November 30, 2010

Back to School

After four long years away I went back to school last week but this time not as a student. I had been asked to speak to year 13 students at the Guernsey Grammar School & Sixth Form Centre so I could share pearls of wisdom about working in the local media industry.


In the days before giving the talk I had re-traced my journey over the last couple of years which included completing a degree in media studies at the University of Portsmouth, work experience placements at BBC Guernsey, Channel Television and student radio station Pure FM, and a stint working as a broadcast journalist at Island FM before landing a job at Orchard PR as an account executive earlier this year.


But, it was as I stood before the students in the lecture theatre that I suddenly remembered just how lost I had felt four years earlier sitting in exactly the same spot. At the time it seemed that getting a job in the media industry would be impossible, but I know now, from my own personal experience that it is not and that Guernsey has a thriving media industry, particularly PR, with plenty of opportunities for willing and enthusiastic candidates.


When I first tried to describe what PR is to the students a sea of confused faces stared straight back at me. That was hardly surprising considering that there are more than 400 different definitions out there and academics can’t even come to a firm conclusion. We began to get somewhere when I explained that PR for me is all about managing a clients’ reputation and this can only be done my developing great relationships with your clients and with both local and UK-based journalists.


Getting those relationships right makes PR the challenging and rewarding industry it is. Making that first telephone call or writing that first e-mail to a client or journalist can certainly be intimidating but with the guidance of a talented and supportive team behind you it certainly makes things easier.


Orchard is a good representation of the Channel Islands’ bustling PR sector. We are the largest agency, with nine client-facing members of the team servicing a wide variety of clients from all different sectors. It may sound like a cliché but every day is different and from the get go you are encouraged to get involved in helping with the day to day running of an account. A typical day may include attending photo shoots (so far I’ve had the pleasure to assist in shoots with Katherine Jenkins and Alastair Stewart), brainstorming campaign ideas, attending client meetings and writing news releases and articles.


As well as the well worn image of the PRO with phone permanently glued to ear, there is a more strategic side to our industry and I’m currently studying for the CIPR’s Advanced Certificate, something all of Orchard’s account executives do. Professional development is very important in any career, and my advice to the students was to always look for opportunities to keep learning. The course is giving me an insightful grounding in the academic theory behind the subject and I’m certain that this, added to the experience of a busy agency, will give me the right skills for a long and fulfilling career in PR.


Here’s my advice on how to land a job in the PR industry:


  • Work experience is KEY. Gaining work experience in any industry is vital as it not only gives you an insight into a particular sector but can help you rule in or rule out future jobs.
  • Keep an eye on what is going on in the industry at a local, national or international level. Being able to comment on a particular issue shows your future employer that you are engaged with the threats and opportunities the industry faces.
  • DON’T ever throw away a piece of good written work. In an industry where candidates are expected to be able to string a sentence together a good piece of written work shows any future employer what you can do.
  • Be confident and be yourself!

Giving the students an insight into the world of PR has hopefully helped them realise that with plenty of hard work and enthusiasm they can pursue a career packed with many opportunities.


I hope I managed to dispel a few myths along the way as well.


Posted by Catherine.

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