Well – yes and no. It can’t sit you down and tell you in its best career advisor voice that you should reconsider a career in a field no mother can understand. Nor can it guide you a handful of beans to plant in order to grow yourself said wondrous, magical career. What it can do, however, is give you a taste of no nonsense, common sense advice that will steer you towards the beanstalks of already established practitioners so that you may grow alongside them and…sorry, we’ve no idea where we were going with the beanstalk metaphor.
In true PR terms let’s get down to basic, easy to understand English without the flowery BS.
‘How To Get A Job In PR’ is the new, and BS-free titled, book from former PR recruiter turned PR superstar creator Sarah Stimson. Giving graduates their start in the industry through the Taylor Bennett Foundation, Course Director Sarah has pulled together what she considers to be the starting blocks to any PR career. We caught up with her to ask a whole load of questions.
Hi Sarah, welcome to The Spin Alley! Your new book ‘How To Get A Job In PR’ sounds pretty straightforward to us – surely it’s been done?
No! And that was always the frustrating thing. My background has always been within the PR industry – first as a recruiter and now working with graduates through the Taylor Bennett Foundation – and I was getting tired of repeating the same advice for every cohort. I wished there was something I could give them as a complete guide to help them through the process so did a little digging and found nothing. So I decided to write it myself!
Oh Em Gee you’re right! We found zilch on the subject in the same way your book addresses it. So where has all this sensible advice come from?
I started blogging and often posted PR career advice on there. That, plus my experience recruiting top PR people, gave me a pretty solid starting point. The book also has advice in each chapter from both senior and junior PR practitioners in the UK – both the recruiting and the recruited – to give as broad a spectrum of information as possible.
We definitely spotted some top names in there. Was it hard getting them to spill their secrets?
Not really. Some I knew from my day job which was helpful but others I approached cold but still got a positive response. I think it’s because I’ve never worked for an agency and so wasn’t pushing an agenda or my own service with this book that people felt comfortable enough to respond. I think the book feels independent and impartial because of this.
The book delves into the different areas of PR out there, some of which we hadn’t heard of. Do you think PR degrees go into enough detail about the kinds of jobs graduates can get?
People know the obvious PR areas – fashion, celebrity, B2B, B2C etc. but things like tech, financial, healthcare PR are talked about less. Students need to be exposed to these areas so they can make an informed decision about the path they want their career to take but I don’t think this is the responsibility of universities. Students need to find out more for themselves and show that initiative. PR degrees aren’t vocational but if the theory behind it really interests you, go for you it because three years is a long time to study any subject. One piece of advice when looking for a PR degree would be to choose one that requires a years placement in a comms team. That experience will be invaluable.
It’s true, there’s nothing like getting stuck in…You mentioned some of the more well-known areas of PR and in the book you reference what we want to call ‘The Unholy PR Trinity’ of Edina from Ab Fab, Alastair Campbell and Max Clifford. Are these still the industry’s biggest stereotypes?
To be honest there were plenty of other examples from TV I wanted to include like Samantha from Sex and the City or the formidable Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It but for me Edina, Alastair and Max are the epitome of PR typecasting. They do represent a portion of the industry but it’s only a small portion. PR is widely under-represented and lacks the depth of some other professions.
Agreed. There seems to be a lot of work being done at the moment by the CIPR and PRCA around this idea of making PR a more attractive career option. Why do you think that is?
The driver is diversity. It’s a widely recognised fact that PR is dominated by white, middle class people and so work is being done by bodies like the PRCA and CIPR at grass roots levels. I’d like to see more science and engineering graduates pursuing PR careers in those fields. Expert knowledge like that is something the industry is crying out for in terms of diversity. At Taylor Bennett Foundation we work with graduates but I’m hoping my book and work like this by PR’s governing bodies will attract school leavers too because there are some great apprenticeships out there at the moment.
The future of PR is certainly exciting. Final one from us – with all this talk of getting a job in PR, have you ever been tempted to jump in?
Absolutely! Lots of times in fact. I’ve been lucky to have interviewed some really interesting people throughout my time as a recruiter and it’s amazing watching our graduates get jobs through the Taylor Bennett Foundation. We’ve helped around 100 so far and I’m lucky to have such a rewarding job that’s linked to the PR industry. Perhaps the next book will cover ‘How To Recruit For PR’, who knows! If it counts, I’ve done all the PR for this book myself!
We’ll give you that one! You can find Sarah on Twitter as @GoooRooo. ‘How To Get A Job In PR’ is out on Kindle and paperback from Amazon or iBooks on 3rd December.
Angharad is a former radio journalist balancing a career in PR with an insatiable writing habit that spans more topics than she can count on her smaller-than-average hands. She's passionate about the media, women's rights and politics with a love of travel, culture, entertainment and all things lifestyle on the side. Interests include prolific online shopping (bit of a reputation in the office), musicals, dinosaurs (be honest, they're awesome) and tweeting anything and everything from @Welsh_PR