Monday, 29 February 2016
This blog is taken from an interview between Seri Davies, Account Executive at Birchwood Knight, and PR Careers, first published on their website.
What does your day-to-day job involve?
There isn’t a standard day within recruitment and my job is extremely diverse! There’s the administrative side of my role which includes things such as writing job adverts, reviewing candidate applications, organising interviews and business development as well as the recruitment side. At Birchwood Knight we work with some really fantastic clients with trusted reputations who are constantly looking for the best PR talent to hire, so I will spend a lot of time either conducting telephone or face to face interviews. On another day, I could be visiting clients to build and develop our relationship or attending events myself to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry.
Is it essential to be a graduate to get a job in PR? What are the other ways into the industry?
Having a good degree from a good university is always beneficial as it’s not only the academic aspect that is appealing to employees but there are extra curricular activities that students participate in that can also give someone the edge, e.g. being part of a debating society, a sports team or even volunteering in their PR department!
There are other ways into the industry such as applying for PR internships or work experience which can be a great insight into how an agency or organisation operates and there are really exciting entry level and junior PR roles out there- having hands on PR experience is always helpful. If you don’t have formal qualifications, it might also be useful to set up your own blog, get active on social media sites such as LinkedIn, joining specific PR groups, or even attending some training courses through the CIPR / PRCA.
What do you look for in PR hires?
Working across the different disciplines within PR means that I could be looking for certain skills depending on the opportunity. For instance, if it was public affairs role, I might look for someone who has a strong understanding of how Whitehall works. On the other hand, if the role was a financial PR one, then I might look for someone who has a CFA qualification, an economics degree or good contacts within the financial press. However, what these candidates would have in common is a positive attitude, a passion for their discipline and good knowledge of the current news agenda. I’m active on social media myself so I would probably check if candidates were too as good candidates normally tweet insightful things! I also look at their written skills as this is an important part of a PR job which does normally start with their CV and covering letter. When meeting a potential hire, I’m looking for consistency. For example, does the experience on their CV match up to what they’re saying to me and how engaging is that person when telling their own personal story. After all, it is PR!
How do you find PR talent?
Social Media is an important tool as we advertise our vacancies on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages as well as on industry specific websites. We’ll also proactively approach or ‘headhunt’ candidates and utilise our current talent pool by sourcing them for referrals.
Has much has changed in how PR practitioners are recruited in the last five years?
I think social media has given an added dimension to the pool of candidates we can reach out to and is a channel I wasn’t really using five years ago to recruit, especially on Twitter. Also I think digital in general has made recruitment firms be more creative in the way they attract talent in what is a competitive field. Whether that’s through creating engaging content for candidates to access or using SEO tools to make sure our adverts are on the front page of Google.
Which sector is the most difficult to recruit for?
The hardest for me was definitely recruiting within healthcare, especially on the corporate side, because there is sometimes the need for specific qualifications such as a degree in one of the sciences and a strong understanding of the medical side as well as possessing PR skills. B2B tech is also an area that is booming, but can be difficult to recruit for, especially at the Account Manager level within agency.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
To keep up with industry news I mainly read PRweek, Gorkana and Public Affairs News. I enjoy Stephen’s Waddington blog as he has so much knowledge and experience within PR and the internal communications blog by Rachel Miller, All Things IC.
What are your tips for seasoned PRs looking to move jobs?
Don’t rush into a decision when moving into your next role as it can leave you exactly where you didn’t want to be. Think about what is going to motivate you to wake up in the morning and do what is a demanding job. Seek advice from your peers and a good recruiter that you trust as they will be able to help you focus on what would be the right next move for you and possibly be able to present you with those opportunities. Taking the time to really think about what your key strengths are and your achievements during your career is a good way of making sure your CV is succinct but has the most relevant information that sell your skills especially as you probably do a lot more than you sometimes really think about!
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
The PR industry is a fascinating and one that is worth billions of pounds to the UK economy. As the industry is so wide reaching, research what type of PR you might want to do. Do you enjoy the consumer side, or does the idea of communicating with employees, or perhaps talking to the financial media appeal to you? What do you enjoy doing? Is it sports or do you have a passion for science and technology? The more you know about the industry and what it offers, you can then start to think about looking at what PR agencies specialise within these disciplines/sectors and which organisations represent your interests. I would also say be persistent as it is competitive but also think about the things that can set you apart, such as specific training courses. Also network, get active on social media, be humble and work hard.