Recently we were sharing old war stories (literally in Tim’s case) about our first jobs in PR. As a result we persuaded everyone to write them down for a blog post.
So, if you’re currently finding it hard to land your first PR role, take solace in these weird and wonderful tales. Hopefully they will provide inspiration…
I was out of work because the music company I set-up had folded, and my fiancé had just told me she was pregnant… not the ideal situation.
After weeks of sending CVs, I was lucky enough to meet Steve McKevitt (director of design agency Golden), who gave me some of the best advice I have ever received.
“Make sure you stand yourself out from the hundreds of CVs agencies receive everyday”.
I mulled this over and the brainwave arrived. If I can create a PR and social media campaign to promote my job hunt, surely I can prove that I can do the job.
My plan was simple; get 1,000 likes on Facebook and Twitter in a campaign to prove I was worthy of employment. The next few days were spent writing news releases, setting up social media channels and creating media lists. I even created videos to back up the campaign with ‘funny’ content.
The next week was a complete blur of sweat, panic and raw emotion. I was exhausted and had no idea if all my efforts would reap reward.
I had just fallen short of my target, pulling in 789 followers, but had managed to get interviews with the BBC Radio Leeds, Yorkshire Evening Post, Real Radio, and a number of local papers and blogs.
Now it was stage two. I suited, booted and set off to the PR firms on the top of my list. I had created a report on my campaign, a cover letter and a box of strawberries and cream to bribe them into reading my report.
The rest, as they say, is history. I got a call from Chris Woolford at Wolfstar who offered me an interview (he likes strawberries!), and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out I got the job.
That was nine months ago, (wow doesn’t time fly) and I am still extremely grateful to the entire Wolfstar team, especially Tim, Chris and Sam for taking a chance on me.
I was an Army Captain but wanted to leave, so I resigned my commission. However a five year time bar from my Durham University stint precluded me from a resignation. I wrote to the Queen to say this wasn’t fair but she told me to “soldier on”.
We were due to go to Londonderry at the time, at the height of the “troubles”, so lots of shootings and bombings and general unpleasantness.
The Colonel of my Regiment called me in to tell me that, because I had resigned, he didn’t think it appropriate for me to lead soldiers during a dangerous tour. Therefore he was going to make me PRO for the battalion.
I had no idea what that meant and went to find out. It was quite clearly a punishment in the eyes of the Colonel, as no real officer would want a job entitled Public Relations Officer. I had no idea what was involved, so read up, went on a one day course and, well, I’ve been in the industry ever since.
I actually had a ball at the time. While all my mates were patrolling and guarding the city, I wandered around in civilian clothes, grew my hair (to blend in), stuck a pistol in my belt and thought I was a cross between James Bond and Fyffe Robertson (you will have to Google him!).
I met lots of journalists and learnt all about real PR on the streets of Londonderry. I realised it was all about common sense and the ability to make people understand your message, regardless of the delivery mechanism. It’s still the same today.
In the fall of 2012, I had big ambitions. Fromage, baguette, and rosé filled plans to spend seven months teaching English to adorable French children in Northern France. It was going to be my gap year between university and “work life”– my time to become fluent in French and read Proust.
Before heading to France, however, I arranged a short work experience in London, helping manage Social Media Week with an organisation called Chinwag, led by digital guru Sam Michel. It was a week of more than 200 events across London related to social media, with hubs including Facebook and Google Campus. I immediately hit it off with the team. One evening in the run up to the big week we were working really late, when I made a joke to Sam saying I didn’t want to get on my train to France. “If you want to work in London,” he told me, “you should print out some business cards and be prepared to talk to people next week.”
I spent about an hour with the owner at my local Snappy Snaps putting together my first (and most embarrassing) set of 100 business cards. “Rebecca Rosman– Journalism, Social Media” they read. I mentally prepared a sophisticated networking speech too, which ended up sounding something like this: “I’m supposed to get on a train to move to Lille at the end of the week, but I don’t want to get on that train. Please hire me.”
I know, I know. But it worked. I met a man called Jag Singh at the opening night reception who told me to send him 200 words about myself. Several weeks later he asked me to sit in on a presentation he and a couple of colleagues were giving to a Russian delegation at Parliament. The colleagues happened to be Sam and Tim from Wolfstar. After the presentation, we went to grab coffee, at which point Sam and Tim told me they were looking to hire someone, and they heard I was a good writer. And was maybe a bit pushy…
Five months after I came to London, I’m still a bit in shock. My friends and family are confused, and ask when I plan on coming back to Chicago. Deciding to stay here was one of the riskiest moves I’ve ever made; or as my parents would rather say, naive. But it paid off in spades.
Way back when in 2009 I wanted to think of a cool (I thought cool…) way to get my foot through the PR door. After doing some Googling, I stumbled across Wolfstar – the agency immediately intrigued and appealed because a) the clients seemed HUGE for an agency with a Leeds office and b) it seemed to do things a little differently.
So, I scribbled up my cover letter as a press release! Contextual and original, I know. The headline probably *wasn’t* something as cheesy as “Fresh-faced recent graduate seeks new role”…*
Despite my relative inexperience, I tried to structure the release as you might expect – snappy title, to-the-point / BS-free opening gambit, some brief context and then a quote from the horse’s mouth, with the hope that I wouldn’t remain on the job market furlong. Sorry, sorry.
The key thing was – I wanted to show my prospective (and definitely) desired employers that I could handle PR’s “bread and butter” with aplomb, and all the better if it raised a smile or two. I’ve always thought the downfall of PR and print media is over-egged and glamourised – like Tim says, the core comms skill of structuring a message to get to the point will remain, regardless of the channel.
Anyway, I eventually received a call from Sam who offered me a weekly work experience slot – this started in January ’10 and ran until May, where I was interviewed for a full time position. The process was rigid – a 10 question sitting spanning the morning’s new’s agenda, most/least admired brands, biggest f**k ups and the like. The second round was with Tim, who had a knack of questioning my every answer in a blunt Alan Sugar-esque style. I half imagined him to point the finger, with “You’re fired”, right before I’d even been hired.
I survived the grilling and that’s all she wrote; starting out as an Account Exec, I’ve been here ever since. Oh, and in those early days someone printed out my press release and plastered it across the office for all to see, but not because it was exemplar…
*Said fresh face can be seen here
Image from brightfutra.com