Case study

Senior account executive — Gabrielle White

Gabrielle studied for an MA in Journalism at the University of Lincoln. Discover how she got her current role as a senior account executive

How did you get your job?

I always thought I'd have to move to London to find my ideal role in PR but part-way through my MA, I began working in the communications team for a large Lincolnshire retailer. Even as an assistant I was running meetings, coordinating events and writing, planning and editing publications alongside one of the biggest content agencies in London. It truly gave me the big city experience on my doorstep.

Taking the skills and knowledge of local PR I gained in-house, I made the move into agency life. It was also a bit of a jump up, as I was taken on as a senior account executive.

Now I've stepped into a senior role at up-and-coming digital PR agency Carrington Communications. I really like that the company is young, fresh and has a flair for no-nonsense PR - integrity is key in this sector.

What's a typical day like?

I find that I have layers to my work. One layer of on-going work that is maybe a few weeks or months in the making, and a layer of high priority in-the-minute tasks such as sending a comment out from your client on a highly topical subject that will be gone from the press by the afternoon.

I email or call clients and journalists every day to pitch stories and discuss current projects. You can find yourself writing a lengthy feature based on an interview and research you've conducted on a really niche subject one minute, and writing a snappy social media post the next.

Planning content and campaigns ahead of time and keeping up with current affairs and topical subjects are also key. It keeps you in tune with journalists and opens up new opportunities to share with clients.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I've always loved writing and hearing people's stories, so I really enjoy interviewing interesting people and writing engaging content from that. Working in PR takes you to wonderful and exciting places, which never get boring.

Building relationships with clients and journalists is also great. Those connections with key media outlets can work in your favour when you have a last minute pitch and know exactly who to send it to.

I also really enjoy having my finger on the pulse of my local area and being immersed in the community. It makes me feel like I'm a part of the energy of the city.

What are the challenges?

The sound of silence from journalists after you've sent what you thought was an attention-grabbing pitch can be a bit disheartening. You need to be able to balance the right level of persistence with appreciating that journalists aren't just news-churning machines - they're people with a job to do too.

A level of resilience and motivation to persevere is important too, because when you don't hear anything back you need to be able to find another opportunity or way to get your story out there.

Just as PR is exciting and dynamic, it's also demanding and unpredictable. A client could email you at 4pm on Friday asking for a press release to be prepared for Monday morning, or a journalist could get in touch with a last minute opportunity with a tight deadline.

How is your degree relevant to your job?

My undergraduate degree is actually in law. I always wanted to write but it wasn't until my second year of study that I decided to do some work experience at the local newspaper. From then I knew the buzz of PR and journalism was for me.

I applied for a Masters in journalism so I could turn my passion into practicality, and the rest is history. My law degree is still very useful though, and I've been able to apply my specialist knowledge to clients working in the legal sector such as solicitors, probate advisors and funeral directors.

How has your role developed?

I made a big jump from communications assistant at an in-house communications team to a senior account executive at an international PR agency and now to my role at Carrington Communications in just over two years.

It was a steep learning curve but one that I've really enjoyed. I've grown professionally to take on more responsibility, while improving my writing and communication skills.

Personally, reaching account manager level and beyond is my aim and as Carrington is still a young agency, there's plenty of room to grow with the business.

How do I get into PR?

I built a strong portfolio during my Masters that I could take to my first interview. However, it wasn't this that made me the benchmark for all the interviewees that came after me, but a story I told from my work experience week at the local newspaper.

The editor asked me to do a spot of investigative journalism that really threw me in the deep end. My prospective employer took my willingness to get stuck in as the attitude of someone who wasn't afraid to get out there and find a story. Months later I found myself in a mascot costume in front of a stadium of football fans helping out the events team, so you never know where your can-do attitude can take you. Especially in the world of PR and marketing.

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