“Be creative, think differently, and take risks, but don’t take it too much to heart when an idea doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean that it was a bad idea”, says Simon Kelman, head of PR and marketing at internet specialist, Online Tech Group and founder of agency Slap PR.
Kelman believes that there is a percentage of luck when it comes to selling in the perfect story. He says that another lesson he has learnt from his career is to know your limits: “Know what you can achieve and push yourself to do it, but don’t overburden yourself.” And his final piece of advice is: “Keep perspective.” He adds, “I think we can all lose perspective, and if you can hold on it in the most stressful of times you will find it the greatest strength.”
Describing how he ended up in PR, Kelman admits that it wasn’t his first career choice: “When I was a teenager I had the lowly aspirations of either becoming a rock star, lawyer or prime minister – the good thing about what I do is it combines some of the good parts of those jobs. I think my teenage self would be happy that I can still turn up to work in jeans rather than a suit and I can be creative rather than following the crowd.”
In the end, a career in communications seemed the perfect fit, as Kelman describes himself as a creative thinker who enjoys putting across a message or a point of view and influencing the perception of people and brands: “There is nothing like the buzz you get when you see you have changed a customer’s mind about a brand, or when you come up with an idea that becomes part of the zeitgeist.”
Kelman managed to get an early start in the industry, thanks to a friend: “I was lucky in getting my first break; whist I was at university studying marketing and law, a friend approached me looking for someone to do his digital marketing and communications and he felt I fitted the bill (I was cheap). What it did give me was valuable, practical experience of what I was studying in lectures, and the ability to apply my own ideas to the role. Being able to gain experience in digital communications when it was in its infancy was a fantastic opportunity.”
Discussing how he started Slap PR, Kelman says that its key principles are summed up by its name: “Strategic, Logical, Adaptable, and Personal Public Relations.” He said he wanted to set up an alternative to the bigger agencies, “which send the major players to pitch and once they have the business, farm it down to interns and only play an active role when there is a problem.”
Summing up his career, Kelman says that his only regrets are the risks he hasn’t taken: “Everything I have done in my mixed career, from working for airlines to working in politics, has led to where I am now, I don’t feel I have ever taken a wrong turn. However, I regret the risks I didn’t take – not the ones I have taken. I will always see a great piece of PR or a stunt that knocks me sideways and it will push me to become more creative, which is probably my favourite thing about working in communications – the fact I get to work with other fantastically creative and brilliant thinkers who help to keep the industry fresh.”
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