I did an undergraduate Arts degree with a major in media but wasn’t sure what I’d like to do after uni. I enjoyed the creative challenges of developing stories and considered a career in journalism but I also enjoyed the strategic angle that a few of my marketing subjects provided.
The solution? Public Relations aka the perfect blend.
How would a recent graduate know if PR is for them?
Firstly, you need to understand what PR professionals actually do…
Public Relations is storytelling. And PR pros – we’re the storytellers. We help each client share their story and reveal their true “Why?” We need to understand what drives them, why they built their product or launched their service. Finding someone’s “Why?” can be one of the most difficult things you’ll do as a publicist.
Secondly, you need to ask yourself, how important is routine?
Many interviewers will ask this question to gauge your willingness to be on the job beyond the usual 9 to 5. A PR crisis or interview request can happen at any hour and you may be called upon at inconvenient times to save the day. My biggest media placement was a result of a phone call I received at ten o’clock at night while I was out. Believe me when I say – that was a call worth taking.
In these cases, honesty is the best policy. If the occasional extra hours in the evenings or on the weekend isn’t your jam, then PR mightn’t be for you.
How did you approach an agency for your first job?
In my final year of university I did a lot of research online and on social media to work out which agencies were the most reputable, and of interest to me. A public relations firm is hired to communicate the brand messages of their clients, so the presentation of their own brand is something you should look at.
Once I made a list of the companies I was interested in I sent a speculative CV in the hope of gaining some work experience.
My first internship was at a big time, popular fashion PR firm. This sounds great on paper however I found my days filled with filing returns (organising and logging the returns of designer clothes to and from clients). I knew pretty quickly that fashion PR wasn’t for me.
That being said, I learnt the valuable lesson that PR is NOT about glamour and events. As much as popular culture would like to pretend.
This experience shaped my decision to work in a company with a larger portfolio (with largely non-fashion clients). My internship required one day a week but by the end of my degree I’d been given a part time job. Eight years later and I’m still there!
What is your role today?
I am a Senior PR consultant in a boutique PR firm. We are a multi-function agency with a client base spanning from Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) to lifestyle products. My role varies from client to client and media relations, while fundamental, is only a small part of what I do. More so, I work to develop high impact campaigns, devise long term strategies and contribute to business development for my clients. I think many people think that PR is simply raising awareness, when really you need to go well beyond ‘securing coverage’ and aim to add value to the client, by looking at opportunities that will expand their network.
Any advice for young PR grads?
Communication skills are essential but this doesn’t mean that you need to an extrovert, sometimes quite the opposite.
Public relations careers are certainly not all about organising events, though this may appear to be one of the perks of the job. Remember that you won’t be a guest at the party; you’ll be working to ensure that the event is bringing an ROI for the client and asking questions like, “Are the journalists talking to the brand ambassador we have paid to be here?” To succeed in the industry you’ll need an eye for trends, you’ll love research and you’ll be the best organiser that you know.
Ask yourself: Are you analytical, business savvy and are you commercially minded? Can you turn a brand message into sales? If the answer is yes. You might be perfect.
Keen to get started? or is PR not quite right? Check out our job finder.