Natasha Hatherall is the Founder and CEO of TishTash Communications, an award-winning marketing and communication agency based in Dubai. It’s one of the most respected independent agencies in the Middle east. With more than 20 years of experience in the Marketing, Media and PR world, Tash is making exceptional progress through TishTash.
The idea of TishTash Communications came into existence in 2012 when Natasha Hatherall focused on following her passion and dreams and making use of her speciality in the field. Natasha Hatherall also focuses on building an empathetic and empowering culture where team members can communicate with each other and the clients kindly and enjoy what they are doing.
We could see how positive-minded Natasha Hatherall is during our interview. She is a personality who follows her passion and never sits still. Her passion for nurturing her agency and team is highly visible.
Not only that, but TishTash Communications are getting positive results and what makes them unique is their work process and how they are dedicated to health, wellness and the beauty industry only. The agency also has social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where we could see that they are highly active with regular updates and posts.
Learn more about Natasha Hatherall and TishTash Communications through our interview with Tash herself.
How did your journey as an entrepreneur begin?
Being an entrepreneur and business owner was never my plan. In fact, it all came about quite accidentally. I spent the first part of my career in academia as a graduate teacher at the University of Exeter, combining my passion for psychology, research and consumer habits in marketing. I then decided I didn’t wish to pursue an academic career. I made my first turn into the client-side and agency world of marketing and advertising with roles in the UK across major brands and agencies, including Havas, McCann Worldwide, L’Oreal and Diaego.
I had always wanted to live and work abroad – this is what brought me to Dubai in 2010. It was a tick off my bucket list. I worked for Abu Dhabi Media Group for 2 years, heading up marketing for many of their outlets. I left in 2012, and the plan was to freelance for a while in communications – life had other plans, and TishTash was born! 10 years later, we are still going strong; we’ve won some amazing awards and are one of the leading PR and marketing agencies in the region, with new offices opening in KSA and the UK this year.
Tell us a little bit about your company – how you started and where the organisation is now.
My company is called TishTash Communications, and we are a PR, digital and marketing agency based in Dubai. Established in 2012, I followed my passion and background with just me at my dining table. My agency specialises in providing marketing and communications services for beauty, health and wellness brands.
Our agency offers design, digital, marketing, public relations, events and direct-to-consumer activations and works with over 80 of the best and brightest emerging and established brands in the industry across the GCC region. We also have a little sister called TishTash Tots that specialises in mum and family brands. There are currently 38 members in our team, and we have new offices opening in KSA and the UK in 2022.
With an emphasis on innovation and digital storytelling, we have received many requests to work with businesses that sit outside of our core specialism. The reason is we think differently from other agencies. We work hard to innovate across the board, both at a campaign level for brands and higher agency levels.
In terms of future growth, here at TishTash, we never sit still. We are transitioning into a full-service agency and investing in our digital structures to grow our social and digital teams in 2022 and buy into new global technologies. Our success in the UAE and growing portfolio of regional clients have been the catalyst for plans to open our KSA office and a first international office in the UK.
What are some of the key goals you set for yourself?
To create a work environment that I want to come into every day and a kind, empathetic and empowering culture.
To always be the best I can be day-in, day-out, and only compete with myself.
One of my biggest personal goals still for me is to write a book, which is underway. I am 22 chapters into my book about the Middle East Media World.
Describe your business in one word?
What are the most important takeaways in your views in today’s business world?
That we cannot ever stand still and assume what we did yesterday will be okay tomorrow. We need to be constantly thinking ahead and agile in our approach.
That we need to focus on our team and put our people first, and when we do, the rest will follow. I choose to put my focus on keeping my team happy and motivated, and they, in turn, focus on keeping our clients happy, engaged and wanting to work with the agency long term. We must be doing something right, as many of our clients have been with us for over 6 years and 3 since we launched 10 years ago.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and closures that came with it, your business is doing incredibly well and has adapted to the covid transition. How are you planning to build on this momentum?
I am extremely grateful that my business not only survived the Covid pandemic but thrived, and we have grown 50% year on year for the past 2 years. We were very lucky not to have to make any redundancies during Covid. Whilst in part, being a specialist in health and wellness contributed to this, largely, it was due to a lot of hard work and putting our people and the community at the heart of all we do.
At the start of the pandemic, TishTash created the “SME RISE COLLECTIVE” to support the community at large. The “SME RISE COLLECTIVE” vision was to create a ripple effect through the SME community and throughout our wider agency network. What started as a small initiative became a true collective that was able to help companies survive, save jobs and bring communities closer together. SME RISE supported over 300 SMEs in the market with a value of over 1 million USD of marketing support gifted to the SME community.
Consumer diversification: TishTash established a new consumer division to help get clients closer to their end-consumers as quickly as possible to drive sales and revenue. We are the only PR agency in the market to have such a division. The new consumer division has been one of the biggest drivers of growth for the agency. The division now has a database of over 25,000 consumers in the UAE. Furthermore, our consumer division has generated more than 1.5m USD in revenue for our clients in the last 12 months.
We have put several programs in place to promote a positive working culture, which in turn has increased the productivity and creativity of our team. TishTash now operates a 4.5-day working week (from July 2021, long before the working week changed!) in response to the obvious burnout and mental health crisis created by the pandemic. Our new working week is designed to give back to those who make our agency successful. This new structure has resulted in a happier and healthier workforce as well as a thriving business. In terms of impact on the business, we are in a phase of unparalleled growth. We’ve received attractive investment offers, we’re winning flagship clients and are being nominated for awards and accolades. So we think we’re doing something right, and that ultimately comes from our team, who are at the centre of all we do.
What’s your favourite thing about your job and the industry you work within?
The people – I love the fact I’ve met so many amazing people and work with those from so many nationalities every day. It’s very sociable, and I love that side of PR and marketing. In our industry and the UAE, more so than anywhere, we get to work on the most amazing launches and events, many of which make me pinch myself, and there are far too many highlights to mention.
What are your strengths, and how do you see yourself nurturing them to fit into an irreplaceable role in the company.
I never really considered myself to be a leader, but I surprised myself with how good I was in a crisis during the Covid pandemic. I believe in remaining true to myself and who I am. I believe in kindness, and not just as a platitude. We can extend kindness and empathy throughout our daily touchpoints with family and friends and in business with our employees and clients. The world is a confusing place currently, and we don’t know what anybody is facing behind closed doors and in their personal lives. I believe in striving for balance and rationally in our work/life environment and that by communicating kindly, collaborating over competition and simply acting like gracious, grateful, thoughtful humans. This is my personal ethos and recipe for success.
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
I feel that the offerings of many marketing and communication agencies are very similar on paper. That said, we chose to stand out from the start by being a specialist agency and following our passion for beauty, health and wellness. Whilst this can be seen to “limit” our potential client base, it is one of the best decisions we made as we are known for our work in a sector and having true passion and expertise in it rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
Our decision to launch a direct to consumer offering was also one of the best decisions we made. I am not aware of any other agencies having an offering like ours. We use our targeted database to drive real engagement and sales for our clients, which is what many appreciate, whilst also working on the long term game of brand awareness and reputation building.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits will your clients get from your agency?
I feel my approach is working, and I like to think more leaders see the benefits of leading with kindness and empathy.
There is no “one size fits all” at TishTash, and we truly care about our clients. I treat all client’s businesses as if they were my own, and if I recommend something, it is because I would do this if it were my own business. There is a lot to be said for truly caring and not just seeing clients for the money they bring to the table.
What is the number 1 aspect you look for as a trait in your employees when bringing them onto the team?
As a relatively small and tight-knit team, I look for someone who will fit personality-wise with our team. The right fit is as important to us as is education and experience on paper. I want someone who wants to be at TishTash and who wants to work hard and truly cares about what they do.
What trends do you think will affect your industry in the coming future?
Sadly, the continued decline of traditional media – although I do believe there is still a place for strong content and that we will see new media launches in the digital sphere.
The drive for measurement and accountability – brands want to see ROI for their investment, especially for influencers, so new tools and measurements are being created all the time.
Whilst I don’t always enjoy working with influencers, and it can be one of the trickiest parts of the PR role today, I don’t see the desire for influencer campaigns to reduce any time soon. I just expect we’ll work a bit smarter, look more at measurement and hopefully realise that many factors determine success and that working with the biggest influencers isn’t always the best way.
As an entrepreneur, what advice can you give to people planning to start a venture?
Always trust your instincts – they will not let you down.
Treat your ‘people’ well – they are your business, and its success stands on them and your leadership.
Collaborate, don’t ‘compete’ – there is power in numbers, and we cannot work successfully in siloes.
Lastly, always be kind!