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Sector Spotlight: What it’s like working in PR

18 April 2022

Abby Parkinson (BA Politics, 2019) shares her experience of working in a PR agency and provides advice for beginning a career in the industry.

I studied Politics at Newcastle University and graduated in 2019, achieving an Upper Second Class Honours. After leaving Newcastle, I spent some time travelling through New Zealand and Australia before moving to London to start my career.

I am now working as a Media Executive at Definition Agency, which comprises W&P, Redhouse and TopLine Film. I work with a variety of clients, including tech, law and health businesses.

PR is a vast and vague industry, and it’s hard to define in one easy sentence! The Public Relations Society of America describes it as “a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.”

To be successful in PR, you need to have a good grasp of how the media works, the differences between different publications and what can make a good story. This comes with practice, but if you don’t naturally find yourself reading the news or have little interest in the media, then PR is probably not the career for you. 

How do you begin a career in PR?

PR is a challenging career to step into; there are no grad schemes or entry-level jobs. This means you often need to fight your way into an internship, which is not easy to get but also not impossible.

My tip for finding an internship is to look for smaller companies, as these companies are often more open to interns. Working in a smaller company gives you greater exposure early on, meaning you are learning faster.

“Seeing a piece of work you have written, or an angle you have come up with, published online or in print is a great feeling and makes you feel like all your hard work has paid off.”

What is it really like to work in PR?

Day-to-day, your top priority is to keep your clients happy, whilst also managing their expectations. The clients are the ones paying the bills, therefore not hitting KPIs or building good relations is detrimental to the business. 

Clients are paying you for your knowledge of the media and your relationships with journalists, so you’re essentially the middle person between the journalist and the client.  Building these relationships with journalists is the fun part of PR! It often means meeting journalists for lunch or grabbing a couple of drinks on the company card. But once you’ve got that relationship, balancing client and media relations can be tricky. 

You don’t want to be sending journalists boring and pointless stories, even if your clients insist, as this makes journalists dislike you and can even result in being blocked. On the other hand, clients might be desperate to get their story out in the media, as dull as it may be. 

When it comes to writing copy, tasks can range from producing short and snappy comments to long white papers. Some companies, like Definition Agency, have a dedicated content team so our copy is quickly created and consistently to a high standard. However, other agencies will expect you to have a go at writing yourself. 

Once your press release or op-ed has been proofed and is ready to go, you begin pitching it out to journalists. Pitching is the most crucial part of the job, as clients are paying you to get their name in the media. This can be hard because often you will send a lot of emails without receiving any responses, and when that happens, the client will be unhappy. However, other times you will be successful in getting a vast amount of coverage for the client, which feels great! 

Why pick a career in PR?

PR is a fast-paced and exciting industry, with often no two clients and no two days the same.

You’ll quickly develop strong personal skills by working with clients and balancing relationships with journalists. Alongside this, every time you are successful in getting your story in the media, you achieve a sense of reward. Seeing a piece of work you have written, or an angle you have come up with, published online or in print is a great feeling and makes you feel like all your hard work has paid off.