Trans Lives Matter protest in central London last month, she felt compelled to use her platform to provide a nourishing and welcoming space for the BIPOC within the LGBTQ+ community. The result is a free Zoom-based, wellness workshop series launching this month, and the sessions will include a guided meditation, journaling practice to process any emotions that surface, a slow beginner-friendly flow, and an open conversation for the attendees who wish to participate.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- You can’t control every outcome. When I was heading up PR in-house, we had a TV spot lined up with Good Morning America to discuss millennial travel trends, which the producer loved. Everything was set to go, but on the morning of the interview, our segment was bumped to cover a tweet by Trump. Some things are just out of your control, and that’s ok!
- Trust your intuition. While there are certain elements that make up an effective pitch, it’s equally important to find the right journalist for your story and get the timing right. That’s why I always recommend having a few different pitches on the go, and keeping an open mind to adapt them depending on the feedback you get. Pitching is not rocket science, but with practice, you develop an intuition for what will work.
- Don’t network, build relationships. I’ve always felt uncomfortable networking because it felt inauthentic to me. Yet, building relationships is at the heart of PR and, when you come from a place of service and genuine interest in the other person, it’s organic and so much more valuable and effective for both parties.
- Hustle culture is overrated. After leaving my fast-paced global PR role, I took a career break to solo travel through Central America and train as a yoga instructor. That trip provided me with a lot of perspectives. In fact, it is the reason why I choose to work with conscious brands and now prioritise a healthy work-life balance. I’ve landed some of my highest profile coverage since adopting this approach, including the New York Times. PR can be an incredibly high-stress job, so it’s been a joy to discover that I can still achieve great results without working around the clock, and I hope to empower others to feel the same.
- Have fun! When working with the media, it’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness and high stakes of it all, but it can also be really fun! Heading up PR for a travel company, I had the opportunity to run four press trips around the world and explore places I’d never visited before. Though I was responsible for keeping everyone happy and ensuring everything ran smoothly, I also allowed myself to take time out to explore on my own, and have fun with my colleagues and the journalists on each trip.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Be authentic. People can smell disingenuous intentions from a mile away. If you’re genuinely interested in getting to know someone, and you actively listen to their story, hopes, and dreams, you’ll make a real connection.
Be kind. People remember the way you made them feel. If you’re kind to them, they won’t forget that.
Lead with service. This is what I harp on about with my clients. It is our job as PRs to help journalists do their jobs. If you give more than you get, your relationship will be built on generosity and service — and that’s a relationship worth keeping!
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
PR can be a great source of leads for a business. Publicity not only gets your brand more visibility but builds your credibility and positions you as an expert within your industry. This is hugely valuable in attracting your ideal clients — especially when you’re featured in the publications your customers read.
Being authentic in your messaging also goes a really long way, as it allows you to build a sincere and honest relationship with both your audience and the media. Consumers are savvy and want to support brands that share their values. Cultivate real relationships with your audience.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
The just-launched, I’m Possible Podcast by coach and community builder, Natalie Levy is really inspiring. In each episode, Natalie shares her own experiences overcoming self-doubt and limiting beliefs and also interviews incredible entrepreneurs who have found success and had their own encounters with imposter phenomenon. Recognising that our thoughts are just that, thoughts, and that we’re able to write new empowering beliefs has been an absolute game-changer for me. It all starts with what we believe; most of the time, that’s the only difference between what is possible and what is impossible.
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day is another empowering podcast that celebrates the things that haven’t gone right. Every week, a new interviewee explores what their failures taught them about how to succeed, which is a powerful way to reframe failure as a crucial part of every success story — especially for entrepreneurs like me!
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Being conscious is at the heart of both my personal and professional life and continue to learn, grow, and expand my awareness is a life-long commitment of mine. I hope to inspire others to be more mindful of their communication and to use their platforms to make the world a better place. It all starts with an open mind, a humble ego, and having the courage to change your beliefs as you acquire new information.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.