Arriving at the Edelman offices in London, I felt like I was in a film. With glossy floors and high ceilings this was exactly how I expected a major PR consultancy office to be.
This was the venue for Bright One’s Impress London event. Organised by Ben Matthews, its aim was to take an in-depth look at what’s really going on in the PR industry and advise how you can become a part of it.
Ali Gee, Head of Planning at Edelman was first to take to the front after the welcome refreshments. She emphasised the need to make sure that your clients loved you. We gained valuable advice about how she felt PR had changed since she started her career and explored the changing role of the media because of consumers becoming increasingly media savvy. And with a professional career that included working at 3 Monkeys, Bell Pottinger and now Edelman she was definitely one to listen to.
Round one: PR versus journalism
There was then a panel session based on ‘Working with Journalists’, the old PR v journalism debate.
Stefan Stern, a former Financial Times columnist, started proceedings. He made the transition from journalist to PR so was well qualified to advise us how to build relationships. He acknowledged that PR professionals and journalists co-created news and that real news was still ‘something that someone somewhere doesn’t want you to know about.’
Nicole Eisele of Hotwire PR emphasised the differences when working on a pan-European stage, noting differences in media channels and that you have to ensure you make your news relevant for each journalist.
Steve Ballinger from Amnesty International also focused on media relations and acknowledged that many people still got the basics wrong. He also made the point that being in the news kept you in the news therefore emphasising the role of a well structured, consistent PR plan.
Brainstorming and careers sessions
After filling our faces on pastries and fruit we were back into the Brightone break out session, which gave us a chance to work in groups and brainstorm ideas for real life case studies. It was brilliant to be able to interact with the other people who were there and get thrown into groups to produce some ideas.
Sarah Stimson from Unicornjobs.com was there to lend a helping hand and offer advice on CV’s and interviews, crucial for me as I will be applying for jobs in the near future. We were told that there are often 60 applicants for each graduate scheme so competition is fierce. The underlying theme however is to be polite, enthusiastic and to have a real passion for your subject.
Importance of social media
Social media was a phrase that was referred to all day, along with the importance of being au fait with it before we began our careers in PR.
Rob Dyson from Whizz Kids used real life examples from his work to show the importance of engaging with people on social platforms and not just broadcasting to them. He also shared with us that he integrates all the work he does on social networking sites to make sure he presents a cohesive image.
Chris Reed, managing partner at Brew told us of the difference when pitching to bloggers and gave us the ‘WIIIFM’ test – ‘What is in it for me?’, the test that people ask when given new information.
He left quoting the phrase ‘be excellent to each other’, something not just PR professionals could benefit from but society as a whole.
Stephen Davies then took to the floor and told us all to PR ourselves to make sure that we get the career we want. He then used the phrase that would be quickly become the quote of the day for me. ‘You have to have the eye of the tiger…’ Indeed yes, he did quote Rocky!
And community management
Community management is an emerging sector within communications, with more and more brands realising they have to engage with their relevant community all the time, not just when they want to sell them something.
Rob Hinchcliffe told us that community managers used to sit and referee the ‘unwashed masses posting comments on websites’. Now they sit at the middle of the business and integrate all the elements to make sure that the campaign suits their community.
Jaz Cummins from the Guardian used the phrase ‘mutualism’, which is when readers part own the paper and when their comments are classed as content.
Nicola Jones came up with a good analogy: ‘community managers are the host of the party, they invite the right people who all have something in common and make sure they are having a good time.’
Organiser and Founder of Bright One, Ben Matthews then took to the front holding his red Moleskine notepad. He emphasised the need to be passionate and align your values with that of the brands you are working for. You have to become your business in order to represent it effectively.
‘Your career starts before your first job’ was the other phrase of the day that really rang true with me.
Ben was pleased with how the event went when I caught up with him afterwards. “It was fantastic to see around 100 people from a mixture of PR backgrounds attend and speaking to them after the event it was clear that they all got something out of the day. At Bright One, we’re always keen to give something back to students and help them transition into the PR industry – after all it wasn’t that long ago that I was in the same position as you. I’d like to thank all of the speakers who gave up their time to come down to the event, as well as Edelman and Unicorn Jobs for all their support and helping us get the event off the ground. Here’s to next year!”
Ben is to me a real inspiration – a shining example of what you can achieve if you put your mind to it. The fact that he set up Bright One to give something back is truly selfless and I wish him every success. The event offered a chance to interact with people who are working within the sector and who are enjoying it as much as I hope to. The final six months for me at university will be extremely busy but now I have even more of a focus and my dream job is within touching distance.
If you want to follow the speakers on Twitter, these are their details:
Photographs of the event from Bright One’s Impress London photostream on Flickr, used with permission.