Q&A with Wolfstar’s Rising Star
1. As an Account Executive, what does your role involve on a daily basis?
Being an account executive at larger agencies or in big in-house teams can sometimes mean little responsibility and more menial tasks. However, one of the big advantages of working at a smaller agency is that you’re given the chance to work on an deliver pitches, create strategies and present it to clients and contribute greatly to team efforts. I do all these tasks and more on some of Wolfstar Consultancy’s biggest tech clients (where I feel most comfortable) and usually for consumer facing rather than B2B.
2. What’s it like to work at Wolfstar and how does it vary from the other positions you have had?
The big difference is the amount of online public relations compared to traditional. We provide an integrated approach, which means less time writing dozens of press releases and more time creating interesting content, such as social media news releases, videos and webchats. The idea is to create something that people want to read, watch and interact with, so therefore will share.
I think the days of the traditional press release are numbered as news moves online, so it’s exciting to be at the forefront of modernised media relations and learn skills that I’ll need for the future of the industry.
3. How did you manage to land the year-long internship at Wolfstar?
I started out as the ‘Friday work-experience girl’ by sending over my CV and with a ‘covering letter’ explaining why I wanted to work for Wolfstar Consultancy and what I was already doing online. By this point I was already active on Twitter and had been running a blog since the start of my course. I think being aware of and understanding social media gave me a real boost. Stuart Bruce, the managing director, even commented on my blog saying how much he liked it!
After getting my work experience, I then focused on making myself stand out in the office and being as useful as possible. After a month or so with Wolfstar Consultancy, I asked Stuart if a year’s internship would be possible. Luckily, he said Wolfstar would love to have me! I think I’m the first intern on such a long term contract so my role is more ‘account executive’ than just ‘intern’, which is something I prefer as it means I get the chance to work as the sole executive on some fantastic clients.
4. What attracted you to the social media side of communications?
I’ve been into anything a bit techy and geeky from an early age and though the personal and writing skills behind traditional public relations initially appealed to me, it is the new ‘digital’ face of communication that I find the biggest draw. Much of what we do in social media and online PR is new and as yet not unproven in comparison to more conventional means, so working on these campaigns is something I find more exciting, and more rewarding when you produce real results for a client.
5. What do you think are the main advantages of online PR vs. traditional PR?
Monitoring both campaigns and conversation around brands is more accessible and useful online. For example, rather then asking customer to fill in a questionnaire or a survey, you can get a feel for what people think of your product/service in forums, on social networks and on blogs. People are usually more open online too, so the feedback may be more beneficial. There is also the chance to engage directly with customers, which, if done correctly, can help improve reputation and allow two-way communication in a way that can rarely take place offline.
The potential reach for online campaigns is another big advantage. Not only are there a huge range of tools and channels to develop creative campaigns, but also the very nature of the Internet means that content can be easily shared; meaning the audience for your campaign can be huge.
6. Should students bring a hard copy portfolio to a PR interview? What do you think about e-portfolios?
I conduct the intern interviews for placements at Wolfstar Consultancy and I love seeing good quality, hard copy portfolios. It’s easier to reference your work when you have it in front of you to show and also takes the focus directly off you for a while, which is always a welcome feeling when being interviewed.
E-portfolios, such as those hosted online or put together in a PowerPoint, are probably best used on blogs and websites to showcase your talents. Getting out a laptop in an interview does slow things down a little, though I would be interested to see how using a tablet would help this problem. I think the obvious exception is if most of your work is online PR, in which case it would be a waste not to show of the work in a digital format. I’ve seen some fantastic ‘visual résumés’ online, which I think are great to send over with a CV or before a job interview and would really make an applicant stand out. I’m planning on putting one together soon!
7. You’re currently studying PR at Leeds Met – do you feel that your university degree prepared you for the world of work?
I’ve been pretty critical of the PR course in the past, more specifically the lack of social media on the agenda. With so many agencies and in-house teams adding social skills to their lists of attributes in a prospective interview candidate, it seems short-sighted not to learn more about this field at university. However, learning the theories behind communication and dipping into related fields, such as marketing and journalism, do give a more broad view of public relations, which can prove useful and interesting.
One of the biggest changes when going into ‘the world of work’ that university does not really prepare you for is working hours. Unless you really put the time in when studying (and still perhaps even then) you won’t be prepared for working 9-5.30, 5 days a week, plus occasionally working extra evenings and weekends. Similarly, nothing will truly prepare you for the amount of time and effort you put in to your clients, the first time nerves of real pitches, but also the feeling you get when a client says you’ve done a fantastic job.
8. What are the 3 most important skills interns need to be successful in PR?
- Hard working – With so much competition in the industry, you need to make sure you’re doing that little bit extra to stand out about the rest if you want any hope of getting a job at the end of your degree.
- Organisation – Something you start to learn at university, but will need to improve when working in an office. Time keeping and deadlines rule the PR world, you need to know how much time you are putting into each client if your working in an agency and also work to the timescales of media titles and journalists.
- Personality – Sounds a bit strange, but there’s more to office life then just working. Gelling with your team is important, but also coming across as approachable and capable to your clients and likeable and informative to media will go a long way. Confidence and self-belief are also important when up against so many similarly qualified applicants, as well as when it comes to public speaking and pitching.
9. What 3 tips would you give to someone trying to land a social media role?
- Have a real interest in the industry – As this field is so fast moving, you need to be interested in the way communication is changing and be passionate enough to read round the subject. Knowledge and understanding of the way social media works is important, so subscribe to relevant RSS feeds of both large sites like Mashable and TechCrunch, but also influential individuals who you aspire to.
- Know your way around a computer – Sounds obvious, but basic tech know-how is crucial for online and any extra skills, like Photoshop, video editing or bits of HTML, will no doubt come into play and demonstrate your usefulness to an agency or in-house team. There may be less graduates applying for specialist social media roles, but the competition is still strong and the standards perhaps higher.
- Use social media – Another no brainer, but just having your own blog and social profiles demonstrates that you are already active online. I don’t know any ‘social media specialists’ in PR that don’t have a blog of some kind. Not only is it a platform for you to express your interests and knowledge, but also you may have to set one up for a client at some point. Having run your own blog beforehand you will feel much more comfortable not only explaining by blogs are important, but also giving advice on how to manage one successfully.
10. If you were a student about to decide where to take your year placement, what advice would you give them?
Do it! You will undoubtedly learn more in just a few months on working in a real living, breathing PR company then you could ever learn sat in a lecture hall. Not only will your skill set and knowledge grow, but you will also develop as an individual. Working in a supportive team and delivering high quality work will give your confidence and capabilities a huge boost. I feel like I have matured more in the past six months then my entire PR course and become a better, more well-rounded person because of it and therefore more useful to any team I join in my career. Placement year makes your more employable, it’s as simple as that!
I would like to put on record my thanks to Clare for sharing her thoughts with us and wish her all the best for another great year and beyond. An ever increasing number of students I speak to say they want to work for a PR agency that specialises in social media so i’m sure they will find this Q&A insightful.