I hope you’re all having a good start to the week. I’m kicking off the week with a new Career Inspiration interview. For those of you who’re new to Career Inspiration, the aim of these interviews is to help people looking for career ideas, a career change or simply an insight into what others do.
It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always loved finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. I hope you enjoy today’s interview with Claire, a PR Account Manager in Nottingham.
What did you study at university and why?
I was never one of those girls who knew what they wanted to do. While my friends were destined to be doctors, I just decided to do what I enjoyed (Geography) and not think about it too much more.
How did you go from studying Geography to working in PR?
I know it’s something of a leap! I knew that to stand out among the other thousands of students graduating just after the recession, I needed work experience. I organised a 6 week placement at a housing association and got involved with their events team who worked with stakeholders and the general public. On the most basic level, I really enjoyed talking to people and the adrenaline of an event, and that’s how I met my boss, who was offering PR support on the day. After my first placement had finished, I badgered him for an internship.
Do you think internships or work experience are important within your field?
Absolutely. The truth is that you don’t need to do a media degree to do PR. It’s very much the kind of job you learn as you go on, and as long as you’re a strong writer, are confident and have bags of imagination – that’s the best starting point you can ask for.
Please could you tell us what the role of a PR Executive involves?
A PR executive or assistant works on much of the “ground work” on any account. They’re usually in a supporting role overseen by account managers and directors, and are responsible for many of the day-to-day tasks. This might include building media lists, drafting press releases, a hell of a lot of research, and event support. There’s also a lot of admin involved, so things like gathering coverage, putting together reports, and monitoring social media usually features.
What do you enjoy most about working in PR?
It’s the variety. If you’re in an agency like me, your clients vary hugely. I work on a kids’ clothing store, a stately home, and a freight network – it can’t get much more broad than that! You never know what each day is going to bring, and the pressure to succeed is addictive.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
Proving myself. PR is an industry dominated by women, but working with male clients. Wallflowers have to buck up pretty sharp and prove they are worth their position.
What is a typical workday like?
I’ll get in around 8.30, make a cup of coffee, and check my emails. I’ll monitor for any urgent client coverage or national stories that any of my clients can comment on. Then, I’ll look at my plan for the week ahead (being organised is an absolute MUST as a PR) and get started on writing releases and features, or ringing journalists to pitch finished ideas over the phone. One day a week we have mini status meetings where each account team catches up on what we’ve done each week, and usually a couple of times a week we have to pitch for new work, which demands writing tender proposals and brainstorming for new campaign ideas.
Has your blog, The Jazz pad, played a part in your career?
Definitely! It has been the “extra-curricular” addition to my CV, and has naturally taught me a lot about social media and blogger outreach. I see PRs on both sides of the coin now, and know what works, and what doesn’t.
What keeps you motivated?
An old boss once told me some people are pushed by reward and a pat on the back, and others are motivated by the fear of failure. Personally, I don’t believe you can separate people into two camps quite so easily, but I like working hard and getting great results for my clients.
What advice would you give to others thinking of a career in PR?
Talk to some PRs on Twitter and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Follow some PR blogs (I Work in PR and Ragan) are both hilarious and excellent, and approach agencies to see if they offer work experience. Even if it’s just for a couple of weeks, anything is better than nothing, and it’ll give you a great insight into how PRs actually work. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s a lot easier to get into inhouse (working for one client) from an agency than the other way around, so start in an agency and learn as much as you can – even if there’s one big brand you want to aim for.
What direction do you hope to take your career in 2015?
I’d like to carry on learning from my very excellent agency team. Apart from that, I’m determined to have fun, work hard, and who knows, maybe own my own agency one day!
Thank you so much to Claire for taking part in this interview and I wish her the best of luck in 2015. This interview shows that internships can have a huge impact on your career direction. You can find Claire over on her blog, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.
If you would like to take part in my Career Inspiration series then drop me a message on Twitter.