Name: Allie Fitzgibbon
Company: Career Ready
Job title: Head of Communications
Did you go to university?
Yes, I went to the University of Birmingham and studied English. I had considered staying on to complete a Masters degree but decided that after three years of studying I was ready to get started on my career ladder. I later went on to study a Postgraduate Diploma in PR with the CIPR, which was sort of the best of both worlds.
I’ve stayed in touch with everyone in that team ever since – it showed me early on how important networking is for any career
What was your first job in PR?
My first paid job was as a Communications Coordinator at an NHS Primary Care Trust in London. I’d spent several weeks on work experience with the team there during university holidays and loved the lively atmosphere and variety of work. I contacted them in my final term at uni to see if they had any projects I could support while I was applying for paid work and as luck would have it they were recruiting for a new Coordinator – my previous work with them put me in a good position, and I started two weeks after I finished university.
I’ve stayed in touch with everyone in that team ever since – it showed me early on how important networking is for any career, but particularly in the world of PR.
How did you get from there to your current role?
By being ambitious, pushing myself in new roles and always being eager to keep learning. My career has largely been in public and charity sector organisations, most of whom don’t have a huge budget for communications – so a lot of my roles have been in small teams or on my own as a comms lead. That meant I had the opportunity to work directly with senior members of staff and to take responsibility for high profile projects from an early stage in my career. However, it also meant there were few options for promotion within those organisations so I needed to be hungry for career progression and move organisations as well as roles to gain more experience and continue learning.
I have a good balance between shaping the strategic direction of our communications and designing new campaigns, and managing more operational activities.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
One of the best aspects of a career in PR is the huge amount of variety each day offers, and that’s certainly true working for an organisation like Career Ready. I have a good balance between shaping the strategic direction of our communications and designing new campaigns, and managing more operational activities. It means I get to speak directly to the students we work with and promote their achievements, as much as promoting the wider organisation.
What do you like most about working in PR?
It may sound like a cliché but for me the best part is working with people. I’m a strong believer that PR is about two way communication and I’ve always enjoyed supporting people to tell their stories and have their say, as much as supporting an organisation to get their message out.
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
One of its strengths also presents one of its biggest challenges – the continuous innovations in how we communicate as a society, particularly the developments in digital media, can make it challenging to keep your comms fresh and keep up with trends. It’s a fine line between staying up-to-date and jumping on every new channel, just because it’s fashionable. You have to keep your finger on the pulse, but also make sure you’re communicating the right way for your stakeholders.
Who is your PR inspiration?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic managers and role models in my career so far – people whose passion for their careers, and the organisations they work for has pushed them to go the extra mile time and time again. But I have to say the biggest inspiration always comes from the people whose stories I tell – from doctors, nurses and patients in the NHS, to the fantastic students, teachers and volunteers we work with at Career Ready. Ultimately it’s working with them that gets me up in the morning.
Volunteering to support more senior members of the team with their work is a good way to learn from them
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given came from my former manager, Charlotte Gawne, who is now Director of Strategic Communications at the London Ambulance Service. She told me that the best way to push yourself is to look at job descriptions for the next role you want, identify the gaps in your own skills and then look for opportunities to develop those skills. Volunteering to support more senior members of the team with their work is a good way to learn from them and gain experiences and ideas you can use when you’re given more responsibility next time.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
PR Week and PR Daily on LinkedIn
If you want to succeed you have to be committed to life-long learning
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
Never make the mistake of thinking you know all the answers. PR, by its very nature, is constantly evolving – that’s what makes it exciting…and challenging. If you want to succeed you have to be committed to life-long learning and the best people to learn from are your colleagues and peers.