Will we see more PROs become Chief Execs?

PRmoment.com investigates whether PR professionals are becoming increasingly well placed for C-level corporate positions.

One of the benefits of working in PR is that it teaches you how companies work and what makes them succeed. The fact that PR spans the whole business sets it apart from almost any other function. This is why Kevin Ruck, founding director of training providers PR Academy and editor of Exploring Internal Communication, believes that PROs are perfectly placed to get ahead. If you are thinking of leaving PR, Ruck suggests reconsidering: “I’d say why move? As PROs, we are uniquely placed to influence the business. Who does the CEO call on when there is a room full of journalists to work, staff to brief or analysts to engage? Us of course. That’s a great feeling. And if you aren’t their first port of call – change your employer, not your profession.”

If you still want to move from PR, Ruck suggests taking over the whole company:

“Let’s see more former PROs running the business, using their knowledge of strategy and reputation to manage other functions. Today, reputation matters more than ever and the leaders who get this, get ahead. Just think, if BP CEO Tony Hayward had a background in PR, he might still be CEO today!”

Should you have no desire to run an international corporation, then moving into a field such as teaching could appeal. John McCambley, head of brand marketing and communications at marketing consultancy McCallum Layton has worked in marketing for over 10 years, and would one day like to move into vocational training. He believes this would allow him to use his experience while supporting the development of younger professionals. He adds: “I always look back at my pre-university days at college, when I studied a BTEC National Diploma in business studies, and remember how good it was to learn from experienced business leaders – and for that reason I would really like to put something back into my profession.”

Whether you decide to stay in PR and develop your role (even to the extent of taking over the company) or decide to decamp, first you should think about what you enjoy doing and what you‘re good at. We all have to make a living, but if you get pleasure from your work it makes it easier to face Monday mornings.

Case Study – One who got away

Kevin Moloney, PR teacher and researcher at Bournemouth University, describes how he moved from PR into teaching, and discusses other career options for those qualified in PR:

“I split my career in two halves. Doing PR, and then teaching and researching it. Doing it wasn’t worth a whole working life for me, but it let me see the effects of PR, good and bad, for our kind of society. PR throws up conundrums – everybody does it, many knock it, it can be a communicative resource for good and bad outcomes; is it on the side of David or Goliath? How and why?

“I don’t want to change my career now. I’d rather help our graduates to think big about the opportunities their education offers them. It will be interesting to see whether the coming age of austerity makes them and PR people generally hunker down or broaden out.

“When it comes to the future of my students, the overwhelming majority head for PR – those who don’t head for related work in marketing. I remember one who had the intellectual equipment and determination to convert her persuasive powers to being a barrister. I’d like to see more make that sort of journey. Only a very few leave the field completely.”

We asked, “What else you could do if you didn’t work in PR?”

Paul Whitehead, founder of agency Western PR:

“Sales! Some PR people would be excellent in a selling role. They could even try it with one or two small existing clients. New doors might open. It's certainly a way of extending one's services without drifting 100 per cent from one's original, basic offering. The only 'thing' required is a fearless cold calling approach, but some PR people will be fine with that.”

Neil Boom, PR director of news navigator One News Page:

“I am hoping that writing might make a lucrative sideline to PR. Currently to make a living, I am having to plough more than one furrow, but if my new book Going Bust: How to Ruin Your Business sells well, I’ll be downing my PR tools and retiring to the Caribbean (okay, Croydon).”

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