Jo Jamieson, regional director of Berkeley PR, helps businesses in the Thames Valley and London to raise their profiles.

The greatest challenge of her role is deciding how to divide her time, as well as being responsible for motivating a team of nine consultants. She also has the demands of winning new business and answering the needs of at least 15 clients. She says, “As part of the operational management team, there are also decisions to make on recruitment, HR, IT and finance matters. It’s tough to balance all of those things within the working week.”

The recession is a testing time for such a wide range of businesses that it is bound to impact many PR firms, but Jamieson believes it is important that PR consultants remain more buoyant than the economy. She is keen to motivate her own people through training and a realistic attitude: “Of course, there are plenty of ups and downs at such a volatile time. We will lose clients through no fault of our own because a decision is made to cut marketing budgets and, as a team, we must move on and not take those decisions personally.”

As well as the recession, the PR industry is also getting to grips with changes in the media, particularly the rise of social media which is becoming a huge influence. Jamieson says that she herself has changed her reading habits, and although she still enjoys the weekend papers, she rarely picks up a paper or trade magazine during the week, preferring instead to get news and opinion online. She discusses how this is affecting her work: “The journalism and PR sectors are, generally speaking, struggling to work out how this shift will affect them in the long term, but the days of the printed press are undoubtedly numbered. For the PR industry, that means adapting to new methods of communication, and smaller agencies like ours are typically able to react in a more agile fashion. The challenge is ensuring the whole team can adjust to doing things differently which means chucking the textbooks out of the window, and investing time into learning new skills.”

Jamieson was not set on working in the media until she covered PR as part of her degree (she has an honours degree in French and Management Studies from Reading), and this encouraged her to try out the industry, an experiment that turned into a career. Before this, she had considered working as a nurse, but after work experience in a hospital while she was still at school, she decided “I couldn’t cope with either vomit or teenagers en masse”.

As a role model for new entrants into PR, Jamieson is keen to educate future practitioners about the realities of the profession, as she is sometimes exasperated by the queries she receives from some of today’s students. She gives an example: “I received an email from a PR student a couple of weeks ago asking me the following question as part of some research for a dissertation: ‘Could you simply state the title of your occupation, giving one of these roles as your job title: expert prescriber, communication technician, problem-solving facilitator or communications facilitator.’ Utterly baffling.”

This makes Jamieson question why students are not being challenged to think about how social networks can influence purchasing decisions, how publishers will make money in future, and the impact of these issues on the PR industry.

Her first advice to new entrants to PR is to: “read everything you can get your hands on. Start with PR blogs and use blogroll links to explore the PR community. There is a wealth of cumulative advice out there that I wouldn’t even consider trying to summarise, and it’s all free to access.”

Career summary

2006 - present regional director, Berkeley PR

2005-06 account director, Berkeley PR

2004-05 senior account manager, Berkeley PR

2002-04 account manager, Berkeley PR

2002-02 senior account executive, Berkeley PR

1999-2001 senior account executive Lewis PR

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