If you are starved for information in PR, that’s a good thing says Alicia Mellish, founder and managing director of agency Stir PR. In our speedy 10-minute interview she explains why it is good to be hungry for advice and describes how she moved from the City into PR.
What did you want to be when you were a teenager? Would your teenage self be pleased with how your career has panned out?
From the age of seven, I wanted to be a barrister. As the middle child of five, I had a strong sense of justice and learnt the benefit of being able to construct a persuasive argument for why I should be allowed to do outlandish things and the expedient advantage of developing a strong defence when I was caught doing things I shouldn’t.
I suppose I have put my powers of persuasion to good use in the world of PR (although there is still a little of the Alicia Florrik [aka The Good Wife] in me).
What made you choose a career in PR and how did you get your first break?
I found myself, rather unimaginatively, working in the City after University, at consultancy PwC. Instead of going down the audit route, I managed to persuade the partner I worked for to carve me out a marketing role within the department. It was whilst doing my wine and spirit education training in my spare time that I decided I wanted to get into food and drink and so I looked for marketing opportunities within that sector. Amongst my contacts was MD of Phipps PR, Nicky Forrest. I applied for a role as a junior account exec, taking a massive pay cut (to my mother’s disgust) and the rest is history. My mum has since eaten her words.
Why food and drink? And why Stir PR?
Life is short and food and drink is one of life’s simple pleasures. Why wouldn’t you want to work in the category? We are now broadening our client base at Stir PR, focusing on selling our approach, Think Beyond, to clients rather than a list of brands we have previously worked with.
Have you got any regrets about any decisions you have made?
In the words of Lewis Caroll, “In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”, and I am happy that I have jumped upon every chance that has presented itself to me. Stir wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t.
What have been your career highlights?
There are always highs and lows, but what has been achieved at Stir over the last five years is my career highlight (to date)! From starting out as a wide-eyed account manager (equivalent), with a laptop and one client, Stir is now a successful agency, driven by a talented team and has turned over in excess of £1million for the last two years.
What are the particular challenges of your present role?
My current challenge is divesting control of the day-to-day running of Stir to the team as the business shifts from an entrepreneurial structure to a mid-sized professionally structured agency. I am a notorious control freak, but the team are MORE than capable.
What advice would you give anyone starting out in PR?
Be hungry, be enthusiastic, soak up as much advice and collect as many contacts as possible. Your network and your ability to influence is what sets you and your industry apart from the other marketing disciplines.
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.