I never knew most areas of PR existed.
Having studied graphic design at a good, creative university I graduated knowing lots about branding, marketing and advertising, and little about PR. I have a sister who works in the communications industry, so my natural response was ‘I’m going to find my own thing’. Needless to say, everyone has things in common with their siblings, and typically my sister and I share the skill of being good communicators. It was only a matter of time before I was booked to freelance at her office (as a designer), and the idea of venturing into comms was born.
My experience with her agency was making cheerful, friendly and fun content for their social media posts, editing images for websites and sorting out the odd presentation for a client’s internal comms meeting – altogether a rather ‘consumer’ understanding of the industry.
Joining the Taylor Bennett Foundation staff as an Programme Administration Intern this January has exposed me to a huge array of sectors and disciplines within PR that most of the general population just do not know exist.
Financial, Tech, Public Affairs, Corporate, Media Relations, CSR, Investor Relations, B2B, B2C and Internal Comms are all disciplines within communications as a whole that are broadly unheard of in the graduate world. Awareness of these sectors is largely low, but particularly amongst graduates because they do not read as much traditional media as their parents/the older generation, and therefore are not exposed in the same way to public relations.
it was not viewed as a viable career option
When I asked friends my age about the lack of knowledge of PR as a career I realised that, in large part, it is not a known career path because it is never taught or brought up in school. The only time many had even heard of PR before was when something was really good, or bad – as in “Trump needs some good PR”, so it was not viewed as a viable career option.
I unearthed, when chatting with friends and trainees on the Foundation, something I think I already knew: that the perception of PR outside the industry is very ‘Ab-Fab’ and blonde. ‘PR’ is done by Edina Monsoon from her limo, it is not something that could affect global share prices and the reputations of countless international corporations.
“No thanks, I’m not a posh blonde girl”
The current TBF trainees said that, at university if you’d asked them if they would take a job in a top PR firm they’d have responded with a resounding “No thanks, I’m not a posh blonde girl” (said a cohort of five male and one female black, Asian and minority ethnic trainees). They also said that between them they knew ‘a lot of people who would probably be natural fits for the industry, but who don’t actually know of the opportunities available.’
So we are back again to the dilemma that seems to be remerging continuously: PR needs better PR.
University students, sixth formers and young talent in general need to know about PR – then the industry will become naturally more visible to future PR and communications professionals.
Siena also blogs at www.sienaclarke.com/blog about her time as a Programme Administration Intern with the Taylor Bennett Foundation
Picture: Taylor Bennett Foundation trainees Winter 2017 with Siena Clarke. Left to right Tuminu, Lucky, Samraj, Methuselah, Ben, Siena & Helen.