Headshot of Fiona Baird

Consumer PR: What it is and how to get into it

We’re delighted to kickstart our series of guest blog posts on #EdCreativeCareers  with an excellent contribution from University of Edinburgh alumna, Fiona Baird who graduated from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures in 2015. Fiona now works as a Senior Account Manager at BCW, a global communications agency and takes us on her career journey from graduation through to a career in Consumer PR.

If you’re interested in working in this industry, then this is the blog for you!

Fiona, how did your PR career journey begin?

I had a brilliant four years at Edinburgh University, studying Modern Languages (French and Spanish) from 2011 – 2015. After I graduated, I took a year out – initially taking part in the International Citizen Service Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) programme and went to Tanzania to help teenagers learn soft skills and communication to help them gain employment in the future, and then on to South and Central America to travel with some friends. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do employment-wise, but I knew I loved communicating with people and wanted to find a job that allowed me to do that.

I moved to London and started working in recruitment – although I loved meeting and speaking to all sorts of different people (both clients and candidates) and figuring out what made them tick, ultimately recruitment wasn’t the career for me. After a year and a half in the job, a close friend from Edinburgh University referred me to BCW. In a nutshell, PR agencies work with a range of clients to inform and engage their target audiences via creative storytelling; that can be anything from launching a new product, changing perceptions, or reputation management.

Can you demystify Consumer PR and tell us the typical duties for an entry-level position?

I started in an entry-level position in the Consumer team, which immediately saw me working creatively, as well as honing my time management and organisational skills. A career in Consumer PR is exciting and varied, with opportunities to get involved in lots of different areas. I have worked across a wide range of consumer brands, from the likes of Yankee Candle, Colgate, Palmolive and Sanex, through to  travel brand Hotels.com and the All England Lawn Tennis Club (aka Wimbledon). A typical day for an entry-level position within Consumer PR would see you looking after the day-to-day admin for your client accounts and taking part in media relations and sell-ins. This involves monitoring for media coverage and sharing it with the team; joining brainstorms to come up with new creative ideas for existing and prospective clients; phoning and emailing journalists about a new product or campaign you’re working on; and supporting with the organisation of an event.

What does your current role involve?

I continued to work my way up in the agency and, four years later, I’m now a Senior Account Manager (the friend who originally referred me is still working at the company too, and we remain close friends!). The role continues to be incredibly varied; media relations is still a huge part of the job, and something I really enjoy – this involves speaking to journalists (over the phone or email or, more excitingly, coffee or lunch!) to tell them about new products or campaigns our clients are launching, and getting them excited enough about it to want to write about it. Becoming more senior, I have become increasingly involved in the strategy side of client servicing, which involves looking at our clients’ long-term objectives and ensuring that, through our creative ideas and communications, we’re working back to this and telling the right stories. And, as you might be able to guess from the job title, account management is another key part of the role; managing day-to-day client relationships, managing third-party suppliers and partners, and ensuring the team is clear on their actions and what needs to be done to deliver a project.

What are your highlights of high-profile projects?

In my relatively short PR career to date, I’ve worked on some really exciting projects. I’ve also had brilliant opportunities; travelling to Madrid to support Hotels.com during their sponsorship of the UEFA Champion’s League (and putting my languages degree to good use!), working on award-winning campaigns for Aldi supermarket to provide free meals for struggling families, and taking part in (and winning!) a national competition responding to a charity brief for Worldwide Cancer Research.

What is your advice and tips for breaking into the industry?

Aside from internships with PR agencies, relevant experience includes demonstrating an interest in creative writing and storytelling (for example being involved with the student newspaper or radio), event organisation, or any fundraising activities. When it comes to interviewing for PR companies, a top tip is to really understand what PR is, and be aware of PR campaigns (NB: NOT advertising campaigns) as that is something potential candidates often fall foul of. There are lots of magazines and websites that will help you with this, including PR Week and The Drum, which highlight some of the latest PR Campaigns.

If you’re a people-person who wants to work in a fast-paced environment, which encompasses creativity, writing, speaking to different people, storytelling, social media, and events, then a career in PR is something that you would really enjoy, and give you a lot of job satisfaction. I absolutely love it!

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please do get in touch with me to find out more or ask about any opportunities we have at BCW – Fiona can be contacted via Platform One or the BCW website.

Thanks Fiona.

You can explore the exciting and varied world of PR further on our website.

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(Image credit: BCW UK)


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