We sat down with a Public Relations (PR) professional to get the straight skinny on PR.
Is it spin doctoring? Is it events and cocktail dresses? We’ve got to know!
FN: Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the PR industry, particularly addressing the misconceptions of the industry?
I think there is still a common misconception that PR is all about ‘spin’ and manipulating the minds of the masses, whereas really what PR’s all about is managing the reputation of our clients and ensuring they are presented in the best possible light at all times. PR also concerns how brands and businesses connect with their audiences, creating conversations that help to build brand awareness and credibility. It’s such a multi-faceted industry and there’s never a shortage of things to do, as our work spans across traditional media, digital media, social media, face-to-face activations and all forms of communication.
FN: What skills should hopeful PR grads be equip with before they enter the industry?
PR has never been such a competitive field to break into, so in order to get a foothold in the industry, I would recommend learning skills that will make you more valuable to your future employers. As we continue to move into the digital world, I am always on the lookout for grads who possess skills spanning WordPress, website coding, Photoshop editing and photography, as well as a keen grasp of written and verbal communications.
FN:Was there anything that you were exposed to in your early years of work that only ‘experience could teach’?
University is important, but no amount of study can prepare you for the practical experience you will learn on the job. If you are currently undertaking your course, try to find part-time office work in an agency or professional environment rather than café work, to help equip you with the skills you will need once employed later on and create a stronger resume down the track.
FN: In your early days as a junior in any business, it can be a challenge to get your name out there as a reputable employee, any tips?
Always be courteous and friendly in all manner of communication – be it emailing, face-to-face meetings, phone conversations etc. People move around from job to job and you never know where they will pop up next…the people you work with may become future employers or colleagues one day, and your relationship with them at their former posting may mean the difference between a winning recommendation or negative criticism.
FN: More specifically, as a director, what does your role entail, from generating new business, managing accounts and executing campaigns?
Sometimes I joke that as the director my role encompasses everything from HR to Janitor!
There is really nothing that I am not across, from business accounting and business development to managing events, strategy direction and media pitching. I still take an active role with our clients so I am always attending client meetings and managing key accounts as well. There is never a dull moment and certainly never enough hours in the day.
FN: Can you tell us where you started?
When I finished university I still didn’t have much of an idea about PR or what it entailed, and I knew I would be competing against thousands of other hopefuls for account coordinator positions, so instead I took a different approach, and applied for receptionist roles within PR firms. I found a position at a boutique firm and never looked back – I quickly hit the ground running and was able to assist the team with all of their clients which helped fast-track my skills.
Over the next few years I worked my way up to become an account manager and four years ago I started Papermill Media.
FN: There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to working in a boutique agency (especially as a graduate), could you talk to us about these?
I really only see advantages of starting out at a small agency. In a boutique environment, all hands are needed and there’s more scope to learn and take on more responsibility. It’s a fast-paced environment so there’s never a shortage of campaigns running and I believe there’s more room for progression as your skills improve.
FN: In a smaller company do you get a chance to work more closely with the creative team and programmers?
I think it depends on the industry you’re in but in my experience, I learnt more in the first 6 months of my first PR job what I could only dream of learning in 2 years at a larger agency.
You would receive hundreds of resumes every month from students and graduates hoping to carve out a career in PR, would you be able share any tips on what stands out in a resume and what agencies are looking for in a candidate.
Yes, first and foremost, pitch the skills you have that no-one else would. I’m more interested in whether you’re proficient in blogging rather than what subjects you learnt at Uni, and whether you’ve managed social media campaigns in your spare time rather than what café you worked at part-time.
Also practical examples of your work speak volumes.
FN: And finally, is there anything that you wish you knew?
I came out of uni at a different time, when Facebook was only in its infancy and Instagram didn’t exist. Now, everyone is able to create a portfolio of work on social media, so my advice would be – curate a blog, or an Instagram account, or a Pinterest page, as it showcases your skills in this area and can help set you apart from all the other graduates vying for your job.
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