How to answer: "Do I want to work in PR?" 

PR isn’t just about glamorous campaigns and showstopping stunts; the world of B2B PR can be far more ‘dry’. The ability to find the stories that clients’ audiences want to hear–and tell them–is therefore one of the key skills of any budding young exec. 

26 April 2024 | 5 min read | Careers
James Gwinnett
James Gwinnett

There’s no real link between Clint Eastwood and Jennifer Saunders–that I’m aware of–other than my butchering of Eastwood’s immortal line from Dirty Harry to make a catchy headline, and Saunders’ character in Ab Fab working in PR. Thus we fly off on a neat tangent into PR mogul Edina being badgered by her daughter: “I’m sorry Mum, but I’ve never really seen what it is you actually do.” 

 “P… R…!” comes the exasperated reply, but when the daughter presses further, Edina is forced to elaborate: “P… R…! I PR things. People, places, concepts, I PR them. I make the fabulous. I make the crap into credible. I make the dull into delicious. I PR, darling!” 

Sounds great right?

And sure, there are some cool reasons for wanting to be ‘a PR’–I started my career driving around Europe with a Rugby World Cup winner on a month-long charity bike ride and playing basketball with NBA players at the O2, if that’s your bag–but not all of the industry is that glamorous. 

Indeed, much of business might be perceived as quite ‘dry’; or even, if I may use Edina’s words, respectfully of course, ‘dull’. Take the accountancy firms, law firms, software consultancies and recruiters of the world, whose services aren’t high up the glamour list for most people.

But it is these wide-ranging professional services organisations that constitute the backbone of today’s corporate world and keep society ticking over.

According to Campaign magazine, the B2B PR sector leads B2C by almost 50%, with more agencies in the B2B sector bringing in more than £1 million in bills each year than their consumer counterparts. What’s more, go to the National Accident Helpline website and you’ll see that ‘PR and marketing professionals’ makes the list of the most stressful jobs

  

So, to all you budding PRs, do you still want to work in PR? Well, do ya? And what are the skills agencies are looking for? 

In short, you should. Because telling people about the Lancômes, Lansons and Land Rovers of the world isn’t challenging. Rather, the joy of the job, for me, comes in helping clients that might otherwise go under the radar to find the stories that are credible and delicious; because often these businesses that are changing the world through compelling initiatives will otherwise not get the attention they deserve. 

Take one of our clients, a leading accountancy and business advisory firm in the south-west. What’s the stereotype of an accountancy firm? Elbow patches on tweed blazers? Number crunching? Yet this is a firm that is so committed to being a sustainably-minded business that a greatly escalated focus on ESG has seen it conduct a full sustainability audit and establish a new environmental policy that includes encouraging behavioural change across the business, with the idea of increasing collective environmental influence. 

As a B Corp ourselves, these are the stories that we enjoy telling and–as I tell people who, like Edina’s daughter, don’t understand what we do–we are ultimately storytellers. Having a good nose for news that matters to our clients, and that matters to their audiences, is key. 

Increasingly, we’re also content creators and writers and, in a world where the written word is being consigned to 280-character posts, the skill of crafting a press release that packs a punch, an educational thought-leadership article, attention-grabbing website copy, or a snappy but sympathetic crisis comms statement, is highly sought after. 

If that takes you out of your comfort zone, get practising; read up on how to write a press release on the internet, and try writing your own examples. Blog content too; pick a topic that interests you–be it a news story or a trending social issue–and jot down 500-800 words on the subject.

With content so key to many organisations’ marketing strategies, the ability to put metaphorical pen to paper succinctly and coherently really is an essential skill that agencies will be looking for. 

  

Lastly, it may sound obvious, but to work in the media, you should really know the media.

So, a good PR will know the publications that cover the sectors their clients operate in, the editors who commission the stories, the journalists who write them, the presenters of relevant radio shows and the regular feature slots in newspapers.

If you don’t peruse the newspapers on a daily basis, flick through magazines, listen to podcasts and have the radio on while you’re doing your make-up in the morning, you should. Whether it’s GQ, the FT, Forbes, the Travel section of the Times, Business Leader, AI Magazine, LBC, Radio 4, whatever, get reading … or listening! 

And watch the Dirty Harry series too if you like. There’s no harm in that.