Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Musings of a PR Intern

Lucy, Jordan and I at George's terrace launch party.

'So, what exactly is PR?', my friend Helen asks as we tuck into our falafel wraps at Home Sweet Home in the Northern Quarter. It's the day after my final shift as an intern at We Are Indigo PR agency, and I take a moment to ponder the question that I've been asked multiple times by friends over the last four weeks.

It turns out that quite a few people feel like they don't fully understand the little acronym, and I'd be telling porkies if I claimed that I wasn't asking the same question to careers advisers back at university. So here's an introduction to public relations from the eyes of someone who's only just taken their first steps into the world of PR.

PR is about shaping and maintaining images.

Whether it's of a business or an individual, the purpose of a PR agency is to promote a particular image to the public. What words spring to mind when I mention Topshop, Chanel, or Starbucks? PR agencies work away behind the scenes to ensure that you link their clients with suitable adjectives: on-trend, timeless, Instagram-able frappes, and so on.

We Are Indigo represents a range of fashion and lifestyle clients including clothing retailer The Curve, flat shoe brand Saira, bespoke engagement ring retailer Rare Pink, and George's restaurant. To maintain and shape the images of these brands, my colleagues and I wrote press releases, liaised with journalists and bloggers to secure press and online coverage, managed social media accounts, and organised events.

Take for example the party we organised to celebrate the launch of a sun-facing terrace at George's restaurant. After inviting a select variety of Manchester-based celebrities, journalists, photographers and local businesses, we secured some great press coverage in The Daily Mail, Manchester Evening News and Manchester Confidential, thus spreading a friendly yet professional image of the restaurant to potential customers.

Right, we've covered the basics. The kind of thing you could read in a textbook. But what is PR really about?

PR is about people.

This seems the ideal point to introduce you to some of the people I worked with closely during my internship.

Gemma is the founder and managing director of We Are Indigo. She has the rare quality of being utterly professional yet simultaneously great fun to work with. Whilst balancing her many projects, she still found time to share top notch advice on how to approach work in PR, much of which I'm repeating in this post. 

No task is too great or small for the lovely Abbie; her organisation and multi-tasking skills are to be seriously admired. She also managed to answer the thousand questions that I sent her way, all whilst rocking spot-on work outfits.

Jordan- and he will happily back me up on this- is fabulous. I can't help but respect his drive; he knows exactly what he wants to achieve in the PR industry, and he’s working hard to get it. He also has like five million fans on the Kim Kardashian game, so he’s kind of a big deal.

Lucy is one of those people you meet who are just thoroughly lovely. As well as possessing the ability to always put a smile on your face, she has some kind of Microsoft Excel-related magic, and can conjure up a detailed media list within minutes. 

Clients, colleagues, celebrities: you interact with a vast range of people when working in PR. Some will be famous, others won’t, some will be incredibly wealthy, and others won’t. Whilst treating everyone equally is an attitude I take in everyday life, I’ve learnt when it comes to PR, it also benefits your career to give everyone your utmost kindness and attention.

The building security manager, Tom, thanked me on my last day for stopping by to chat to him in the mornings. I found myself unable to comprehend how others could choose to walk straight past him every day (the building comprises of lots of offices for different businesses). On a personal level Tom always managed to brighten up my day; on a professional level he shared some information that helped with one of my internship tasks.

Basically, I don't think it's acceptable to greet a celebrity at an event if you can't have a quick conversation with someone whose path you cross each morning.

So, we've delved deeper into the essence of PR, but are we still overlooking something vital?

PR is about honesty.

This doesn't exactly fit into the image of PR people as manipulative liars engrossed in an evil cackle as they send off a fabricated press release, but I disagree that successful PR is based around ruthlessness, lies and deceit.

We Are Indigo is named thus because indigo is a colour that represents sincerity and integrity. During my internship, I was working for clients with a passion for their business, which each offered something unique, and it was my job to find the best approach and combination of words to most accurately portray that. As my time at We Are Indigo has confirmed, it is possible to get far in the industry by being a nice, friendly, and thoroughly decent person.

So, those are my current musings on public relations- and with a bit of luck, I'll have the opportunity to continue developing my definition of PR in the future.

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