SPOTLIGHT ON: SATYEN DAYAL, SENIOR DIRECTOR, EDELMAN

Name: Satyen Dayal
Company: Edelman
Job title: Senior Director

Twitter: @Satdayal
LinkedIn: Satyen Dayal
Website: www.edelman.com

Did you go to university?
I’m a graduate of the Bournemouth University BA Public Relations course. Having spent my placement year working with technology start-ups pre- ‘dotcom’ crash, the plan was to try and work in one of these firms post-graduation. Unfortunately, I finished my degree shortly after the tech investment bubble burst.

In serious need of a job, I looked for temp work in a PR agency. That temp job set the scene for what has been a pretty remarkable experience in the work of technology PR.

What was your first job in PR? How did you get that role?
The first PR job was work experience in a small PR department for Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). I had just completed a diploma in Media Studies at a local college, and part of this course included a module on Public Relations which I really enjoyed. I decided to take this a step further with a PR degree at Bournemouth, and thought it would be good to get some experience under my hat ahead of this.

My brother worked in VSO’s IT department and put me in touch with the PR manager who kindly took me on for a couple of weeks. It was a three person department of two press officers, and one graphic designer. I spent my time looking at clippings and faxing press releases. It was a great intro and I remember the time there fondly.

what mainly caught my interest was how information technology had become a radical force transforming business and society

How did you get from there to your current role?
As mentioned, at Bournemouth we had a mandatory, year-long work placement. Here I was fortunate enough to land a job in a firm that was making investments into Internet and telecoms startups.

Far from the usual draw of being part of a fast-paced, dynamic environment what mainly caught my interest was how information technology had become a radical force transforming business and society. This was something I was keen to explore further and potentially in a non-comms role.

However, as mentioned, I graduated right after the dotcom crash where the tech industry as whole experienced a significant slowdown.

Thankfully, Nelson Bostock gave me a temp job. While there, I was interviewing for an Assistant Account Executive role at Weber Shandwick, and lucky enough to be selected.

Following several twists, turns and a couple of boomerangs, including a return to Edelman, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a number teams doing some incredible work in technology communications – communications for what I now believe is the digital transformation.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
Day-to-day I lead a portfolio of technology brands that range from start-ups to emerging and well established players. These are all largely business-to-business briefs but sometimes the work involves communicating with consumer audiences.

My role also involves non-client related responsibilities. For example, I ‘co-champion’ Edelman’s diversity and inclusion agenda with colleagues across the agency. I’m also lucky enough to mentor some highly talented people.

Every day has its own unique agenda. Some days I’m on a series of afternoon or morning calls with colleagues and clients across the world. Others I’ll be immersed in writing plans and messaging or reviewing numbers in a spreadsheet.

My days are also sprinkled with the occasional fire-drill where an unexpected event can emerge and change things hour-by-hour. While this is a rare thing, it is fair to say that there has never been a dull moment in the any of the roles I’ve had in agency life.

Some would say I’m a bit of an idealist. This is what drew me to PR in the first place.

What do you like most about working in PR? What’s the hardest thing about working in PR? Who is your PR inspiration?
I’m tying all these questions together as I feel the best answer I can provide cuts across all three.

Some would say I’m a bit of an idealist. This is what drew me to PR in the first place. My inspiration comes from many areas but can be summed into a few words that I read when first looking up the various definitions of PR: ‘Mutual understanding between an organisation and its stakeholders’. Despite the criticisms levelled toward our industry, mutual understanding is something I see people striving for every day.

Mutual understanding is also the hardest thing about this work. Despite the continued digitalisation of the PR industry, our mission remains to improve communication between diverse groups of people. Not all of these people see eye-to-eye but when they find common ground the outcome is amazing.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
That’s a tough one. There’s been lots of great advice from lots of smart people. One that sticks in my mind followed an interview for a role during my placement year. Thanks to the marvel of LinkedIn I discovered the person’s name: Fionnuala Tennyson. Despite not getting the job, her advice is definitely up there amongst the best I’ve ever had.

In Fionnuala’s feedback to me she noted that while I could talk a good game, it seemed as though I was trying to convince myself that this was the job for me. She was absolutely right.

This is actually quite challenging to get your head around when you’re looking for a job, and more so when an interview seems to be going well. However, if you have to convince yourself about the opportunity, chances are it is not right for your career.

Which PR blogs, news sites & websites do you read?
Too many to mention but I do my best to ensure I’m informed by a diverse mix of sources and opinions. These sources can change week-on-week with new content added to the reading list. For example, I just added ‘The New Economy’ this past week.

I supplement with this by trying to read a few texts that add a bit more depth and context to the headlines. For example, if you’re looking at pursuing a career in Tech PR, one must read is Don Tapscott’s 1995 book ‘The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence.’ Within these pages he has pretty much predicted many of the stories we see hitting our news feeds today.

Paid internships typically mean employers are invested in making it a worthwhile experience.

What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
Whilst I’m a PR graduate and advocate of professionalisation, I also find that my opinion is constantly challenged by the diverse range of talent that enters the industry from a number of backgrounds. Many of people I work with today are from very different specialisms to those even five years ago, and this is enriching agency life.

So I guess the main tip is to build your own opinion about what a career in PR means for you. There are more paths emerging and the opportunity to find one that meets your aspirations continues to grow.

If you’ve yet to enter the industry, definitely get some work experience under your belt. Whether it’s a two week or three month internship, this can go a really long way to securing your first job – not just because it’s a reference on your CV but these experiences can make for a really strong interview conversation.

Do try to focus on paid internships. Paid internships typically mean employers are invested in making it a worthwhile experience. In fact, experience is everything and there is huge amount of personal and professional development that a career in PR has to offer. Not that you should under-value your worth and contribution – this is just as critical to the continued recognition and potential of our industry.

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