Asha Tharoor

As part of our Interview series 1, we spoke with Asha Tharoor a communications consultant who helps people tell their stories and get their message across with a focus on social and economic change sectors.


Who are you and what do you do?

My name’s Asha Tharoor and I’m a communications consultant and for me that means helping people to tell their stories and get their
messages across, particularly in the areas of social impact and economic and social change.

How did you get into the creative industry?

I did some volunteering. Well, it started off from volunteering at things like hospital radio and then I volunteered in India, working with women who lived in slums and I knew that I would like to do that for my career but it was a question of how to get into it. So I think that volunteering
gave me a really good basis because rather than reading and learning or doing an international development degree, I didn’t, I wanted to actually experience some of it, do, rather than just learn.

And that’s how I managed to get into charities. And from there I knew that I wanted to focus on, at that time, the world’s poorest people and problems and issues that could be solved via using the power of media.
After I did my volunteering in India, I came back and did a journalism postgraduate qualification, so it’s called the NCTJ, but I wanted to,
I knew specifically, rather than programme work or fundraising, I wanted to focus on how to use media to affect change.

So I knew that doing, studying journalism and learning and hopefully getting some experience in that side of things would help me to switch to the other side of the coin, which is, some people call it PR, some people call it communications, but I knew that they were two sides of the same coin.

Now, after being in-house for international development agencies and charities, for the last seven years I’ve been working with anything
from social impact businesses to charities, campaigning organisations, to help them tell their story through building a powerful narrative
and helping them get their messages across, coupled with having really good contacts and relationships with journalists and campaigners and people who are trying to affect that change using creative comms and PR.
I think that’s where I found my niche since I’ve been freelancing.

What tips would you give to someone starting in the creative industry?

Well, funnily enough, one of my friends has decided to switch careers midway through her career and that got me thinking about this because I think it’s the same principles apply. She has lots of transferable skills but in the conversations we have I can hear her narrowing down really the things that drive her and finding her passion in those areas.

And I think that that’s easy to say when you’re starting out. You’ve also got the added hurdles of which doors to open. And I think there are things like community radio. There’s lots of community projects that are really good to get involved with that will give you that experience of doing, not just learning from books or a course that then it helps you put that onto your CV like the things I did. I was volunteering. Community radio is another really good example. There’s so many projects around now that need people like pairs of hands. So that’s a really good experience, really good way to get some experience.

But also shadowing. I was recently at something and noticed there was a more and more organisations take people who want to shadow as well.
And just keep being tenacious and applying to things that might not be your ideal starting point in terms of salary or exactly what you want to do but the organisation speaks to you. That’s what my friend is doing. She’s used to being someone else in a different industry and now she’s adapting that to the thing, the industries that speak to her, the organisations that mean something to her. I think having that drive to make an impact, whatever your area is, it could be communications, it could be painting.

But aligning yourself, I think, with the right groups as well. There’s lots of groups, for example, that I’ve joined in Cambridge because this
area is quite new to me.