From the professionals: working in Advertising, Marketing & PR

Posted by IsabelFrazer on 3 November 2014

We hosted 3 industry professionals for an insights panel discussion on working in Advertising, Marketing & PR. Roles in these sectors can be intellectually stimulating and rewarding, so read on to find out more about the information & attributes you need to get into these sectors.

  • Find out if the industry is right for you by getting some experience now! Do an internship or work experience, and don't worry if at the end of it you decide that it isn't for you, it's all about developing your self-awareness and understanding what suits you.
  • Research the sector: This means more than looking at company websites (but they are a good place to start!), for example watch a TED talk, or view the SlideShares from key UK and international industry conferences including Cannes International Festival of Creativity, ICCO Global Summit, PRCA National Conference, Holmes Report Global PR Summit & In2 Summit to hear about what it is like from prominent industry figures. Depending on the organisation or role, you may need to develop specialist knowledge, finding this out early may influence your areas of study.
  • Be diverse: In some organisations you will need to be able to work on a range of client groups and demonstrate diverse skills. Learn more by exploring the relevant associated professional bodies: for PR industry information & events check-out the PRCA & for advertising IPA.
  • Never say no: You will have to demonstrate tenacity if you want to get ahead in these sectors, so start now by making your own opportunities, and being open to new experiences.
  • Confidence and self-assurance are key attributes individuals need to succeed. This doesn't mean that you have to be an extrovert. Successful teams are made up of diverse individuals. However, if you identify yourself as being an introvert use your inner strength to get your ideas out there and think about how you communicate best.
  • Develop your commercial awareness: This is a key attribute employers look for in candidates. So if you have a keen interest in a particular area, explore it. You will by nature need to be inquisitive so start now, read relevant publications (such as PR Week & AdAge), attend industry events, get some training, subscribe to social media channels & blogs. In an entry-level role you may need to undertake tasks such as social / media monitoring, and background research so demonstrate that you have an interest, and don’t leave it right up until the interview.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are key: In some agencies you will work on anywhere from 1-6 clients, so being able to multitask and deal with conflicting priorities is an essential skill.
  • Develop your digital skills: Employers look for these skills in all candidates, so whether you are studying digital media or not, it is crucial that you are able to demonstrate your experience in this area. Think about how you can build your portfolio of digital skills: blogging, vlogging, engaging on social media etc. You may need to create a show-reel as part of an application process so by looking at the application procedure early on will help you understand what you need to do. Don't understate these skills on your CV! If you want to work in PR then you need to get active and engaged on social media. Check-out and other blogs for news on the digital marketing industry.
  • Be prepared to deal with challenging clients: These industries are service focused, so get experience as a service provider to know if it is right for you.
  • Make your application stand out from the crowd: It should be punchy and have impact. Always tailor it to the organisation you are applying for and make sure you address all the competencies and criteria they are looking for. Personalise the application to the agency (make sure you know their campaigns!) to show your motivation and interest, and don't forget to be yourself. Think quality over quantity.
  • Don't be afraid to network: Get on sites such as LinkedIn and start talking to professionals to find out more information and make that all important first impression. You need to be able to demonstrate you can build professional relationships to work in these sectors & networking now will help you grow this skill. It’s not just all about online networking either, go to industry events, so you can learn and meet people. Get out there and start asking questions!
  • Highlight your transferable skills: Whilst direct industry experience is a plus, don't downplay part-time work. Employers look for determination and drive, so think about where else you may have gained the skills required to do the job.

When thinking about which firms to apply for, you should consider what your prospects are, both in terms of immediate tasks at that level and your future career paths:

  • Career path: Larger firms have a defined career path so you always know what you’re working towards. Because smaller firms have a less defined career path, although this increases uncertainty, it means you could forge your own path and gain seniority quicker. Starting salaries are roughly the same, but the benefits are almost always better at larger firms.
  • Types of work: Cookie cutter admin tasks are going to be a feature of any entry level or graduate position in this career, no matter the firm. Smaller firms do allow you to get involved in front line work a lot quicker – notably face time with clients and dealing with journalists – because they may need as many people on a project as there is in the firm.

And finally, be focused in your job hunt - determination is key.

About the panelists:

Mary Whenman, Managing Director, Corporate, Financial & Public Affairs, Weber Shandwick, London @marywhenman

Mary Whenman has more than 20 years’ experience of leading UK, EMEA and global corporate communications and b2b programmes and advising clients at a strategic level. Mary’s core areas of expertise are corporate reputation management, issues and crisis management and b2b marketing, spanning a wide range of sectors.

Mary has spent much of her career handling complex communications issues and advising companies during periods of major corporate change, including crisis, turnaround, joint ventures, rebranding, repositioning, restructuring and closure.

Mary has a BA (Hons) in Business Studies from Bournemouth University, the Dip (CIM) and Dip (MRS) and in 1996 Mary was runner-up in the PR Week Young Achiever award.

Chris Toumazis, Ogilvy & Mather

Chris Toumazis is an Account Management Fellow at Ogilvy & Mather, the global communications agency under the WPP umbrella. He is currently working on direct mail, digital, out-of-home and press advertising for an asset management firm at OgilvyOne. Before joining the agency in 2013 Chris studied biological sciences at Oxford University, where he was inspired to enter the advertising industry after attending a lecture by O&M's UK Vice-Chairman Rory Sutherland. In his spare time, he enjoys watching old German films and learning how to code.

Daniel Jason, Peregrine Communications

Daniel Jason joined Peregrine in early 2011 and is a senior consultant, head of social media and responsible for delivering Peregrine Perspectives, an asset management industry event held in conjunction with Imperial College Business School. He graduated from the London School of Economics with a 2:1 in Anthropology and Law in 2009.

Topics: Marketing, Advertising and PR, creative industries

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