6 Lessons I’ve Learnt From 6 Months in Dublin
Ever since I studied and worked at Leeds Metropolitan University I’ve appreciated the importance of taking a step back and reflecting. This was initially because of Professor Simon Lee, the then Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Met who wrote a daily reflection, but pretty soon I came to realise the personal benefits of reflection. It helps me evaluate my personal effectiveness, understand more clearly the world around me and most importantly learn.
From my time at the institution I also noted the significance the VC placed on anniversaries and commemorations within posts, so it seems fitting that I should reflect on my time at Edelman Dublin six months after joining. Incidentally, Professor Lee once lived in Ireland and continues to blog at his latest venture, Level Partnerships.
So here comes my reflection…
It seems like only yesterday that I joined the Dublin office in what I termed a ‘new adventure’. Its been a juxtaposition of time flying-by, but also a lot happening. Living in a new city, sampling a different culture, meeting lots of people, learning some history, getting to know a different team, taking on more responsibility, operating in a challenging market and winning new business. All these ingredients have fused to create an experience that will benefit me in the future – whatever it may hold.
The six things I’ve learnt from six months in Dublin are:
1. Have an ‘added value’ proposition
We are operating in difficult times where people have less disposable income. This has a direct impact on business’ bottom line and in turn the money they can spend. Businesses are focusing on getting ‘added value’ from suppliers, be it their PR agency or catering company. They are asking for more bang for their buck and if the rumours are to be believed, some PR agencies are dropping their hourly combined rate to below €100 per hour. Therefore understanding how you can deliver ‘added value’ for clients, whether it be thought-leadership, research or simply more hours, whilst maximising commerciality is absolutely vital.
2. Offer a range of PR services
As companies look to make efficiency savings we’re seeing a rise in the number of winner-takes-all pitches; where several agencies go head-to-head and one lucky winner emerges with lots of new business – and the losers with nothing. This is a move which is often engineered by procurement teams as they seek to increase efficiency and lower costs via economies of scale. The growth of this type of pitch means that it is essential for agencies to have both the capacity and know-how to deliver fully integrated campaigns, so a nimble, yet broad service offering is of paramount importance.
3. Become better at educating clients about social media
Media buyers dominate social in Ireland and their modus operandi is to pump money into advertising and watch the number of fans shoot up, but are found wanting when it comes to engagement. The challenge is for us is to become better at educating clients about the importance of engagement and establish a mindset of life after Likes. Succeeding in digital marketing is about having truly creative ideas, delivering compelling communications and developing communities; none of these sit naturally within the realms of media buying, digital or otherwise. Despite media buyers ruling the roost, I can see the tide is turning.
4. Explore opportunities in other markets
As there is little new money coming into the Irish PR industry, agencies are looking to secure revenue and protect jobs. The trend for consolidation is reflected widely across the economy, however, enterprising agencies are looking beyond the Emerald Isle for new business. Consultancies that are part of or affiliated to international networks are perhaps best placed to capitalise on these opportunities. Whilst, there are challenges within the Irish economy, we live in a truly globalised world where excellent technology, transport and communication means there are few barriers to winning and working effectively with clients from abroad.
5. Recognise you are working with and competing against highly qualified practitioners
Since working in Dublin I’ve noticed the high number of professionals with a formal PR education (often at Masters level) or professional qualification. This is in stark contrast to the relatively small number of practitioners in the UK who have PR degrees or CIPR qualifications. Of course my UK colleagues are no less able to do the job, but to land an entry role in Ireland, it appears you’ll need a relevant qualification. I see this as no bad thing and remain adamant that education is the best way to drive up professional standards and increase the standing in which is PR is held.
6. Unpaid internships get your foot in the door
In a sad sign of the times, unpaid internships now offer the best route into the Irish PR industry. Whilst, I disagree with this practice, I’m also sympathetic to the plight of agencies. Downward pressure means that companies have less money to recruit staff, whilst universities continue to pump out a conveyor belt of talented graduates; many of which now expect to work for free. During the boom of the Celtic Tiger graduates would have walked into full-time jobs on a livable wage, but now they must seek out internships, hoping a vacancy becomes available or increasingly they too look for opportunities in other markets.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it. There’s many things keeping me here; great people, exciting clients, more strategic work, as well as my personal circumstances. The challenge is to continue delivering excellent campaigns that have a measurable impact on the bottom line. It’s a fantastic challenge, but one I’m about to sign up to for another six months and I look forward to reflecting on a year in Dublin.
I’m sure there are many new adventures to be had.