The Monday Interview - "So, what's it really like working as a... PR?"

press release

Welcome to this week’s ‘The Monday Interview’.

I’ve got an excellent interview today and I’m really excited to be bringing it to you, as I know just how popular this career choice is.

There is no doubt that to many people PR has a very glamorous image and this must be a major contributing factor in its popularity. But it’s not all about Ab Fab and representing celebrity clients. The majority of PRs will be working for corporate clients or employers and, as such, need to be abreast with developments in the business world. There is a serious side to the work of a PR which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Anna has been working in the industry for a while now and her clients are largely professional services and technology companies. Her route into the profession is slightly a-typical in that she was a relatively late joiner, having first developed many of the required skills through a number of previous careers. But even so, it was a 5 month PR internship opportunity which really gave her the experience she needed to break into this competitive industry.

In Anna’s interview she is keen to point out that whilst there is a large social aspect to the job, you need more than social skills alone to be successful in this field. And for any of you reading this who may be budding PRs of the future, Anna offers great advice on how to stand out from your competitors.

Thanks so much, Anna, for your great contribution.


So, briefly, what is your job?

“PR Account Manager at Kelso Consulting.

I work in a public relations agency that looks after B2B clients mainly in the professional services and technology sectors. My job is to get our clients into the press and help them use their coverage for marketing and business development.

As Account Manager I look after several clients, I am responsible for coming up with ideas for articles, press releases and themes to talk about. I have to identify potential areas for coverage and pitch my clients to them. I also handle the day to day communication to the clients and journalists.

Additionally, I help our company with networking & business development.”

How did you get into it?

“I came quite late into PR (aged 31), through a route of computing, project management then wedding photography (my own business) to end up where I am now!

For PR it’s important to have strong communication skills - verbal and written (and be confident with them). I had acquired most of these skills along the way: I learnt client management and how to communicate to clients while a project manager. Then in wedding photography there was a large portion of communication with the wedding couple and the guests, both before and after the wedding.

Running your own business gives you a lot of organisation skills, plus I had to create a lot of paperwork and such things as blog postings and website copy, which helped boost my writing skills. So even if you’ve not got a PR or equivalent qualification you may still have skills that fit.

PR is quite hard to get in to and even with all my previous skills that I had I ended up doing an internship in-house PR for an e-commerce company for 5 months as most PR jobs/agencies won’t often hire anyone without PR experience. I found it a difficult industry to get in to. The best advice I can give is to be very determined and make your CV stand out - mine had a cartoon, a pie chart and is very graphical, which helped me get the job I’m in now. After 5 months of internship I applied to my current job and got it as I’d built up enough PR skills and knowledge to be able to prove I could do the job.”

Describe a typical day.

“First job of the day is for all of us to read the papers; it’s actually part of my contract to read the paper every day. We need to know what is happening in the world and if any relevant stories appear we can get our clients involved. Whilst reading the papers we look for any coverage we’re expecting, scan the article and send it to the client then put the original in our coverage files for record.

After that we normally read our emails and have a catch-up with the team and discuss what we need to do/have planned. I’ll often give my Account Executive a list of tasks and find out what else he is up to.

If we’re sending out a press release for a client this is normally done fairly early in the day. So we would give the release one final check, have another look at our list of publications and then send the release out to them. Sometimes we email the release, sometimes we call journalists first.

We often do a forward features and events search during the day to see what publications will be talking about in the future and what news events will be coming up, we then have to come up with ideas of how our clients will fit into these.

Throughout the day we often call and email the journalists we’re dealing with about press releases or articles in order to get more information to them.

We write a lot in our profession, so while everything else is going on we’re often writing press releases, articles and comments or editing and proof reading them.

After work we can often be seen going to a networking event, embarking on some business development or at a briefing in which a publication will give a talk to a room full of PRs on how they work, what they are currently looking for and best ways to get our clients with them.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“The variety of the job is the best thing. We can be writing a heavy-weight legal article one minute or chatting with a journalist over lunch the next.

There is a large social aspect to the job whether it’s via email, the phone or in person so you get to speak to lots of interesting people.

Also in an agency working with different clients gives you a great perspective on so many professions and what’s going on in their industries at the moment.”

And the least?

“The hours. At our agency it’s not too bad as we don’t start or finish too late, but if you go to a networking event before or after work then it can be tiring. Many PR agencies, particularly the big ones really make people work such long hours and it can be very draining.”

What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?

“Yes, when you mention you are a PR people often grimace! They see PRs as pushy, annoying people that are to be avoided. Now, I will admit that there are some PRs that are like that, but really there are many lovely PRs like us that are very reasonable, intelligent people that just get things done and build quality relationships with clients and journalists.

The other misconception is that PRs are all vapid airheads! Yes, once again there are a few - like in any profession there are a few of every personality. But if you’re writing an article on a new act in the German legal system like I was today, or on Quantitative Easing like my colleague then I think you’ll find that a good few of us have a decent brain in our heads.”

What are the main skills you need to work as a PR?

“Communication abilities - writing and speaking, be very organised, good at multi-tasking (as we swap between several very varied jobs during the day), a good knowledge of the industry you want to PR in (or be willing to learn it).”

Tell us a little about the benefits that come with the job.

“PR can be well paid as you move up the career ladder, it takes a while but if you’re good you can get there. You’ll never earn as much as some professions as it’s what I call one of the ‘desirable’ jobs which lots of people want to do, which often keeps wages low.

We enjoy a lot of dinners, coffees and drinks out which are paid for by our company or the client depending on the circumstances. This can be great fun.

Our agency offers lots of training and opportunities to learn which is fantastic for moving yourself up the ladder and just generally boosting your skills.”

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?

“PR is very hard to get in to - you’ll find London agencies the hardest to get into as that’s where all the PRs want to be. London is a haven for PR as most of the publications and journalists are there.

Even if you’ve done a PR degree you’ll probably still need to do an internship - these can be low paid, anything from minimum wage to zero pay. But you should learn a lot in one of these and get enough skills to get a full paying job. When doing an internship make sure you are involved in PR and you’re not just making the tea - you need to learn skills whilst you’re doing it otherwise it’s not worth doing. If they’re not getting you involved in the PR work then just get yourself involved.

Also when applying for internships or jobs in a popular career like PR you need to make yourself stand out. This can either be on your CV by making it look different from everyone else, or perhaps going one step further and make a video CV or even write your CV on a cake and send that to the company - I’ve seen so many outrageous ways people have tried to get a job in PR and it often works as it’s shows you are creative and determined.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

“I would like to be an Account Director, whether employed by someone or freelance. I like being at a small agency and so hopefully I’ll be able to stay at one as I advance up the career ladder.

I’m looking forward to being in PR in 10 years’ time where I will have confidence to fully create and lead Public Relations campaigns and have a team of bright PRs to help me do so.”

AND JUST FOR FUN…

First in the office or last to leave?

“Last to leave, there’s always just that ‘one last thing’ I want to do before I go home.”

Tea or coffee?

“Fizzy pop all the way.”

Staff canteen or packed lunch?

“We often swan down to the local bakery or sushi restaurant?”

The lift or the stairs?

“Stairs - they make my flabby bottom just that little bit less flabby :)”

Out after work or straight home to bed?

“Bit of both, I like a good cocktail after work but I’m also enjoying watching Netflix in bed at the moment!”


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