PR is an integral part of Ireland’s booming business sector, but what is it like to make the move into the industry? Newcomer Hazel Davis reports on some of the lessons learned after six months of agency life.
Since beginning my PR journey, having successfully joined the Cullen Communications team, I have undertaken a crash course on what it takes to make it in the industry. I’ve been lucky enough to glean some pearls of wisdom from those around me, and have had my eyes opened to a few of the misconceptions surrounding PR, a discipline still misunderstood by some.
While working within the sector can be a hugely rewarding experience, with endless opportunities to specialise in areas such as consumer, sport and tech PR, it is not without its challenges. Competition is fierce and coveted roles can be demanding, requiring a special blend of resilience, creativity and technical know-how. So before you make the move, here’s what I’ve learned from my first 6 months working in a PR agency.
PR is a broad church
When interviewing for your first PR role, expect to be asked about your understanding of the industry. Let’s dispel some of those misconceptions by clarifying that PR is not:
- Media relations
I’ve learned that PR runs the gamut of activities and, while it can incorporate some or even all of the above, it can also include (deep breath) event management, lobbying, community and employee relations, promotion, corporate sponsorship, philanthropy, counselling organisational leaders, crisis management, content creation, research, and speech writing. The upshot is, no two days are alike!
Those PR stereotypes are only partially true
From AbFab’s champagne-swilling Patsy and Edina, to The Thick of It’s venomous Malcolm Tucker, pop culture’s representation of PR professionals hasn’t always been the most flattering, or the most accurate. While I can’t say that any of my colleagues come close to the aforementioned characters, I‘ve discovered that something they do have in common is a sense of fun and mischief – a spirit that is essential to getting ahead in the business, where a high value is placed on creative flair. Since beginning in the agency, I have been privy to some of the most creative conversations of my professional life, with members of the team considering new and novel ways to get our clients seen and heard in the media, through original ideas and fresh thinking.
Accelerate your knowledge through further study
Sometimes making the move into a new industry can seem overwhelming, surrounded by colleagues who seem to have an innate knowledge of how things work, and how to get things done. Don’t despair – you can improve your learning trajectory by engaging in a PR programme designed for new starters. The PRII offers a range of programmes for those wishing to upskill.
Not only will you ground your working day in best practice and theory, you will also gain an invaluable opportunity to engage with some of the best PR practitioners in the country, while tapping into a readymade network of likeminded, budding PR professionals. I’m currently undertaking the PRII diploma and finding it useful in more ways than one. Shout out to the class of 2018!
Be curious, ask as many questions as you can
More than once, I’ve found myself asking a question with a seemingly obvious answer, and feeling silly as a result. I’ve learned to live with this discomfort and use it to my advantage. Sometimes asking the most obvious questions can spark a useful idea by bringing a conversation back to basics.
Asking questions is imperative in PR, where you effectively adopt each client’s specific brand messaging in a bid to further their commercial agenda. Teasing things out with the client can help you familiarise yourself with their unique tone of voice, and consider ways to make it even better. Being inquisitive will also ensure you’re up to speed on client developments, and I’ve come to realise that active listening is an invaluable skill when it comes to research and interviewing skills. The old adage ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’ really does prove true here.
If you still think that PR could be for you, just go for it. Start reading up on industry news, work on honing your writing skills, and consider what sort of PR environment might suit you best, either in-house or in an agency setting. Want to know more about working in PR? Read here about what it takes to last the course.
Hazel Davis is an account executive at Cullen Communications, where she works with clients including BSI Information Resilience and Cybersecurity, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and CLS (Complete Laboratory Solutions).