In this guest post meet Roniqua Gerald, who has managed to carve a successful PR career for herself from scratch. Her story and experiences serve as a useful reminder about the power of persistence and not giving up in pursuit of one’s purpose. If you’re interested in a career in PR or just want to be inspired read Roniqua’s piece and share your thoughts below.
Life before PR
I never intended to have a career in PR, as I was set to work in the media after graduating from Roehampton University in Media & Culture. Coming up towards the end of my degree, I stumbled across a two-week work placement at GMB Trade Union press office, and since then my eyes were open to the world of PR. Although I didn’t directly work in PR, I began to gain practical experience that would help me along the way. No two weeks were the same, I got stuck in and supported two senior press officers by writing press releases, corresponding to journalists, press monitoring, and interviewing sources for articles, all of which equipped me for a future set in PR.
Into the big world
Shortly after I graduated, with hard work, persistence and sheer luck, I landed a job working for BBC iPlayer as a media assistant, I thought fantastic and there was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to work for the BBC. I spent the next 4 and half years working across other major broadcasting channels 4 and 5 as a broadcast transmission operator.
Some of you might be thinking, well what happened to the fond love for PR, it was still there roaring through me. As my broadcasting roles included shift work (Good old 24/7 TV) I was able to do internships on my days off for in-house and agency such as Atlantic Records. I was gaining the best of both worlds, it was tiring working full time and unsociable hours but I wanted to experience and challenge myself in all areas.
Breaking into PR
The time came when I felt I could step into the world of PR, having bagged myself experience, contacts and knowledge. I approached The Soul Project, a community-based charity, and then pitched a campaign idea to them, and it just so happened they were planning a launch event. Ever since then, I have supported The Soul Project with their PR strategies. Shortly after, I was asked by Stella Creasy MP for Waltham Forest to support her on a youth crime proposal and to help run their PR campaign.
I won’t lie, I did face challenges and hurdles, one was because I self-taught myself, so I had to really prove my worth. Working as freelance PR was also a challenge, as some clients preferred to work with more established firms. Despite all the hurdles, I remained resilient and in the last 2 years I have worked with some amazing clients across start-ups, lifestyle and charity sectors, my confidence grew along with my experience.
My tips and advice if you’re thinking of getting into PR
Build relationships– I could never get tired of the word Network, it’s crucial. A lot of my mentors or those I have asked advice from are people I’ve stayed in touch with over the years. You’ll find that people are actually friendly, open and willing to help. If you pick up the courage and ask for advice, it could lead you to great places. PR is also a very small industry, you become familiar with people’s names in your chosen sector. Find ways to build relationships with influencers, journalists and bloggers, simple things like engaging through social media, attending industry events or sending emails with a brief introduction about yourself make a big difference.
Interest/knowledge– There’s actually no given qualifications to be able to work in PR, although a degree in a related subject will help, almost anyone can work in industry. With that in mind, having that extra interest and knowledge in your sector will prove rewarding and set you apart from the rest.
Research– Staying on top of current trends, latest product, research findings will give you that extra boost when applying for PR roles or pitching to potential clients. You want to be seen as forward-thinking and alert.
Show your worth– Never second guess yourself or sell yourself short, if you plan to work as a freelancer or in an agency, demonstrate all that you have achieved. Show potential clients or employers your portfolio with case studies, testimonies and conduct a brief SWOT analysis about the company.
Learn– Let’s face it, we don’t know it all, especially when you’re fresh in the game. I recommend reading different books about PR (PR Power by Amanda Barry). This was one way I really learnt more about the industry. PR is evolving, so there’s no better way than getting ahead and becoming more of an expert in your field. There are many training courses you can attend, CIPR and PRCA offer a full range.
Another reason why I love PR, is that it’s so diverse, I can safely say most businesses would benefit immensely from PR and you can pretty much work for any sector of your interest or knowledge such as financial, travel, corporate, fashion, the list can go on. PR is becoming a fast growing career prospect, to get started you should have an eye for detail, passion, strong interpersonal skills, good writing, creative spark and a resilient drive.
In September 2016, I will be going back to university to complete my Masters in PR & Corporate Communications. My plans for the future is to become a PR specialist and to work with international clients in the Caribbean and across Europe in travel and lifestyle PR.
“If the opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
Tweet Roniqua @Ronishares