Did you go to university?
I went to the University of Central Lancashire in Preston to study the BA Hons in PR – one of the first places to offer it as a full degree.
What was your first job in PR?
Well, you could say it was at Uni, when I got elected to the sabbatical role of Academic Affairs Officer for the Student’s Union. I spent a lot of my year PRing the Uni to 6th formers on visits to Preston, or at other events. But I then did a 12 month placement in the Government Affairs team at Vauxhall Motors in Luton
I’ve had what I call a Yo-Yo career
How did you get from there to your current role?
I’ve had what I call a Yo-Yo career – having worked at two organisations, both of them twice! After my placement year and once my final year was out of the way, I was offered a role in the policy and parliamentary team at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. SMMT is the UK automotive trade association that Vauxhall are key players in. I spent 5 years there in the Policy and then Press office teams. I then moved out of London to the South coast after getting married and took a role at Zurich Insurance, looking after media relations for our motor insurance brands. Spent 6 years here, before going back to SMMT as Head of Comms. After two years, there was a management restructure and I left, to return to Zurich, where I now look after our social media operation for our UK business.
I spend a lot of time meeting colleagues finding new stories to tell
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I have a mixture of tactical social media and content creation activities, and Social business strategy. I’m currently building an education programme to try and bring our 7,500 strong business up to speed with how social media can benefit them. If they benefit, the brand benefits by association, gets more visibility and more customers think about Zurich for their insurance needs. We have both General Insurance and Life insurance business, each with different business models and routes to market. With such a big UK business covering a lot of areas, I spend a lot of time meeting colleagues finding new stories to tell, or find new people to use their own social channels to tell it.
What do you like most about working in PR?
The variety is what I love. I have no idea what the next phone call/email/text/tweet will be about. It means I need to keep my internal and external networks active and the antennae working overdrive so we can answer the question whatever it is and wherever it comes from.
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
Sometimes that’s also the hardest thing. Getting long term stuff done while dealing with all those incoming items can be frustrating.
I’m developing myself and learning loads about new technologies and platforms
Who is your PR inspiration?
Wow, what a question. I’m in awe of so many people in our sector, both names you might know (Stephen Waddington at Ketchum has taught me so much from his blog and talks, Bernard Ingham was PR secretary to the Prime Minister when I was growing up and became the first visible PR person and made me start to wonder if that’s the sort of thing I could do) but then also names you won’t – Maria Kennedy was a uni friend of mine in Preston who set up her own PR agency and it’s been great to watch her grow and develop- I wouldn’t have the guts to take that risk and make it work like she has. But now I’m developing myself and learning loads about new technologies and platforms, so people like Amy Schmittauer, Vincenzo Landino and Sue B Zimmerman are experts in content marketing across YouTube, podcasting/Periscope and Instagram respectively and I’m learning so much from their work across the social media space
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
– Make yourself indispensable to your organisation – not necessarily your role otherwise you may never get out of it!
– One of the first PR people in my life was David Crundwell, corporate affairs guru at Vauxhall when I was on placement year (He’s now global corp affairs director at Thomson Reuters) always said “Read the job ads – even if you aren’t looking for something you might see something that interests you or more importantly you might see what others in the sector are up to”. I still do that!
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
– I’m a news junkie (and have massive FOMO) so I follow all sorts of media on Twitter and then read what grabs my fancy. Obviously the BBC is my ‘go to’ news site! Few sites I read every time I get an alert include:
– Stephen Waddington’s blog
– Rachel Miller from AllthingsIC (internal comms based)
– Amy Schmittauer Youtube videos
– PR Week and CIPR Influence for industry news
Google yourself and be happy with what you find!
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
– Always read the news in whatever form you want – know what’s going on in your world (big picture and narrow focus)
– Work your networks – online and offline
– Don’t forget that the internet doesn’t forget – Google yourself and be happy with what you find! Your next employer probably will do the same!
– Don’t be afraid to take a risk – I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t taken the risk of taking two years out of my 3 year degree course!