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Be kind, be curious and be creative! Says Claire Foster, deputy head of news at Direct Line Group

Be kind, be curious and be creative… Claire Foster, deputy head of news at Direct Line Group and vice president of Women in PR, offers words of wisdom about how to succeed in PR in our quick, ten-minute catch up

What did you want to be when you were a teenager?

I think this changed every week when I was at school. My favourite subjects were English, Media and theatre studies. It wasn’t until the second year of my marketing degree when I studied a public relations module. I loved it and asked my dad (who worked in marketing) if he knew anyone at a PR agency that I could gain some work experience in the holidays. I spent my Easter at Tony Jardine’s (former F1 presenter) PR agency in Kingston. It was amazing and I knew I had found the career for me.

Earlier this year, I attended a residential management training course where I undertook a very detailed personality profile, which revealed that I am a ‘striver relator’. In its simplest sense, this means that I am driven by output and focused on getting a job done, whilst doing it through people and relationships. Mine was the only profile in my group that stated that I should work in corporate messaging or marketing.

I already knew that I loved working in PR, but I thought it was amazing that my personality profile conveyed my career so accurately. I think this is why I enjoy mentoring so much – helping other students find their ideal job. I was a mentor at the Girls Talk London event at St Paul’s Cathedral a few weeks ago – trying to sell PR as a profession (alongside doctors, accountants, STEM industries).  I am also helping out at my old school, with career coaching.

Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?

I think she would be very surprised at all the studying and professional development I do. I was not a fan of homework or coursework at school. Yet now I find stretching myself and developing my skills really enjoyable. I’m particularly proud of becoming a CIPR chartered practitioner and the work I do sitting on the PRCA CPD board.

How did you get your first break?

It’s ironic that nepotism that I campaign against now, did get me my first break. When I graduated, I was at the Rally GB wrap party with my dad, in Cardiff, when I was introduced to Wendy Harrison, the MD of HSL, the PR agency my dad was working with at the time. I said hi, I want a job in PR and she told me to send her my CV. Soon after, I joined the agency as a junior account exec.   

What is the best career decision you have made?

From an experience point of view, joining RBS Insurance (which is now Direct Line Group) in 2007.

Any career regrets?

I don’t believe in having regrets. Disappointments or frustrations might lead to something better. If I had taken a different job or career path, I might not have had the opportunity to work on the campaigns or crisis that lead onto winning PRCA’s or Headline Money’s PR Professional of the Year.

Actually, I wish I had joined Women in PR sooner. I have learnt so much from being a member and since joining the committee.

Why Direct Line?

Since my first role at my previous agency, I have worked on personal finance and insurance. To those outside the industry, it may sound dull. Trust me it’s not. One day I could be in my wellies helping customers in a flood, or creating a video with James Martin, recreating Saturday Kitchen for dogs or presenting my burglary campaign findings to the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology.

What are the greatest challenges of your present role?

Fitting everything in. I suffer massively from FOMO but one of my commitments to myself this year, has been to get more sleep and do more exercise. To make this happen, I’ve joined a second gym so I can attend classes with my colleague Chloe French (PRmoment’s young professional of 2017).

What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?

Invest in CPD. Be kind and respectful to everyone. Be curious – is there a better way of doing things? Keep being creative. Pass it on – when you have help from others it might be difficult to pay it back so pay it forward.

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