Natalie Philips marks and spencer

Name: Natalie Phillips

Age: 28

Job title: Assistant PR & social media manager

Company & location:Marks & Spencer, London

Education: Culinary Arts Management, University of West London

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I absolutely loved baking as a child and had big dreams of becoming a cake decorator. 

Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink? My love of baking led me to study food technology at school, which I loved. This then led to me studying culinary arts management at university. I just knew that whatever career path I chose it had to be creative and food-related.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): In short, my job is all about pigs and puns!

As part of the PR, social and publications team, we find innovative and creative ways to communicate our products and brand messages to customers through traditional media, influencers via social media and large-scale events.

Occasionally (and quite possibly the most important part of my job), I can be found moonlighting as one of M&S’s most iconic characters – Percy Pig! My favourite appearance so far being scoring a penalty against another M&S icon, Colin the Caterpillar, at Wrexham AFC. 

What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different, which is why I love my job, but my day usually starts with a cup of coffee and a scroll through TikTok and today’s papers to spot any new social trends, coverage, new media contacts or coverage opportunities.

I’ll then go through emails and prep any sample requests for tried and tested features or influencer content before drafting a media release or working on a launch plan for the campaigns I am leading, such as Mother’s Day and Easter.

Tell us how you went about applying for your job:  I joined M&S in October 2019 and worked as part of the product development team across various categories including produce, frozen and groceries. I remained in this role for two-and-a-half years and often worked closely with members of the food PR team whilst they were prepping for new launches and events, which sparked my interest in PR.

I became fascinated with their role in the business and how they worked with media and influencers so enquired about the possibility of a role within the team. As luck would have it, a role popped up within a few months. I went through a two-stage interview process, which involved a writing task.

The team were really impressed with my creative writing skills and bubbly personality, which is essential in PR for building relationships with media, influencers, and internal stakeholders. Honestly, it was the best decision I have ever made.

Marks and Spencer percy pig and colin mands food

What’s the best part about working for a food & drink company? I love how passionate everyone is about food, it’s infectious!

I also love the innovation side of things, working closely with the product development team to help influence new product based on trends we see in traditional media, across social media or whilst travelling abroad.

Oh, and the occasional product tasting may contribute slightly…

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? Most people think I spend my days surrounded by food and drink, at long lunches, events, or glamorous photoshoots with celebrities. Whilst there is definitely an element of this in my role there is also so much more planning and strategy going on behind the scenes to create the real magic.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? There are so many different career routes in the food and drink industry, from product development to buying, merchandising and marketing.

If, like me, you aren’t exactly sure which career path is right for you, I would suggest getting as much experience as possible in the areas that interest you so you can get a well-rounded view of the industry and build relationships.

I’d also say don’t be afraid of change. I started out in product development and now work in marketing, it’s never too late to take a leap, no matter how big or small!

What’s your ultimate career dream? My ultimate career dream is to carry on loving my role as much as I do now whilst continuing to grow and learn from the best in the industry. I am so lucky to be part of a team that creates the most talked-about food products of the year… every year, so long may it continue.

Interested in finding out more about food & drink careers? Check out GrocerJobs for the latest vacancies