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How I found my career in PR (or how it found me!)

Public relations offers the possibility of a brilliant career, as you all know, but there are many job seekers out there who aren’t sure what, exactly, PR is. Here PRs describe how they found their way into the industry, or in some cases, how the industry found them.

A school careers advisor put me on track

Amy Bendall, managing director at agency Pier Marketing: “PR found me and I found it thanks to some good advice from my school careers advisor. ‘What do you like doing and what are you good at?’ she asked. ‘Writing, talking, media’ was my honest response, and she asked me if I knew what PR was. This was the year 2000 and the information box on PR in the school library careers section had just one sheet of paper in it. I got lucky and bagged some work experience at a big company’s PR team thanks to a contact from my teacher and never looked back. Making the decision to do a public relations degree felt like a big step, but ultimately the right one. PR has been everything I’ve hoped for and more. Diverse, exciting and challenging, I still love it, and when my friends call me a PR nerd I take the compliment!”

I found comms after job hopping

Courtney Grover, account manager at PR agency Kindred: “I didn’t choose to work in PR. In fact, I doubt 18-year-old me would have known what PR is, let alone aspire to be in the industry.

“When I left university I tried my hand at various jobs - recruitment, teaching, marketing. I even tried to make it as a police officer. Throughout my search I always had one goal in mind - to help others and be part of work that matters.

“After 18 months of job-hopping, I discovered comms and have been there ever since. The past three years have taught me a lot, and during that time I ended up at Kindred. Now, I get to work on campaigns that make a genuine difference in the world. From protecting pensioners against scammers, to inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists - every day is different, and I love that about PR.”

It was a good fit for me

Nour Hashem, founder and MD of comms agency Nour Hashem Consulting: “I chose to work in PR as it seemed a fitting path for me, I get to wake up and live by my career passions daily - whether brainstorming campaigns and trying to push creative boundaries for unique print media, broadcast or digital coverage. Learning of new trends early on is a great perk of the job, the opportunity to tell my client’s story to the rest of the world really excites me, especially when it’s a great story to tell. And, a huge aspect has to be having absolutely no limitations as to what I can achieve in one day.

“PR has been everything I expected, at the same time it’s a fast-paced industry which makes it hard to know what to expect. Every day is a work out for the brain; we put our thinking caps on supporting our clients, partners and colleagues. I find it easy to adapt to new situations and absorbing the latest technology - which certainly helps with the ever-changing digital media and tools we have around us.”

I moved from journalism

Richard Bailey, editor of PR Place Insights at PR Academy and university lecturer: “Mine is a conventional narrative. I was struggling to pay my rent and fund my season ticket as a technology journalist, and it looked like my tech PR contacts earned more and seemingly did less. So I joined them - and then learnt that there's more to public relations than talking to journalists.

“But there's a hidden narrative. As a history undergraduate, I'd studied the reinvention of the monarchy in the reign of Queen Victoria taught by the brilliant Dr David Cannadine. This was never once called public relations at the time, but I now see that's what I had been studying. It feels good to remember this in a historic platinum jubilee year.

“I now teach public relations, and it's challenging to describe a practice that is on the one hand so seemingly easy and banal - and which is also so powerful and pervasive (elusive too).”

I did a journalism degree

Angharad Planells, head of business development and culture at agency “When I was eight years old I knew I wanted to be a journalist (specifically a war reporter after watching an ITV News piece on the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda). I stubbornly followed that path until the age of 22 when I went after my first job in PR after completing a degree in broadcast journalism and some stints in radio news. For me, the impact great storytelling can have on people is the reason both journalism and PR appeal to me as a career. Stories and how we share them have shaped our society for generations, and it’s a privilege to work in a career that has that power. It’s shocking to me that I hadn’t heard of PR from careers advisors in school, and much more needs to be done to attract people early on to our wide, varied, and exciting industry. At Radioactive we address this by offering standalone work experience and mentorship during school holidays, both locally and further afield, alongside our ties with the University of Gloucestershire Undergrad and Masters programmes, and apprenticeships. My career might not look how I thought it would when I was eight (to my Mum’s relief!) but it’s genuinely brought me a lot of challenges, variety, and without being too cheesy, joy. In my current role I’m excited to help others excel in and enjoy their own comms careers and build something meaningful.”

I did a PR degree

Jessica Pardoe, account manager at agency Source PR: “For me, I didn’t even know what PR was until I started looking at universities (PR’s classic PR problem!) but I chose to study it because I thought the course sounded good, I liked the practical elements and the lure of a small class stood out to me. All these years later and I never looked back. I quickly fell in love with the subject and did a number of internships whilst studying, I then went straight into working PR and the rest, as they say, is history! I do think PR, or at least an element of it, should be included within school curriculums as it’s an affluent career prospect for students, but sadly, it seems so few pupils at school/sixth form or college level even recognise the practice! Most people I know in PR have come through from a journalism background, which is also great but shows how the option to study and work in this field isn’t obvious at the points where it should be.”

My love of writing led me to it

George Driscoll, digital PR consultant at agency Root Digital: “At the end of my English degree, I started as a social media intern who then moved into SEO as I loved writing. Through that agency, I was exposed to digital PR and realised I could use my search marketing experience in something that I found to be more creative.

“March 2022 saw me hit my five-year mark and looking back, I definitely didn't expect to enjoy the juggling of clients and topics as much as I do. Reading reports into supply chain issues then the latest in dermatology keeps me engaged. In the grand scheme of things, I'm still early in my career, but it's exciting to be a part of the PR industry continuing to thrive during the ongoing digital boom.”

I fell into it

Sarah Lloyd, founder of agency IndigoSoulPR “I was originally a secretary in a medical department, and the head nurse said one day, you would be perfect in PR! I had no clue what PR meant back then, but I found myself a sales job which fell through at the last minute. Because I had handed my notice in at the medical department I found myself having to get a temp role. The first job I got was temping in the press office for British Aerospace, stuffing envelopes, cutting out press coverage and faxing press releases. It was there I fell in love with the idea of storytelling and understood the power that one press release could have it if landed in the right hands. I have been in the PR business now for 24 years, and now own my own PR company, that said I never tire of seeing my clients appear in print.”

Becky Stead, digital PR specialist at marketing agency 43 Clicks North: “Funnily enough I sort of fell into PR - it really wasn't my career of choice when I started in digital marketing. My degree allowed me to produce films, TV, radio, journalism so when I came into 43 Clicks North I came in to be a videographer/photographer.

“We were a small agency, I helped out where needed, mainly within the SEO department and grew my talents for link building. I also assisted with writing press releases, due to my A levels in English, which is where my PR career started.

“I loved writing. I loved communicating with others. I loved the creativity of coming up with ideas and the production of turning them into campaigns. From there, my videography career got pushed to one side, and I took on the challenge of producing a PR department within 43 Clicks North, producing multi-level campaigns to build brand awareness and build links worldwide.”

PR chose me

Sarah Ogden, MD at PR agency TEAM LEWIS UK: “Commercial nous, network, ideas, constant learning and the universe work together when it comes to career path. So comms chose me.

“Fresh out of uni, my first job saw me work alongside the MD to transform a small publisher. This gave me early confidence to work with leadership and put innovation on the agenda. It also set me up for success when a friend persuaded me to come and join a fast-growing Brighton comms agency in the dotcom boom. This baked the notion that the best comms defies boundaries and breaks through norms. 

“Next up, I worked with another entrepreneurial PR boss to set up a profitable business intelligence arm. Fast forward through to building integrated global comms offerings, MBOs, MDships, awesome independents, acquisitions, and exciting client work.

“Now at the helm of TEAM LEWIS global HQ and comms is still choosing me. It’s a happy marriage with never a dull moment.”

Isabel Ludick, marketing director at pet media company Excited Cats: “PR wasn't part of my responsibilities from the start of my career, it kind of just made its way into my life naturally. Marketing wasn't part of my initial plan either. I studied psychology with the hopes of becoming a clinical psychologist. Then the pandemic happened, and I gave up on that dream.

“Little did I know that my psychology and English degrees (which felt useless at the time) would equip me to become the marketing and PR director of a global pet media company. I never thought that PR could be so fun. It's really rewarding to see your company gain the publicity and exposure that it deserves due to your efforts.

“Our company's number one goal is to reach as many pet owners as possible and help them give their pets the absolute best life ever. So, doing marketing and PR for a company with a goal so close to my heart is extremely satisfying and makes my job feel effortless. I love animals more than anything, and if I can help our pet care resources rise to the top and improve the lives of thousands of pets, that would be a dream come true.”

Michelle Hatcher, director at PR agency Spreckley: “Without a doubt, PR chose me, but not in the usual sense. To be honest, it chased me around a while before I finally gave in. My career has taken a few twists and turns over the last 11 years. 

“Starting in the London Olympics for the Surrey 2021 Team, one of my jobs was to communicate to Surrey's 1.1 million people how wonderful the road cycle races were going to be despite us closing their roads for four days. Then I worked as PR for Party Pieces and for Carole Middleton (mother to the Duchess of Cambridge) launching a PR campaign as business woman extraordinaire to the Daily Telegraph and Good Housekeeping. 

“Now, I am director for a tech PR agency in healthcare, fintech, HR tech, and science. Could I have seen my career pan out as it did with all its avenues? No, but I am very pleased to be caught in the PR net and can't see myself doing anything else.”

When you ask school leavers what career they are interested in, it is unlikely they many will have even heard of PR. But ask people working in PR now whether they are pleased they have found the industry and the answer is a resounding “Yes!”.

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