How to reboot your PR career

Having so much to do means that it is easy to get swamped with day-to-day tasks and forget to look at the most important part of your career – your personal development. 

So take time to look at where you are right now and where you want to be. Then follow these eight steps for moving onwards and upwards, whether it is in your present company or on to pastures new.

1. Talk to your managers

Kirsty Sachrajda, head of HR, Europe at PR firm Ketchum, suggests you first talk to your line manager: “Before making any decisions, have a career conversation with your manager. Prepare for it by considering your untapped abilities – is there something more that you could do that would make a greater contribution to the business? What new responsibilities or challenges would help you move ahead? Also, go in with questions about potential learning opportunities. At Ketchum we offer an ‘Own Your Own Development’ budget to fund individual training needs. You don’t know what’s possible until you ask.”

Chris Nunn, founder of travel and lifestyle blog Chris Did, adds: “Talk to managers about helping with bigger tasks and get yourself put in a prime position to be noticed by managers, at the same time, record your successes (feature list, client feedback, etc). “Eventually, you’ll have to have a chat with managers about your role, but by putting yourself forward they will know you’re capable of doing more (moving up) and by having a record of success you can give them actual facts as to how much of an asset you are.”

2. Take stock

Nunn says that you should carefully consider moving if your company cannot fulfil all your ambitions: “It’s worth considering what’s holding you back – the role or the company. Look around and seriously think about whether you want to stay at the same company. Consider what you want and if the current company can match your needs, if not, then you probably have your answer on whether to stay or go.”

3. Do your own PR

Working in communications, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to PR yourself. Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental, says: “Whether moving up or out, personal PR is essential.

“When you’ve undertaken small or larger assignments of projects, ensure you’re up front and centre and involved. 

Whether it’s external or internal, ensure to get your work and involvement consistently seen by the right people. If there is the culture to share what’s happening within, or externally, state the case to be the person and/or the team to drive this. If there isn’t this culture, you could be the person or part of the team to drive and lead it. 

“One bonus is you’re in front of mind of the right people whether they are in-house, or not. Find a way to present your involvement and include in you CV, portfolio and/or showreel. Just like any engine, you’ve got to do more than top the tank up, you’ve need to ensure the maintenance is first class as well.”

4. Get out there

Gibbon adds that it is important to get out there, as long as your company is happy with this: “Seeking sign off internally is prudent as not to overstep the mark and you should be aligned with company policy. Your initiative and willingness to succeed should strike a chord with the right people. It’s more than likely to be a positive for them and you. Guest speak, contribute to external/internet blogs, thought leadership and so on. Get the balance right so as not to overwhelm yourself.”

5. Learn new skills  

There is always room for self improvement. Adnan Bashir, senior manager for corporate communications at telecommunications company Sigma Systems, says: "Have a growth mindset and the drive to upskill yourself. Not having this can be one of your biggest mistakes as a professional. By becoming more versatile and diversifying your role, you can make yourself invaluable.

“For example, the PR field is becoming more and more data-driven, digital-centric and mobile-first. At the same time, it is also becoming inextricably intertwined with the traditional marketing function. So why not pick up a new course on analytics? Or learn the basics of digital marketing? This out-of-the-box thinking will make you more marketable in the long run, and open new doors for you – both within the organisation, as well as in companies looking to hire the best candidates.

“If you’re stuck in a rut, it’s never too late to start learning new skills and changing the narrative."

6. Hone your writing

Being able to write well will always stand you in good stead. Tim Gibbon explains: “Writing can help create a great portfolio, but can also assist your development. Writing requires research and understanding of a subject matter, so it’s an additional healthy habit to build on. Focus on an area and you can become a specialist and thought leader where your expertise is sought.”

7. Focus on you

You need to stop chasing your own tail advises Michelle McCarthy, founder of PR agency Rowdy Bird Media: “When you’re working in a fast-paced, client-focused environment like PR, you can lose sight of your own professional goals because your attention is on the next opportunity that will deliver coverage for your clients. Many PROs are addicted to the urgency. Regularly stopping for reflection and review will help to identify whether you may need to shake things up a bit.

“The first sign you’re in a rut is when you’re finding it difficult to think creatively about a client or – if you’re a sector-specific PRO – the industry. Creative thinking is the most important behaviour a PRO can evidence so if you’re not feeling it, it’s time to ask yourself why. A mentor will help you ask yourself the right questions.

“Top tip – going freelance? If you take this approach, you should ensure you have agreement from the agency you’re departing on what you can comfortably reference as part of your own credentials.”

8. Expand your horizons

Dinara Omarova, PR executive at tech start-up jisp: “If you decide to leave your present company, look for something that really speaks to your skills and to your values. It might be a completely different industry from the one you are about to leave, but that makes it more exciting – think of all the new opportunities and events you are going to experience! PR is such a broad industry, and no matter your position, you will always find yourself learning new things.

Case studies

Being your own boss is always an option, and here two PROs discuss their latest career transitions.

Go freelance

Louisa Clack at Louisa Clack PR talks about why she decided to go freelance and why this has worked out so well: "In 2018, I was made redundant from an in-house role quite suddenly. It was a shock, however I had been experiencing a yearning for something different for a while but couldn’t put my finger on it. But I went from being in steady PR jobs for five years to suddenly having a month to get my affairs in order. I felt unnerved and hurt by the profession. I was close to giving up PR altogether. 

"But then I kept bumping into friends who had become freelance PROs and I saw how happy and healthy they looked. I was manager level at the time, so considered myself too early in the game to go freelance. I was very quickly informed this was not the case and if I was hungry for my own clients and self-motivated enough, it could work very well for me.

"18 months later and I am the happiest I’ve ever been professionally. I won John Lewis & Partners as a first client and have been privy to consultancy at a higher level then I ever experienced as a permanent member of staff. I work remotely from the countryside so can have client calls whilst walking through fields not stuck in a London office. I work the hours (and clients!) that suit me. A change of pace, ambition and environment were exactly what I needed to fall in love with PR again."

Change direction

Nicki Rodriguez, director of R&R PR Management, talks about how she moved from being a publicist to representing brands: In April last year, I found myself feeling like I was stuck/in quicksand with the way my PR business was going. Representing individuals since 2017 had definitely taken its toll both financially and mentally for me. For some reason, many did not understand that being paid a commission of any work you obtain does not give you stability to pay bills and many would not consider paying you a retainer fee for the hours you put in monthly. I always felt like I was treated like a personal assistant rather than their PR agent. They think you are there to just get them free alcohol on a night out or clothes!

“I decided to totally drop representing individuals (bar one who is utterly fabulous) and instead switch to representing brands and businesses. Best decision I made where there is more respect, structure, they have financial budgets to pay you a monthly fee and most of all... no drama!”

If you have time to read this article, you have time to reboot your career. So don’t make excuses, make a plan!


Creative Moment Awards 2020