Breaking through old portrayals of PR

Posted by Daniela Hamill
Daniela Hamill PR Exec InFusion Comms

As part of my first year PR and journalism studies at Leeds Beckett University, I was given the task of finding a week-long industry placement to gain some experience and build up a portfolio of work.

However, always one to move the goalposts a little further when given a challenge, I thought I would try to secure a job in the industry. A daunting prospect considering I had minimal experience and spent my time before university chopping onions at 5am and asking people if they wanted their bread toasted.

After I made multiple enquiries into placement after placement, Sara got in touch on Twitter to say InFusion was looking for an account executive. A year later, it’s time for a little reflection on what a year in industry has taught me.


Traversing a steep learning curve in technical PR

From someone that listened to my electrician dad talk about his job with a blank face and a few ‘???s’ in my head, the thought of working with clients in the construction, energy and manufacturing sectors seemed way out of depth for me.

Diving straight into the world of offshore wind, steel manufacturing and construction products for roofing, I am constantly learning the correct technical terminology,  discovering the challenges and issues affecting businesses in these areas, and appreciating the wider impact associated with these sectors that we really couldn’t live without.

A year in, I now know why a roof batten joint would be an obvious choice for lathing a pitched roof and how important electricians are in the process of big (and small) commercial developments. There also aren’t as many question marks circling round my head during dinner table conversations with my Dad.


Altering my perception of PR

PR agencies. Staff sit on bean bags and exit the building whizzing down a spiral slide, right?

Admittedly when I started university, I had quite a negative perception of what I thought working in PR would be like. From Edina Monsoon to Samantha Jones, it’s no secret that the portrayal of PR in TV and film is full of champagne, parties and spin. By working in a ‘real life’ agency, I realise now that those old fashioned portrayals of the industry could not be further from the truth.

While I’m all for slides, the thing I like most about InFusion is that it seems different to other agencies that I’ve researched or heard of. It’s a desk full of trade magazines, tea and chocolate fingers, and operated by a bloomin’ good team and hard work.

And while the trusty press release is considered ‘dead’ by many, working in technical sectors made me realise that trade magazines are still flourishing and still important for this niche. At the same time, digital is an important and fast moving area, and learning to help businesses navigate this transition has been eye-opening to see how much a digitalised world can completely change the running of a business and consumer behaviour.


Putting everything into practice

With InFusion, I have been given the opportunity to broaden my knowledge, skillset, perception and confidence in PR and comms, as well as in the technical industries we work with.

From PRCA training webinars to reading the extensive range of books in the office library, I’ve been able to coincide my studies with my job, which has really helped me with assignments and putting everything that I have learnt into practice. I feel that this has given me a stronger position in my studies compared with a week’s placement, as I have seen all areas of the business over the year and widened my scope for building up a solid portfolio. As PR at university is very much theory based, working at InFusion alongside it has aided my understanding of the course, the theories and the practices that we learn.

Although I am enjoying every aspect of PR work that I do at InFusion, I am leaning more towards social media side. As I use social media for personal use regularly (and having it is the main reason I have this job, thanks Twitter), I am constantly keeping up to date with things even out of the office and it’s what I feel most natural doing.

I’ve also gained and developed skills in other areas too. I think most people my age can empathise when it comes to picking up a phone and calling someone. In a world where it’s easier to send a text or email, making a call was never something I thought I would be able to do. My confidence has developed in other ways too; from being someone that used to struggle to order food from a menu at a restaurant, just a couple of weeks ago I met a client on my own with a camera and notebook to conduct some interviews.

My year has been full of questions, learning, trade magazines, client meetings, tweets and more hashtags than an influencer meet up, I am excited to continue developing in my role and gaining new skills.