Rich Leigh, who I’m very excited to be featuring in this week’s #4PRQs (Four PR Questions), is a founder of Radioactive PR. He is also a curator of one of the most influential PR blogs in the UK PR Examples.com. He’s one of the humorous practitioners out there. Rich lost a bet to one of his clients, and he changed his name to Public Relations (true story!). Rich has been listed in PR Week’s 29 under 29 list and named one of ‘the brightest young social media communicators’ in the UK. His recent book ‘Myths of PR’ has gathered a lot of great feedback from the comms industry. I’ve also written its review. Book is out on the 3rd of April, but you can order your copy now.
MK: What was your way to the industry?
RL: Like many, I more or less fell into PR.
I started out in fitness – I trained as a personal trainer as soon as I realised my dream of playing rugby wasn’t going to happen, shortly after dropping out of my A-Levels – and did that for a couple of years, between 18-20. And THEN… the credit crunch happened. This was 2007ish, and my clients started buggering off, citing me as a luxury. This caused an ever-so-slight homelessness panic; not ideal when you have a 2 year old.
Making the decision to find a proper ‘career’, I took stock of the things I was good at: I loved to write and I loved to chat to and meet people. Added to that, I had (and have) a huge man-crush on Derren Brown, which contributed to my long-time interest in the psychology of influencing people’s opinions. I thought myself pretty good at it and, at one stage, remember (half) jokingly saying to my now-wife Emma that I thought a career as a conman might be for me.
I found a job ad in the local paper for an entry-level role at 10 Yetis PR agency – PR seemed to appeal to all the things I thought myself good at – and after a memorable interview in which I was far more self-assured that a young man with no experience nor qualifications should have been, I was hired as their first employee. Unfortunately for him, Andy’s had to put up with me ever since.
What is the biggest mistake of junior people you employ, and how can it be fixed?
It’s not a mistake so much as something to keep an eye on and highlight, but once in a role, surrounded by client activity and timelines, I feel that junior employees forget to keep learning outside of their day-to-day work. It’s almost like ‘I’m here now, I can rest up’ – whereas I think it’s the time to start that deeper learning. It’s never been easier to find and read, watch, listen to or even chat to people that know what they’re talking about – take advantage of that. You can tell a mile off the people that see their role as a job, and the people that see it as a stepping stone.
It’s never been easier to find and read, watch, listen to or even chat to people that know what they’re talking about – take advantage of that.
How can PR graduates take advantage of the social and digital platforms, in order to gain attention of the agencies and other potential employers?
This question ties into the above nicely, and I’ll get onto it more in a second, but first, here’s something I’ve written about this before that I think could be a useful (if curmudgeonly) thing for grads to be conscious of.
When interviewing, I’ve often been left with a feeling that the young person in front of me feels entitled to a role in PR/communications because they’ve ‘grown up’ with social media. That might well translate into professional use, but for many, the extent of their social media use is excessive use of that bloody dog filter, and it certainly isn’t the answer to the question ‘what can you do for the agency that nobody else can?’, despite social media expertise being the most common response.
That said, to gain the attention of agencies and potential employers, I would say my main tip is to contribute as well as take. I see social media as a trade-off – support the efforts of people around you, even those you think of as competition, as well as the great and the good of the industry you’re hoping to get into. Whether that’s offering your opinion, sharing good things you’ve seen, writing for industry sites or creating something useful or interesting for the community, the people that *get* it are as vocal as they are receptive. I want to know what you think, and there’s only one way to see that.
Support the efforts of people around you, even those you think of as competition.
What is the most undiscovered area in the industry that could be used as a dissertation topic?
Tough question as I didn’t go through the stress of choosing a dissertation topic, so can’t know how they’re decided upon – but I’d say people are still coming into the industry with little-to-no knowledge of SEO and its relationship to PR, despite it having such an effect on client results. Also, it’s much easier to prove PR value these days through the likes of Google Goals, and anybody coming into marketing with a decent knowledge of this is at a significant advantage – this post (and an earlier one I linked to fairly early in that post) might be of interest.
#4PRQs (Four PR Questions) is a weekly series on the blog. I’m on the mission to help PR graduates (including myself) make right decisions about their future careers, by asking industry leaders for an advice.
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, have a splendid day!