60 Seconds with Amanda Cumine, First Utility

Amanda Cumine, corporate communications director at independent energy supplier First Utility, talks about her passion for the challenger brand and offers advice for PR professionals starting out in the industry.

Amanda Cumine 1

Amanda Cumine

What excited you about working at First Utility?
There are three main reasons I was excited about working at First Utility. It stands out as an innovator in today’s UK energy marketplace – it is bold in its beliefs that it wants to shake up the energy market here in the UK and is making a real and positive difference for customers.

Secondly, what excites me is working for a fast-paced, entrepreneurial and non-hierarchical organisation with ambition, vision and a robust business model behind it. After nine years at lastminute.com, I have a wealth of experience working with fast-growth companies and challenger brands.

Finally, I work alongside some of the most dynamic and challenging leaders I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to work with – including, for the second time around, CEO, Ian McCaig and UK MD, Ed Kamm (both were my bosses over a period of six years at lastminute.com).

What’s surprised you since you joined the company?
Since joining First Utility, I’ve been most surprised to learn that over half of UK households are overspending on their energy, when on average they could be saving £300 by switching to a fixed tariff deal. A key part of my role is to help get that message out to the vast number of people who could be saving.

What do you like about working in-house, how does it compare to agency-side?
I worked in agencies for over a decade and have spent the last 11 years in-house. Agency-side I relished the breadth of work and having a varied portfolio of clients and projects. It gave me the opportunity to hone a wide range of skills as I was starting out in the comms industry.

In comparison, the main draw of working in-house is the opportunity to be dedicated to one brand. It gives you the opportunity to become a true brand expert, and the scope to develop an in-depth knowledge of industry issues, which directly influences your strategic communications approach.

What makes a comms team effective and strong?
An excellent strategy, hiring top talent, good people management and culture building are my starter for 10 for an effective and strong team. This means cultivating areas of speciality within that team, and building their business acumen. Having a knowledge of how communications and reputation affect the wider business is invaluable.

What’s your favourite part of working in comms?
Working with smart, articulate and creative people who professionally challenge me. I also relish working with brands that I wholeheartedly believe in and helping them to get their story heard.

How would you advise someone starting out in the PR industry?
Take notes, be curious, read, read, read, stay on top of the news (and not just the newspapers – blogs, newsletters etc.), act like a sponge, stay level-headed and above all else learn how to juggle.

How do you like to spend your weekends?
Doing very little! But the reality is that my husband and I are beholden to our two daughters’ active weekend routines. So if we’re not watching them choreograph musical videos we’re sprinting them to tennis, swimming, dance or Scouts groups.

  • Are you working in an interesting or unusual PR role? Do you have strong views on the industry that you want to share with the Gorkana community? If so, please contact Emily Andrews.
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