The best parts of the job are often getting involved with great brands and interesting campaigns, and the fact that you have so many chances to be creative
After doing a Masters and taking a year out to travel, I joined the graduate scheme at a London consumer PR agency. I'd worked for a year in another agency, where I'd been temping as general office support.
Becoming an account executive wasn't a huge step, as I'd had experience of writing status reports (weekly updates for clients so they knew how their PR programme and activity was progressing) and compiling coverage. For the first few weeks, there was a fair amount of this sort of admin involved in the role. However, without that experience in a PR agency I doubt I would have got the job.
In the first instance, an interest and an awareness of what PR is and what it is about is what employers are looking for. I had also studied for a PR diploma; while I don't think it was much practical help in my job, it did demonstrate that I was committed to the career.
The job was multi-faceted from the beginning. For instance, in my first week, I worked on a press launch for a high street retailer's Christmas campaign, which meant setting up the venue, sorting out journalist goodie bags, ringing round publications to check they were sending someone to attend and a million other logistical details. Although it felt like being dropped in at the deep end, it was a great introduction to some of the more glamorous aspects of PR. There was also a fairly quick introduction to the less glamorous side too. There is a lot of reading papers and magazines, filing of clippings and compiling of coverage reports in the first few months in an account executive's role.
There's also a lot of selling in of stories; put simply, this involves ringing up a list of people who have been sent a press release to highlight to them the best points of the story and persuade them it is of interest to their readers. For me, that was one of the hardest parts of the new job; I'd had no idea how many knock-backs were usual. However, I fairly soon developed a thick skin about that side of the job.
After getting a bit more experience, I progressed to writing press releases, meeting journalists and attending client meetings. That does tend to be the more exciting side of the job, and if you work hard and impress senior members of the team, there's no reason you won't progress quickly.
The best parts of the job are often getting involved with great brands and interesting campaigns, and the fact that you have so many chances to be creative. I've enjoyed learning that creativity isn't just something people are born with - it can take practice.
The downsides are long hours at times and a fairly modest salary. In different areas of PR the salaries are more competitive, but for consumer PR, probably the most sought-after area, salaries can compare badly if your friends are management consultants or accountants. That said, promotion can come quickly if you work hard and are good at your job, so you know it's not forever.
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