Nesh Pillay is the founder of Press Pillay – a socially-conscious digital marketing agency based in Toronto. Press Pillay offers an array of services for growing lifestyle tech brands. She is committed to becoming the Robin Hood of Marketing by taking from the rich and giving to the poor – or in her case, redistributing 10% of all her agency’s income toward making the world a better place.
After attaining her Master’s degree from New York’s CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Nesh held various roles at The Drum, EQ Works, Avid Life Media, and Vice HBO.
When she’s not trying to take over the Toronto communications scene, Nesh can be found chasing her pantless two-year old around her apartment.
Plan3000 sat down with Nesh to discuss her upcoming event, Communications Week Canada, as well as the state of communications and what inspires her.
Q: Has communication always been your passion?
A: Absolutely. I didn’t always know it, though.
I’ve always been obsessed with written and oral communication. From telling stories to writing, to studying Shakespeare (I know what you’re thinking, and YES the boys DID love me), I’ve found proper communication to be the foundation of everything I’ve done to date.
Of course, I wasn’t always great at it. Time has allowed me to sharpen my skills and learn how to effectively communicate to different audiences to manipulate perception. That sounds bad, I know, but it’s incredibly rewarding. I promise to use my powers for good.
Q: What are the challenges that the communication industry faces both in Canada and abroad?
A: That’s a loaded question with tons of answers. I think in Canada specifically, we’ve struggled to define and own our voice.
Canadian communication tends to resemble a cheap, knock-off version off U.S. comms. And I get it, right? Both audiences have similar accents so how different can they be?
The answer: extremely.
Brands and agencies still don’t fully understand that the Canadian consumer is much different than the American consumer. Everything from disposable income to core values differs, and so in order to truly create those groundbreaking campaigns we all hope for, we need to own our Canadianness. Eh?
Q: How has technology benefited the communication industry? How has it affected the industry negatively?
A: Communication is easier than ever, for both consumers and creators. As consumers, most of us walk around with the most advanced communication device in the palm of our hands. This is allows communicators to create and disperse content that’s more tailored than ever before. As audiences, we no longer stuck with whatever flashes across our TV screens or appears in our morning paper.
Conversely, this ease of communication has allowed ANYBODY to create content, regardless of truth or morality. Many communication jobs have taken a sharp turn as anyone with a phone or computer now claims to be a journalist, marketer, or overall creator.
This brings the whole censoring debate into play, which I could go on about forever. I think the above example is an extreme and as communicators get smarter about things like “fake news,” audiences will begin to shift back toward trusted sources.
Q: What inspired you to start Press Pillay?
A: I started taking on PR/marketing clients on the side for pure fun and quickly realized that this was something a) I was good at and b) needed more forward-thinking, diverse leaders.
Having my daughter made me reevaluate how I spend my time and I quickly realized that life is far too short for me to spend every day being miserable at a job I hate.
Q: What are the challenges you face, particularly as a female founder?
A: I get talked over and mansplained A LOT.
A male employee just witnessed this firsthand. We were on a call with a brand head, who is incredibly talented at what he does. However, it was clear that communication strategies aren’t his strong suit.
However, everytime I gave him any sort of input on his strategy, he spoke over me with his thoughts. Of course we want out brands to have their opinions heard, but ultimately, we are being hired because we are the experts in the field.
Our methods are tested and they work, but I often find I have to justify all my expertise with statistics and examples (even during a casual conversation). Male counterparts are often just believed on expertise alone.
However, I don’t really let this bother me too much. I allow the mansplainers to mansplain, and then cut in with “Yes, but…”
I’ve also gotten more strategic about the clients we take on. I feel that having to explain, and re-explain everything multiple times a day really slows down a campaign and makes it far less effective.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your entrepreneurial journey? Is there anything you would do differently knowing what you know now?
A: I kind of mentioned it above, but learning to say no has been HUGE.
Often, there are things more important than money, and this is a hard pill to swallow at the beginning of the entrepreneurial journey.
Now, I’m a lot more strategic about the clients we take on. Budget still counts of course, but we also consider other factors, like “What are their values? How do their visions align with our capabilities? Do I really want to deal with this mansplaining?”
Q: What type of clients do you serve?
A: We try to align ourselves with clients who add some sort of social value to the greater good. We think to ourselves, is the world a better place because this brand exists?
Often, brands don’t have an obvious social angle, but we quite enjoy helping them realize their roles in the greater good.
Our rule of thumb is that brands must play a role in one of the three: equality, empathy & sustainability.
Q: What has been the most fulfilling part about this job?
A: Gosh I love when our clients get excited about the work we’ve done.
More importantly, we’ve managed to create a really fantastic team culture. I used to jokingly call us a family, but that’s exactly what our team has become. This is family business.
Q: Why do you think Canada, specifically Toronto, is a great fit for hosting Communications Week?
A: Toronto is a bustling hub for Canadian Communications. However, on a global scale, it’s completely undervalued and often ignored when it comes to conversations surrounding issues in the industry.
I wholeheartedly believe that Canada births some of the world’s best communicative minds, from literature to comedy. However, we experience an incredibly high rate of “brain drain.”
The key to preventing this is recognizing our available talent pool and making Canada a place they’d be proud to work.
Q: What panel are you looking forward to the most?
A: I can honestly say that all our programming is going to be fantastic. We were extra careful to curate people who could speak to Canada’s communications industry specific. There isn’t one that stands out above the rest. Although, ask me again the day after the event.
Talks will be snappy, engaging, and will be followed by an amazing afterparty. What more could you ask for?