“PR graduates should be informed, active and enjoy the medium,” says Sarah Matthew, who I’m very privileged to be bringing to this week’s #4PRQs (Four PR Questions) series. Sarah is a healthcare specialist with 25+ years’ of PR experience, working both client- and agency-side. She is the President of The Golin Global Healthcare Practice that encompasses two brands — Golin and Virgo Health. As she mentions, James Bond films and gin in a tin are among her guilty pleasures.
MK: What was your way to the industry?
SM: Initially attracted to FMCG marketing, I started out as a Commercial Trainee with Johnson & Johnson. However, I soon learned that I preferred healthcare and J&J provided some fantastic opportunities which paved the way to sales and marketing positions with the Wellcome Foundation, Astra Pharmaceuticals and latterly GlaxoWellcome (now GSK).
With a lifelong ambition to start my own business, I needed to acquire more general management experience, so I joined Shire Health London, a specialist healthcare PR firm and after seven really successful years, I finally realised my ambition and co-founded Virgo Health in 2003.
What is the biggest mistake of junior people you employ, and how can it be fixed?
Time management is still probably the hardest thing for any junior to grasp when they first join an agency. Juggling the requirements of several clients can be quite overwhelming. It also means that’s easy to be so focused on completing their day-to-day work that junior people don’t always realise the importance of being aware of what’s going on in the wider industry. We always ensure we provide a very supportive working environment and with comprehensive training, combined with our mentoring scheme, we ensure we can support our juniors through these and any other challenges they may face.
Time management is still probably the hardest thing for any junior to grasp.
How can PR graduates take advantage of the social and digital platforms, in order to gain the attention of the agencies and other potential employers?
PR graduates should be informed, active and enjoy the medium. It is an information portal and a powerful public touch point on your own personal brand.
LinkedIn is a great source of recruitment for us now and it’s essential for candidates to have an up-to-date profile with an eye-catching headline and a profile that demonstrates personality, not just a list of what you can do. Writing skills are of course key to being a successful PR so this is an opportunity to shine; write LinkedIn Pulse articles to demonstrate your ability to persuade through the written word. Further to this, it’s important to be active, to share relevant articles and other content to show awareness of industry issues and hot topics. Use a professional photo as well – you don’t want to draw attention for the wrong reasons! Also be aware of what is public-facing on your other social media platforms – recruiters will more than likely seek you out on these as well.
When applying for a job or speculatively approaching, take time to look into the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as the company website. In your cover letter, make reference to work, or social events, or aspects of the culture specifically which have made you interested in working there. Follow agencies or other potential employers on social platforms and look out for job-related posts on the less obvious places such as Twitter and Facebook – which can often be used for recruitment.
Take time to look into the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as the company website.
What is the most undiscovered area in the industry that could be used as a dissertation topic?
Fake news is big news right now and being so current, I’d say it’s an undiscovered area. In this “post-truth” era, it’s essential that messages delivered by PRs are meaningful and trusted. How we best do this is an ongoing learning curve for everyone.
#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!