Natalie studied for her BA Journalism at Southhampton Solent University and is now a communications officer at an NHS primary care trust...
When I left university I took a job as a junior account executive at a local public relations and marketing agency in the technology sector.
I started from the bottom, doing all the usual admin tasks, and over the course of two and a half years, progressed to senior account executive. The company provided me with a great grounding in PR and marketing and gave me the opportunity to take on more and more responsibility. By the time I left I was managing some of the smaller accounts - an opportunity you don't get with the big London agencies.
After deciding I wanted to move into the healthcare sector, I saw a job advertised for a communications officer with a local primary care trust.
My degree helped to secure my current job as I learned many of the skills I use today on the course, including how to write news stories, features and press releases. I also learned how to use Quark XPress, which I now use to produce the staff newsletter and patient information leaflets.
It's important to keep up to date with local and national news stories, in my case, health stories. I also liaise with journalists who want an interview or statement for a health story they're running, and I'll find a spokesperson and organise the interview. I'll also draft briefing notes for the spokesperson so they feel prepared and have the key messages to hand that we want to get across in the interview. Alternatively, if the journalist would prefer a written statement then I'll liaise with the relevant clinician or service manager to draft a response to their questions.
Other duties include interviewing people, obtaining case studies and talking to the media. It's important to build good links with journalists to help secure press coverage. I also design posters, leaflets and booklets and upload new information for patients and the latest press releases to our website.
The next step for me is to progress to communications manager and, with the skills and responsibilities I have, I'm hopefully not far off this. In the future I want to be head of communications for an NHS provider or an account director at a healthcare PR agency.
I love that I am always busy and get paid to be creative. It's never the same and every day I love rising to the challenges thrown at me. The experience I gained in my last PR and marketing job has given me good practice in managing such a busy workload.
Working closely with the press means you need to meet their deadlines - they won't delay printing the newspaper just for you. A lot of people don't understand a deadline is a deadline, so one of the biggest challenges I have is getting this across when we're working on a press statement.
My advice to others hoping to enter this area is to be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up. This area of work is highly competitive but if you can secure a position at a PR and marketing agency you can gradually gain the skills you need to progress.
Be prepared to work hard and you'll be rewarded with a great job.
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