Alex Singleton answers my #4PRQs (Four PR Questions) today. He leads communications and marketing at Circle Health. He’s a Fellow of the Public Relations and Communications Association and is author of The PR Masterclass (published by Wiley). Last year, he completed a postgraduate-level Diploma in Crisis Communication with the CIPR and this month begins an MBA at Surrey Business School, which he is blogging about for the Financial Times.
MK: How did you get into industry?
AS: My first comms job was as a press officer working at the Adam Smith Institute. I got the job by going to the institute’s events in my final year at school. I lobbied them for a gap year role – until they gave in.
One of the institute’s directors had been a Daily Mail leader writer (someone who writes the newspaper’s unsigned editorials) under the celebrated editor Sir David English, and in the 1970s he had been a syndicated columnist in American newspapers. So I had the great luck of being able to learn from someone who not only really knew how the media worked but who effortlessly engaged with journalists.
What are the most desired skill that the industry is looking for in graduates that are not common?
The most important skill that a comms practitioner needs is the ability to write strong, journalistic English. This is true regardless of whether you want to focus on media relations, social media, content marketing or internal comms, because writing is a building block for everything else.
Yet many people new to PR don’t realise that this something they need to get good at it. They assume that three years writing high-scoring academic essays proves that they can write well. It doesn’t.
The most important skill that a comms practitioner needs is the ability to write strong, journalistic English.
How can PR graduates take advantage of the digital space and get attention of the agencies and other potential employers?
If you’ve talked on social media about PR over a matter of years, it’s really striking. It positions you as an obviously strong candidate for graduate comms jobs, as someone who really understands the sector you’re entering. Twitter lets you make industry contacts ahead of time. And a personal blog lets you showcase what you know, as does contributing to a site like Behind the Spin.
But the non-digital space is also important. Going along to events run by the PRCA, the largest PR association, and meeting not just prospective employers but also people who’ve been in the industry for a year or two will give you a much better idea of how the industry really works and how to break into it.
Twitter lets you make industry contacts ahead of time. And a personal blog lets you showcase what you know, as does contributing to a site like ‘Behind the Spin’.
What is the most undiscovered area in the industry that could be potentially used as a dissertation topic?
Well, I don’t know if this is too involved for a dissertation, but I’d like to see more research on the effectiveness of earned media specifically on building new brands, compared with the other elements of PESO (Paid, Earned, Social and Owned media).
Would you like to give me a feedback or feature in the series? Drop me a line to kl.marcel [at] gmail.com or tweet me @marcelkl. Thanks for stopping by!