Well, as 2018 draws to an end – so does my first year (of many, hopefully) working in Public Relations. Having studied it to death since 2015, this year – shortly after graduating – I landed a full-time Digital PR Executive role at my agency, Tecmark.
And what a bloody journey it’s been. After starting in August, I’ve learned such a great deal. I’ve gone from not even being sure what PR stood for (uhhh… Does it mean press release?!), to getting coverage with the likes of the BBC, ITV, the Huffington Post, the Metro, the Daily Mail, the Sun, INSIDER and soooo much more.
I still can’t quite believe it.
May I steal your attention for a moment…
Here’s one last shameless plug as the votes for the UK blog awards close tomorrow. I’ve been nominated for a UK Blog Award for best PR blogger, and would love it if you could vote for me (that is if you like my blog and think I’m worthy of course!). There’s just a few hours left to vote (it closes on Xmas eve at 12pm sharp) so now’s the time. Here’s how if you’d like to.
- Click here.
- Click on the categories (Public Relations, Marketing and Communications is mine) and view the entries.
- To find my website, click on the globe.
- To see my entry information, click on the “i”.
- And to vote for my entry (please please please), click on the red heart.
- OR, you could go straight to my entry page here.
Thank you so very much. Now back to the blog…
In fact, purely because I am awfully proud of myself this year, here is – yet again – just a snapshot of some of the pieces of coverage I’ve secured for my clients this year, and just a handful of the publications I’ve worked with.
But it didn’t start with plain-sailing, and it’s still not always like that now either. Let me tell you the story of my PR journey this year. The ups and downs, the highs and the lows and the bare and sometimes ugly truth of it all.
The story of my first year in Public Relations
After a populated summer of adventure (did I mention I visited 7 countries this year?) I started ‘full time’ working in August. My first ever, 5 day a week, 9-5 job. And walking straight into an executive role as a fresh graduate isn’t bad going if I do say so myself (sorry, I’ll get less gloat-y as time goes on, I promise). However, what was problematic in all this was that I was only a baby in the world of PR, I still am in fact. Though I had a great quality of education at university and graduated with a first-class degree, when it comes to the basics of PR that aren’t necessarily written down on paper – I was pretty clueless. Building relationships for example… Nothing makes me cringe more when running with a campaign than thinking back to when I was firing out press releases blind. I soon found out that having a great connection with a journalist – knowing them and knowing their area of expertise – gives you a much better shot at getting media coverage for your brand. During my first campaign of 2018, I think I sent out over 500 emails from a dated database and got a grand total of 0 pieces of coverage. (Eeek). Learning from my mistakes, I now send out a fraction of emails, but they’re much more targeted. And the success of this tactic? Well, I think it speaks for itself.
My job doesn’t involve boomerangs and liquid lunches
I think a lot of PRs take to social media to preview a lavish, and sometimes whimsical lifestyle. That’s where a lot of execs get that stereotype (which we hate, by the way) that our job is all Instagram boomerangs and chatty meetings over Prosecco. Because it isn’t at all. What it’s more like is, not leaving your work at work – because you always want the best for your client, and if that means writing and sending press releases at 11pm then so be it. Meetings aren’t always easy – but sometimes they’re the best (especially where praise is to be had), and pretty much all of my time is spent at my desk, researching and writing – we don’t have time for Instagram stories and status updates, okay.
And what PR also is (only sometimes) is feeling not good enough. Social media is very good at hiding the truth, and sometimes the truth is that it’s not easy. In fact most days, it’s very bloody hard.
I have a love-hate relationship with Public Relations, and this is why.
My first campaign went pretty badly. It wasn’t entirely my fault, but I did feel somewhat to blame. I couldn’t grasp just how to do it right, which had me resorting to drastic measures such as DM’ing journalists on Twitter and basically asking them to be my friend to begin a relationship. (If you was one of them, I’m very sorry and very embarrassed). I was making minor errors such as sending press releases out without images, and getting names in emails wrong in a panic too (which still makes me cringe 5 months down the line).
All of this, of course, led to two things:
- A poor display of coverage for my client, which really does get to me on a personal level more than I could ever explain, even now
- And a sobbing Jess most nights, debating moving away from Manchester and going back to retail in the assumption that I’d never be good enough for this job
And both of those feelings are heartbreaking to say the very least. But they’re real, and raw – and this is sometimes what PR is like.
I’m not a quitter, though. I never have been. And therefore all these failures ended up at the forefront of my need to succeed. So much so that I’m still working on the aforementioned campaign even now. I spent some time re-assessing what went wrong and working out for myself how I could make it all better, and ultimately – I started to reap the rewards of this attitude. I think this was when I realised that you can’t beat around the bush with PR, or cut corners. Because of the aforementioned laardy-da stereotypes, I think a lot of people think our job is easy. But it sure bloody isn’t. I’m contracted to work 37.5 hours a week – but I certainly never do just that. My job has fast become my passion and now, the most part of my free time is spent on bettering myself, researching, thinking of campaign ideas and so on. It’s hard work – but it’s so rewarding.
Anyway, on from my first ever campaign. I went into the next one an anxiety-ridden mess. Fearing a repeat of last time, I vowed that I would be better – and do things right this time. But that’s when disaster number 2 (dramatic maybe, but in my eyes it was catastrophic) struck. Just one day before I was due to sell in my new campaign to the press, a similar story found its way organically into the news and was covered in every publication from here to Timbuktoo. Meaning of course, that I couldn’t run with this campaign anymore – I’d be contacting journalists and they’d be thinking I was a joke. Who wants to receive a press release entailing the basics of a story they covered literally yesterday? Literally nobody.
Keeping previous failures in mind, I instead experimented with two different tactics.
- Contacting journalists who’d covered the story prior to my sell-in with a new angle to build on their old story
- Repurposing the campaign completely, running with an entirely different press release, tying it into Christmas – because you know, topical…
Luckily, both were a success to a degree. And coverage soon began to appear. Meaning, for every time a publication covered the said story, a mini happy dance would be done at my desk – and my confidence would slowly begin to rebuild.
I went into my next few campaigns with a lot more assurance, and with a much stronger strategy. Which spiralled really into me becoming, what I might say, a successful PR. I’ve gone from a crying mess in August, contemplating phoning up Poundland to ask for my job back, to working with the UK’s top news organisations – and all for the good of my clients. It’s an incredible feeling and goes to show that hard work truly does pay off.
I think it’s a solid mix of determination, passion and education that’s got me to this stage. Determination not to quit, even when things got really tough. Passion in Public Relations, because I studied and have built a career within this industry for a reason. And with education from my previous campaign – reminding myself of how badly it went and ensuring I don’t get to that stage again. The education also came from a lot of evenings spent researching best PR practices, chatting with people I’ve worked with in the past, and ‘trial and error-ing’ methods to see if they work. Combine that all together (and bake for 20 minutes blah, blah, blah) and you’ve got a good PR asset. That asset, of course, being me.
I’m so lucky to work with people who never gave up on me. Who saw something in me and allowed me to learn and grow instead of disregarding me early on. I’ve gone from feeling like a bit of a failure, to feeling like an incredibly strong person… and like a genuine talent in my team. I’ve also gone from not really knowing what to do in public relations, to becoming a bit savvy in PR, SEO, content creation and even graphic design.
All of that, is the work of 5 solid, hard months. I can’t wait to see what I can do with a whole YEAR ahead of me, so bring it on 2019.
This has been my year in review, and thanks for sticking it out until the end to read it all.
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