The FINAL #4PRQs for: Sam Howard, The Comms Crowd

I’m getting emotional. These are the very last Four PR Questions, aka #4PRQs on my blog. And I’m bringing a very special PR practitioner today. It’s the person, who kickstarted my career, gave me a lot of answers (to sometimes silly questions), and showed me the ways to make things right. Sam Howard is the founder of the freelance collective — The Comms Crowd. Sam is all about tech PR, startups, and bitcoin. She’s one of the most charismatic people I know. Knowledgeable, witty, and inspiring. How do you get far in the PR career then? Ladies and gents, read it for the last time.

MK: What was your way to the industry? 

SH: I was a project manager at a small fintech start-up in the 90s.In between being vaguely useful I was quietly getting on with my true vacation – to be A Writer. But I got careless and one day left a short story on the printer, it was about a rabbit, called Basil.

The CEO found it and called me into his office, I was all set to be fired, to go live in an attic, make a career move out of being miserable and thin, wear fingerless gloves die a fine and beautiful death and be buried with my poems. But instead, he offered me a job doing the company PR.

I wasn’t that keen actually, but I guess it turned out alright…

What is the biggest mistake of junior people you employ, and how can it be fixed?

The biggest mistake even the best of them make, is trying to appear you are on it when you are not… saying you understand what you are doing when you don’t, not quite. I get the motivation – need to look like I am on it, don’t want to ask daft questions.

But without complete understanding of what you are doing and why, even ‘simple’ tasks like updating media lists, or sourcing twitter feed content go awry as the junior lacks the confidence to speak up and clarify any questions, resulting in frustration and lack of faith all around.

Much better to fess up at the beginning and claim ignorance, especially in my sector where the subject matter is deep. I mean how is a junior supposed to be all over AI, blockchain, machine learning, crypto currencies – etc? We really don’t expect you to get it straight away anyway, so you just speak up and ask those ‘stupid questions’.

The biggest mistake even the best of them make is trying to appear you are on it when you are not…

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? 

Er, shouldn’t you answer this one? I do believe it was by stalking me on Twitter and demonstrating a real passion for all things tech you got your job with us…

Other approaches which are not as successful, for me at least:

  • Being spammed on LinkedIn with no understanding or care at all for what our company does
  • Direct messages on Twitter
  • Charming approaches but a split-second research on Facebook etc reveals a somewhat alarming alter–ego.

What is the most undiscovered area in the industry that could be used as a dissertation topic?

Well, I’d give social media a rest for a start. I’m always interested in the finance of PR, looking at the true cost of campaigns, looking at those that succeeded with v small budgets, looking at profitable agencies and their business models v agencies that went under and their business models, looking at how to avoid over servicing, which I think is still somewhere around20%. I think if a student was able to demonstrate an interest and strong understanding of the commercial realities of our business that would be a fine compliment to their theoretical learning and enable them to make much more sense of agency life.

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Do follow Sam and the Comms Crowd on Twitter.

#4PRQs (Four PR Questions) was a weekly series on the blog. I was on the mission to help PR graduates (including myself) make right decisions about their future careers, by asking industry leaders for an advice. This was the 39th and the last feature.

A huge thank you to every contributor to the #4PRQs series. Please do visit on Monday for the roundup and key takeouts from all the interviews. MK’s out.

Would you like to give me a feedback? Drop me a line to kl.marcel [at] gmail.com or tweet me @marcelkl. Thanks for stopping by, have a splendid day!

Author: Marcel Klebba

Junior account executive at a global PR agency, working across the corporate & B2B accounts. Interested in current affairs, tech, and digital.

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