So you want to work in PR?
I’ve just got back from a talk run by Manchester Media Club which introduced students to career options in PR. The session was run by by Claire Boyd who works as an Account Director at Havas PR‘s Manchester office. This is not the first time Havas have been mentioned on the blog – The very first A Closer Look profile saw Oonagh Spence kindly offer insight into her role as a Senior Account Manager in the Manchester office, whilst I also took a more global look at the company when I summarised Marian Salzman’s talk at The Media Guardian’s Changing Advertising Summit. I guess you could say I’ve been giving them some pretty good PR myself.
Claire’s talk was hugely interesting and covered so many aspects of the industry from CV tips to the types of questions asked in interviews. I thought this information was too helpful to keep to myself so I thought I’d summarise some of the key points here for others who might be interested.
What’s the difference between in-house and agency roles?
In-house roles are generally within smaller teams, they find it harder to get budget as other departments are also fighting for funds, the hours are possibly better and the initial wage might be higher. Agency work, on the other hand, can be a bit more stressful but offers more room for progression to more senior roles within the company.
What’s a daily objective when working in PR?
To gain positive, relevant coverage and word of mouth discussions on behalf of your client/brand. Also of note is the fact that PR is considered three times more effective than advertising but obviously there’s no guarantee you’ll get any coverage.
What are the key skills required in the industry?
Teamwork, ability to write well, good presentation skills, enthusiasm, evidence of being a self-starter, project management, social media savvy, budget management and time management.
What tips did Claire have for CV writing?
Put your work experience first – she’ll briefly check your education, but cares far more about work experience. Include a personal profile which you adapt for every role you apply for – and make sure you tailor your covering letter for every role too. And in your email you should ensure to answer why you want to work for that particular company. Claire also commented that her MD (Brian Beech) is also partial to a hand-written letter as it will get you noticed.
Research is key. Know everything you can about the company, the people, clients, the position and market activity. Oh, and take particular care in being well-mannered to the receptionist – they have the power to make or break you. All the usual body language and eye contact rules apply. And remember you have two ears and one mouth for a reason – use them in the respective ratio. One last thing, when it comes to ‘Any Questions?’ at the end of the interview, have some sensible questions prepared. Don’t, on any accounts, ask “Are there any single men in the office?”.
Read industry titles (You should know them – The Drum, PR Week, Marketing…) and watch BBC Breakfast the morning of an interview. After an interview, you should always follow up with a Thank You note and persistence pays off.
What’s the best route into PR?
Claire definitely didn’t seem overly keen on paying to get a Masters – a PR degree can never replace experience. Havas offers two week unpaid work placements in all their UK offices (London, Manchester and Edinburgh) and these are a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and make a good impression.
There were so many other great points raised in the talk but it definitely seems as though experience and research are key to securing your first PR job. Many thanks to Claire Boyd for offering such detailed insight and to Manchester Media Club for running the session.