As part of my course, I had to find myself a year’s placement in Public Relations. It seemed a daunting leap to go from the lecture hall head first into the industry but I felt ready for it.
So in June last year I started work at a PR agency called PrettyGreen. Initially, what really struck me was the quirky nature of the office; they had a big Union Jack fridge, a great open plan layout and the meeting room was furnished with a ping-pong table! So I knew that I’d be in for a great year.
During my first three-weeks I shadowed the previous placement student: Coco. She took me through all the workings of the office and really helped me to hit the ground running. So three-weeks later, I was ready to go it alone.
A typical day for me involved a lot of ‘selling-in’. By this I mean contacting journalists and persuading them to write about our client and their campaign. So between the hours of 10 and 12 then 2 and 4 I would be on the phone, writing emails and chasing leads trying to confirm coverage for our clients.
To do this, you need to be thick-skinned. A lot of journalists will simply not be interested in what you have to say – some might never get back to you – but in the words of Don Lucchesi ‘it’s not personal, it’s only business.’ What makes it all worthwhile is when you see that article, video or picture and knowing you’re the man who facilitated its publishing. It’s seeing it come to fruition that’s what spurs you on.
In between selling-in, I would be organising coverage; that is scanning & screengrabbing, making presentations and filing in Excel. This may sound rather mundane, and at times it is, but these are documents that get sent to the client. It’s tangible proof of what the agency has been doing for them and ultimately why everyone gets paid, so you know it’s vital work. I’d also be attending brainstorms, which were great because you know that if you come up with that golden idea it may get used.
I was also lucky enough to work at some events including Cadbury Spots v Stripes ‘Big City Tours’. This involved getting people to register at the event so that they could take part in the games we had set up in the busy town centres. It was fantastic to travel up to cities like Glasgow and Leeds, not only get a feel how these things run, but also to bond with the team over evening meals, which were really good fun. As was looking after media personnel at Red Bull X-Fighters.
What I really loved about my placement was the buzz in the office. As campaigns gained momentum and the briefs came rolling in, the excitement became contagious. Across the year I was there the size of the agency nearly doubled and it was great to be a part of it.
The downside was just how busy it can be; we’d be working well over our set hours for long periods of time, but it’s just a test of how much you want it; and if working in the creative industries is really what you want, then you’ll ride through the hard times because you know that it’s worth it.
The two pieces of advice I would give to those of you looking to get into the business would be:
First, make your CV stand out. It’s perhaps a little clichéd but nevertheless true. Not only do you need to get as much experience as you can on your CV, you also need to jazz it up to show how enthusiastic you are about the job whilst expressing your personality.
Second, when you get into PR, know how to manage your time. You’ve got to find out how long a task will take and who it’s for so that you can plan your day effectively and utilise your time to the fullest.
Oh and don’t order a strawberry daiquiri in front of the head of marketing for Kraft UK, but that’s another story!
So after a year’s experience in the busy world of PR, would I want to get back into it? Absolutely and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Alex Judd is a final year PR student at Bournemouth University