28 Oct How I Got Into PR
I didn’t plan on ending up in PR. In fact Public Relations wasn’t a job they talked about in school career classes and I am not sure I knew it existed at that age. No, I wanted to be a journalist. I did a week’s work experience on our local paper, The South Wales Argus, and edited my University magazine, Phoenix, at the University of Kent, where I studied English and American literature. But to be honest, what I was probably hoping for was a staff job on something like Cosmopolitan, where I would get to try all the new lipsticks and chat with celebs. In short, I had the idea that journalism was dead drop glamorous.
And then I found out the reality! After Uni I worked on a number of publications: TV Hits where I was the editorial assistant sorting out competition letters and setting up subscriptions, and The Local Government Chronicle, where I learnt to sub-edit and was educated on the correct distance between litter bits to get more people using them. Frankly, I was a little disillusioned. Why couldn’t I be the editor straight away? After a while, I began to get restless and the lure of foreign travel beckoned. Looking for an escape, my boyfriend and I moved into a squat, saved every single penny we had for a year, and went on a trip around the world. We visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali and then Oz, where we stayed with some of my distant relatives in Sydney. It was one of the highpoints of my life and has given me some of my very best memories. It’s also how I ended up in PR.
Looking back I was overconfident of my ability to land a job when I arrived in Australia. In that year of travelling things had changed. For one, Maggie Thatcher was gone (we’d discovered this on a rickshaw ride in Nepal and were speechless as we had heard nothing at all about the lead up to this), and Australia was now in recession. They weren’t giving jobs away, and definitely not to a British person when it could go to someone from OZ. I am not exaggerating when I say that my boyfriend and I couldn’t even get jobs in Mcdonalds.
It was then I somehow found myself working my first job in PR, promoting a local club and restaurant; although I didn’t know it as PR at the time. When I came back to the UK all thoughts of journalism had gone and I found myself working for a Publicity Agency that handled George Michael, Bananarama, Sonia and Sinitta and many more. It was there that I learned my PR skills (some of them decidedly old fashioned now), taking one day a week to write a press release, another to stand over the fax machine feeding it through over and over again, and yet another printing off copies to lug down to the Post Office in horrible silver scratchy bags. Thank goodness for email now, is all I can say!
After just over a year, I was ready to go it alone. Looking back I had that lovely arrogance of youth that convinced me I knew all I needed to know (when in reality I was still learning) which gave me the courage to hand in my noticed and set up shop in the back bedroom. I have to thank a Chinese business man, Charles Chow, of Red restaurant in Knightsbridge (now defunct), for giving me my first big break and opening up the world of restaurant PR for me. I started my own small agency, and from then was hooked. I had well and truly crossed over from journalism into PR. If I couldn’t be an editor at a tender age I would be a business woman instead!