Name: Jason MacKenzie
Job title: President 2017
Did you go to university?
I went to university as a very mature student, earning an MA in PR in 2014 at Birmingham City University, where I’m now a visiting lecturer. I spent much of the past decade (or so) over-compensating for my lack of an undergraduate degree by accumulating a shelf full of what my colleagues call swimming certificates. I have diplomas from the CIPR, PRCA and the CIM – and certificates from the IPA and CIM (I generally don’t mention my WSET qualification – look it up if you’re curious…). I value the discipline that study brings. I believe it instills a much-needed robust theoretical framework to the practice of PR.
I fell into a role as ‘publicity officer’ about fifteen years ago
What was your first job in PR?
It depends on how you define PR. I fell into a role as ‘publicity officer’ about fifteen years ago, having been a print and broadcast journalist. My journey to becoming a ‘proper’ PR professional only began a decade ago, when I was client services director for an advertising agency. The guy who ran the PR team left and I was put in charge of the division in addition to my ‘day job’. That’s when I learnt that PR wasn’t ‘just a subset of marketing’ but that it was a strategic management discipline. At least, that’s when I started learning…
I co-founded a consultancy with several others
How did you get from there to your current role?
The agency I worked for didn’t value professionalism. A couple of years after leaving there, I co-founded a consultancy with several others, two of whom had worked for me at the old agency. At the end of last year, I left the consultancy to focus on running the CIPR and on developing a more diverse career, including interim consultancy, more lecturing and international assignments.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
My role in the CIPR involves the full set of PR skills – from strategy and leadership to speaking, writing, chairing meetings and working with the 30-strong team at Russell Square and the hundreds of volunteers to deliver results for our members, as we seek to be a clear voice to the industry and the wider community. When engaged on interim assignments, I lead and manage teams to deliver results for clients, using a blend of integrated communications.
What do you like most about working in PR?
Delivering results by helping clients identify their objectives, then crafting strategies to help achieve or exceed those goals.
The popularity of YouTubers amazes me
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
Keeping up. The world is changing fast: the PR world is changing faster. When I ask students ‘who’s on Snapchat?’ everyone’s hand shoots up. The popularity of YouTubers amazes me. I still haven’t got to grips with shooting, editing and uploading video. And the list goes on…
Who is your PR inspiration?
David Ogilvy was an advertising legend and visionary leader – and his writings are equally applicable across all communications disciplines and business contexts. I urge you to read Confessions of an Advertising Man. My friend Adrian Wheeler is invariably thought provoking and insightful. I also appreciate the input and counsel of many others, including Kevin Taylor, Paul Mylrea, Rob Brown, Donald Steel, Steve Shepperson-Smith and Lindsey Collumbell.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
My late mother instilled in me a sense that I could do whatever I turned my mind (and energies) to. That’s better than any careers advice, per se. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I graze continually on twitter and LinkedIn, clicking judiciously (!) on links that look promising. www.wadds.co.uk is good, Richard Bailey’s excellent www.behindthespin.com is a great resource and I look most days at www.influence.cipr.co.uk.
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
– Work hard
– Be passionate
– Focus on developing your skills, especially clear, compelling writing
– Network: get involved with the CIPR and other organisations
– Commit yourself to professionalism, engaging in lifelong learning, through CPD
– Be confident in your abilities, but stay humble.