Breaking into PR with the PRCA

This is an article by Emilie Sillett.
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Manchester Metropolitan University

Manchester Metropolitan University

Last week three second year students from Leeds Met travelled to Manchester to attend a PRCA conference which aimed to clarify exactly what PR is, what type of career it was, and why exactly we would want to do it for the rest of our lives.

We were welcomed by Sandy Lindsay, who is Group Managing Director at Tangerine PR, a consultancy that won gold at the CIPR pride awards in 2011.

The first official lecture of the day, “What is PR?”, presented by Alison Owen, Head of PR at BDB outlined the definitions of PR, and what to expect on a day-to-day basis within B2B PR. Alison looked at PR as “safeguarding reputation”, as with the accessibility of information and social networking these days, a reputation can be damaged instantaneously as a digital fingerprint can never be erased.

Next up on the itinerary was a discussion from the Frontline Group Panel, made up of Jenny Mason (Senior account manager at BDB), Claire Gamble (Account Manager at Tangerine PR) and Lizzie Wood (Account Executive at Fourth Day). It was interesting to hear from these three women, as none of them had intended to get into PR. Their degrees ranged from History to English Literature, and it was only through work experience that they stumbled upon PR and discovered that they thrived in a creative and demanding environment that PR has to offer.

Each of the Frontline panel gave us their story and then sat back and opened up the floor to the audience. They answered any questions we had for them and helped us to envisage what our day-to-day life would be like when we begin working in PR. They also gave us some fantastic advice on how to get work experience and ultimately a job.

They couldn’t express enough just how important it is to pick up the phone and talk to people instead of just firing off random, impersonal emails.

We don’t use TV as much as we should

Just before lunch, we had a lecture with Julian Fisher, Head of Media Output at markettiers4dc, and he showed us what made up the global broadcast landscape, how it has developed and how we can harness it. From him we learnt about the development of rolling news channels and the focus of each one. He also showed us how PR can take advantage of broadcast, as at the moment, although TV is the best way of getting information across to consumers, PRs don’t use it as much as they should, with only 13% of PR budgets being spent on TV.

Julian Fisher, Head of Media Output, Markettiers4dc speaking on the day (photo via @LeoFedorcio)

Julian Fisher, Head of Media Output, Markettiers4dc speaking on the day (photo via @LeoFedorcio)

After a delicious selection of sandwiches and plenty more cups of tea, we looked at some award-winning PR campaigns, first from Rod Cook at Derbyshire County Council. His campaign objectives were to raise awareness of the needs for foster parents, and the benefits of becoming a foster parent.

Secondly, we heard from Sarah Twyman and Seb Thompson from Weber Shandwick who showed us their awareness-raising campaign for Welsh lamb. These were two very different campaigns and gave us some great insights into how creativity is an vital trait in the PR industry.

Dear Mr Brain Leech

The final talk was from Brian Beech, Managing Director at Havas PR UK and Cheryl Bennet at Pelican PR. Brian was very funny, he showed us some examples of some really bad generic job application emails he had been sent, highlighting the importance of proof-reading (beginning an email with “Dear Mr Brain Leech” doesn’t go down too well apparently!) and also the importance of researching each company you apply to thoroughly.

Cheryl told us about how she was in charge of the interview process and let us know about how an interviewer makes their decisions. Looking at the interview process from the other side was extremely informative and was a real help in learning how to present yourself in an interview.

Overall, the Breaking into PR conference at Manchester Metropolitan Uni was a real help in clarifying where PR can take me in the future and how it contributes to businesses worldwide. I think that after this conference I am more focussed on getting that work experience which will, in the end, help me get a job I really want that helps my career in PR.


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