I really feel for the new generation of promising publicists. It’s been such an uncertain year for all industries and the PR industry is no exception.
Naturally, this is for many reasons, but the fact is, the PR trade depends on the success of so many other sectors and industries – it’s a chain reaction.
Whilst many agencies will survive, some haven’t. Whilst many jobs have survived, some haven’t. It’s a reality I know only too well running an agency myself. Fortunately, we seem to be coming out of the other side now, but the pandemic has had a huge impact which will be felt for years to come.
Then it comes to the people, the talented publicists. The stats aren’t great – whilst three-fifths of those surveyed felt confident about their job security, 65% and 51% [survey by BuzzStream and Fractl] are experiencing stress and burnout, respectively. PR is known to be a tough profession for many reasons – but add to that the pressures of the pandemic, the isolation at home with no work/life divide, and the major role shifts, the figures aren’t surprising. In fact, I’m surprised these percentages are not higher.
For those graduating or looking to embark on an exciting PR career, the landscape has been daunting. 2020 saw many agencies pull back on their standard recruitment drives. Even if they were comfortable with work and clients, they were making cautious and sensible choices when it came to hiring. Other costs for agencies and companies didn’t diminish – yes, the Furlough scheme has been a lifeline for many, but databases and office rents continued as normal, despite income diminishing and budgets being slashed.
That said – PR is a resilient industry, made up of resilient individuals – we’ll repair, despite some changes being long-term. To survive and be better, we need talented recruits more than ever – to inject life, excitement and new ideas into the sector. Once brands feel more confident to increase their spend, and companies are excited about being creative beyond the pandemic constraints, recruitment will pick up again. [I have to say, the creativity I’ve seen from in-house teams and agencies during the pandemic has been exemplary and game changing.]
Despite the above, those wanting to pursue a career in public relations have hope – and lots of it. It’s still the most wonderful, creative, liberal, fast-moving sector. Jobs ARE out there [some agencies have been recruiting throughout the past 12-months], and others are starting to look ahead.
Judging by the amount of CV’s I’m getting every day, how many DM’s I’m receiving and how many are joining my zoom careers Q&A’s – there are many looking for jobs. It’s really humbling and fills me with confidence and optimism to see an exciting class of 2020/2021 coming through. They are more determined than ever to be seen, and get their foot in the door, in what is an unprecedented job-landscape. Naturally I’m speaking specifically for the entertainment, lifestyle brand and charity sectors but I imagine it’s the case across the board.
I wanted to give some of my personal advice on how to be ‘seen’ and what may nudge you ahead of the competition in 2021. Whilst this may not suit all agencies, or internal departments, these are tips that work for me when I’m recruiting.
All CEO’s are human-beings
This is less PR-specific advice but more ‘life’ advice. Every CEO/COO/CFO, they’ve all got a story aside from their title – most people are multi-dimensional personally and professionally. They may love football, cricket, rugby for example and support your team, they may love the theatre, pottery, dogs, gardening … you get the jist. Unlike 10-years ago you can often find out these things usually quite easily online via social media sites. If someone has this information readily available publicly, use it. Business is people – you are much more likely to get noticed and a reply being politely personable on top of a professional email. I love reading, history, my two dogs – the chances of me replying to a student who asks me about a book I’ve read, or my dogs is so much higher than a generic message. This is the same rule when you’ve started at an agency – if the timing is right [timing is everything], have a conversation with the CEO about a common interest. This may be over-familiar for some, but in my experience, it’s a no-brainer and a smart move. NB: don’t go over-board, a sentence or two is fine on the personal stuff, don’t be over-familiar and start listing their hobbies and kid’s names, it’s a fine line.
This isn’t a ground-breaking point – but my biggest pet-hate is when I know I’m reading a ‘copy and paste’ email which has been sent to another 50-agencies. If you ask a careers department or were to google the ‘perfect job application’ these emails seem ideal in content – no grammar errors, perfect prose, 10/10 CV and Cover Letter – but it’s not enough. It’s not much to ask to address correspondence to the individual’s name, it’s also not too much to go one-step further. Comment on the agency specifically, mention their clients, the latest project, their client you watched on TV, or their article you just read. Flattery, especially agency or client specific will never go a-miss. One additional point to make – try to email an actual person rather than an online form. As an agency we check our general enquiries inbox every day but not all do, go direct where possible.
Use your time wisely
Use time before full-time employment to read, educate yourself and make connections. Short-list agencies which tick your boxes in terms of specialities, location, culture. Online is great for industry articles, linked-in relationships and Instagram likes. There are some fantastic books on the PR and Communications industries – read them. You can sign up to subscription sites or magazines such as PR Week and Campaign. These will hopefully all help guide you not only on the industry and best practice but what part of the sector you want to focus in-on.
Many agencies including mine are offering work-experience during the pandemic, albeit remotely. Yes, it’s not ideal – you won’t get to ‘meet’ the team outside zoom and feel the ‘buzz’ of the office environment, but you will get valuable experience and put yourself in the best position for the next recruitment process. And it goes without saying, when you’re on those placements – work hard, make a difference and make yourself known. Be personable, ask intelligent questions at the right time and make your intentions clear for future employment.
Don’t forget the long-game
If you get offered an opportunity which isn’t perhaps perfect in terms of role, company, or pay but it’s a step on the ladder – give it serious consideration. It’s rare for your first job to be ‘the dream job’. Understand it’s a process, and if you can see the benefits, be grateful, respectful and give it your all. I had to do this, most of those who I respect in the industry did. Have realistic expectations going into the PR world this year – and as long as you’re learning, developing and progressing it’ll all pay-off, in more ways than one.
About the author
Charlotte Tobin, 33, is an award-winning publicist with over a decade of experience. She founded London-based public relations agency Belle PR in 2014.
Charlotte manages the strategic growth and communications for some the UK’s most renowned talent, charity and brand names which is reflected by a steady stream of industry awards.
Not only was Charlotte highly commended as PR Week Young PR Professional of the Year, she also achieved the renowned PR Week 30 under 30 list. Additionally, Belle PR won a distinguished Campaigns for Good Award in 2019 and was a PRCA Small Consultancy Of The Year Finalist in 2020.
A business built purely on positive recommendations, unrivalled results and great people, Charlotte has built a brilliant company and is setting the standards across the industry and beyond. She is a member of the CiPR, PRCA and has been a proud speaker at the London School Of Communications.
With a combined social media following of over 20,000, Charlotte is passionate about educating a new generation on the merits of public relations as a career choice. In her spare time, she loves history and spending time with her two miniature dachshunds, Waffle and Wilma!
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