I recently gave a lecture to Comms, Marketing & PR MA students at the University of Leeds, my third in as many years.
The privilege of being able to impart knowledge onto younger, aspiring PR professionals is not lost on me. Eleven years after I started my first PR job it’s great to meet young students starting out and navigating their way in the world of marketing and PR just like I was (and am still doing!) albeit with no mail merges and more emails.
I lectured about the state of the PR industry in 2016, how it has evolved, where it’s going and then shared some practical examples of how it works and what makes campaigns a success. The practical thing felt crucial as I remember so many blustery theoretical lectures during my own uni days that weren’t all that helpful so I wanted to make it as real-world as I could.
One of the things I shared with them was a raft of advice I’d gathered from my PR team and management colleagues at Propellernet on guidance they’d give their younger selves starting out all over again.
What would you tell someone starting out now to do, to remember, to hold close as they work their way through this challenging, exciting and sometimes frustrating industry? I found the advice fascinating and also gave me food for thought – do I live all of the missives below, or is it a good time for someone longer in the tooth to reflect and realign a little? The latter, always.
It’s worth saying I took a ‘Propel Day’ to do this which is an amazing Propellernet initiative giving each staff member a day a month away from work (yes, you read that right) to further themselves, learn something new, give something back. That’s 600 days a year across the agency dedicated to development, learning and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Rare and priceless.
Here are some of the advice highlights. I’d love to hear yours too, do share.
“Take Action. If you want something to happen, own it, do something – don’t sit in the side-lines expecting thing to change. If it’s important to you, put energy behind it, don’t expect anyone else to do that for you. Your energy will create energy in others. It starts with you.
“Balance; rest before you are tired. It’s so easy to get carried away and think that the only way through is to work, work, work. You’re human, not an android. If you don’t rest before you are tired, you’ll burn out and stop.”
Nikki Gatenby, Managing Director
“Don’t worry so much. You’re young and you’ve got more time than you think. Keep moving. Don’t be afraid to make huge leaps and keep leaping until you find the thing that’s right for you.”
Simon Mustoe, Head of Strategy
“Work at the best place you possibly can. And work with the best possible people you can work with. Even if it means working for less money. Work hard. Good work takes a while to arrive at. Be nice to people on the way to the top as you’ll surely meet them on the way back down again.”
Andy McLane, Creative Director
“Don’t try and pre-plan your career path too much. The industry changes and that path could no longer be relevant in a few years. Instead just keep relentlessly adding to your skill set, learn by doing, and etch out your own path as you go rather than a prescribed one.”
Steph Sheehan, PR Consultant
“Don’t assume everyone else knows what they’re doing – they too are learning the ropes however high up they are. And everyone is still making and learning from their mistakes. Be honest about yours.”
Hannah Ashley, PR Consultant
“Be a producer as well as a writer/broadcaster by learning as many new practical tools and skills as you can get your hands on; from basic video and sound editing, to photography and photo editing, to basic coding and web build. These will add a superpower to your CV. There are easy to use apps for most things – £20 and some dedicated time and effort will go a very long way.”
“Be your own brand and make things happen. Don’t wait for a job to start working on your passion / projects. Have a go now and start to build an online portfolio of your ideas.”
Mark Slade, Creative Consultant
“Say yes to everything at the beginning of your career, it will help you work out what to say no to later on in your career and it will show your bosses you are curious and willing.”
“Have perspective. You will likely have some very testing roles in this industry which will challenge you in ways you didn’t know existed! It is only a job and there is always someone who can help you. Don’t lose perspective.”
“Enjoy it! This is a privileged type of work which allows for amazing experiences and lots of creativity. Try and take what you can from it – stories for your grandchildren, friends, fun. It’s out there. Oh, and for the aspiring PROs out there never forget “It’s PR, not ER.”
Anna Hardman, Head of PR