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Shooting Stars

By The Drum | Administrator

June 16, 2005 | 18 min read

01 Laura McIlquham,

PR Director,

DADA

What made you get into PR?

I always wanted to work in PR. I think initially I thought it was glamorous. I took an honours degree in communication studies, which covered public relations, advertising and journalism, and got a job as a trainee account executive when I left university in 2001. I quickly realised that hard work superseded any notions I had about glamour.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

It’s fast moving and very challenging which makes every day different. PR is never stagnant, and I think to be in a profession that is ever evolving is the best thing of all. DADA has excellent clients and I find it very rewarding to achieve great results for them, which, at the end of the day, is one of a PR professionals key aims.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

There have been various challenges over the years, which have been interesting and all character building. Challenges with the media, clients and competition have all played a part in my career and the way to get through them is to deal with the situation as best as you can, get it sorted and go to the pub, or perhaps a DADA event, afterwards with your team mates for a drink.

What do you respect most about your boss?

His ambition and vision. Oh, and his belief that DADA are the best. We are.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

There’s quite a few. I think having the right mix of certain qualities makes for a great PR person. A strong work ethic, creativity, fantastic writing and communication skills, and the ability to interact with all different kinds of people are top of my PR wish list.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

This is the textbook answer to this question but I would say that being a bit of a perfectionist is a slight weakness. Although I’m identifying it as a weakness I think it’s a good quality to have in PR, so I have no plans to address it.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

They give PR a bad name. Many people have negative perceptions of public relations as well as misconceptions about what PR actually is. It’s up to companies like DADA and our peers to change perception and let people see that PR is an essential part of every business.

How far do you want to go in the business?

To the top.

02 Elizabeth Anne Anderson,

Account Manager,

Barkers PR

What made you get into PR?

There wasn’t really a strategy behind my move into PR; I suppose I gravitated into it while in my first job as a marketing manager. The PR side of the role was more dynamic and really suited my chatty personality, and gradually I found myself doing more and more PR. When I moved to a new job a year or so later I made sure that PR was what I would specialise in.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

People contact. I love chatting with journalists, clients and colleagues. The variety is another highlight and I enjoy dealing with problems as and when they get flung in your face. There’s never a dull moment.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

I’ve been working on the agency side, for Barkers, since June last year. However, the biggest challenge was actually making the decision to move here. I’d been in-house, in charge of European PR for Crucial Technology for over three years, and while I loved the job, the tech market at the time meant that I couldn’t grow the team. I was stuck in the difficult position of whether to move and develop my career, or whether to hang in there and wait for the market to turn. I chose to bite the bullet and try something new, and it really paid off as I’ve learned a great deal and love the contrast of agency life. Needless to say the tech market took an upturn when I left, but thems the breaks.

What do you respect most about your boss?

Christina’s only been my boss for four months, but in that short time I’ve come to really respect her guts. She doesn’t hesitate to tell people exactly what she thinks in an honest and frank manner. She’s calm and collected in any situation, which is also incredibly admirable. There’s definitely a lot to be learned from her. Do I qualify for that pay rise now, Christina?

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

Listening skills. Anyone can talk the talk but it takes a professional to really listen to your clients and understand what they want. I’ve met a lot of people in my career who only hear their own voice; the great PR people truly listen.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

Rolfe Farrant, my six-foot, dark-haired boy. I’m marrying him in August this year so people say that will put a stop to the romance. I don’t believe it for a second.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

Coming from an in-house perspective it always amused me the amount of agencies who would come in, guns blazing, but not actually have researched your company or what work you’d done before. Part of that was down to arrogance, and I guess some of it comes back to those listening skills.

How far do you want to go in the business?

Communications director of Tiffany sounds like a nice place to aim for.

03 Gail McGibbon,

PR Account Manager,

The Business

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

The fast pace and the variety. One day I might be writing an article on technological innovation in the UK which will be read by the highest levels of government, and the next I’m helping release 150 helium balloons from George Square in Glasgow to celebrate my client’s 150-year anniversary. I really love the diversity; it keeps me on my toes.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

The constant pressure to ensure you are doing your utmost for your clients. Everything you do revolves around getting the right results for them, and it can often be quite demanding. However, I’ve built a solid relationship with all of my clients and this helps get the right results. By getting to know them well, and by understanding their needs, you are able to pitch them correctly to a wider audience through the press; and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

What do you respect most about your boss?

Her generosity.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

Persistence.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

I’m still learning to be more assertive. You have to be quite thick-skinned in this industry and I’m making a conscious effort to be more tough.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

The schmoozers. My job isn’t about that; I’ll make sure it never will be.

How far do you want to go in the business?

It’d be great to have my own company one day, but my main ambition is to always ensure I enjoy my job; that’s the main thing for me.

04 Aarti Joshi,

Account Manager,

Burt Greener

What made you get into PR?

The fact that the job combines my two favourite things: writing and talking. I had done some work-experience at a PR company in Edinburgh before Lorna and Janine took me on, and I loved the fact that it was such an exciting and stimulating profession. I started working for Burt Greener three years ago, and haven’t looked back since.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

You get to meet a great deal of incredibly interesting people, with very varied outlooks, on a day-to-day basis. Working within the music division of the company, on clients such as DF Concerts and Jim Beam Music, has meant that every day is a challenge and no two days are ever the same.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

I managed the press team for Scotland’s Tsunami Relief gig at the SECC in February, and although it was a case of being ‘thrown in at the deep end’ to begin with, the challenge of working with all four of Scotland’s largest music promoters, co-ordinating all press prior to and on the day as well as organising a photo call with every major Scottish band meant I really learnt a lot from the experience. I managed to get through it by using all the skills I’ve learnt on the job, asking for help when I needed it and always staying calm

What do you respect most about your boss?

Her ability to be incredibly professional while remaining approachable and genuinely caring about the team. As a PR professional, Lorna is very creative and insightful, and with Janine, has made Burt Greener a great place to work.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

I’d like to think it’s the fact that I tend to be able to stay calm under pressure and am enthusiastic.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

I’m not the tidiest of people and have a problem with keeping my desk in order and filing away completed work. I’ve started to address this by being really strict about paperwork and setting up a new system for my files. Hopefully this will work.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

I hate laziness in PR: sloppy press releases or not returning calls. Also, in this profession, it’s important to be approachable and a smile always helps; rudeness for the sake of it is a real pet hate of mine.

How far do you want to go in the business?

As far as possible. I still have a lot to learn, but the fact that I enjoy my job means that I’m always up for a challenge and keen to reach for the stars.

05 Kerry Whitehead,

Account Manager,

Halogen

What made you get into PR?

The master plan to sell ice cream from a beach hut in Hawaii fell through.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

Hearing clients get really excited about reading a full page story and knowing I helped get it there.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

Explaining to my granny what PR actually is and then settling for, “Well, it’s kind of like journalism, but...”.

What do you respect most about your boss?

I have three ‘bosses’ all of whom I respect enormously because they don’t treat me like they’re ‘The Boss’.

1. A genuinely kind nature and great contacts coupled with impeccable taste in Dolly Parton tunes.

2. Patience and attention to detail coupled with an ability to turn a vegetarian into a bacon-roll scoffer.

3. Boundless enthusiasm and positivity coupled with an ability to calmly explain how to reverse park for the fifteenth time.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

Thick skin, great shoes, and tenacity in the face of adversity.

What is your biggest single weakness?

Bacon rolls with brown sauce.

And how do you intend to address this?

Somewhere around the top of Leith Walk for the best greasy spoon in town.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

Both are painfully difficult to forget.

How far do you want to go in the business?

Until ‘Whitehead’s Waikiki Whippy’ is a financially viable option.

06 Alison Laing,

Account Manager,

3x1

What made you get into PR?

A journalist for a dad and a passion for news.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

The variety of consultancy work, but mostly the ability to be on both sides of the fence. You get the news buzz but also the pleasure of knowing you helped make it happen.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

They say never work with children and animals; try celebrities. Keeping them and the client happy is never easy, but with a diplomatic and realistic outlook it can be possible.

What do you respect most about your boss?

Their devotion to the job, their realism and the fact that they strive for perfection in everything.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

You have to have a three-way personality: assertive, calm and, above all, a nice manner.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

Learning to trust my judgement and passing that on to clients.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

Bad PR is when a practitioner doesn’t assert their advice and trust their judgement. PR is about giving the best advice possible, and you have to make your clients believe you.

How far do you want to go in the business?

Until I can buy a Porsche.

07 Eve Robertson,

Account Executive,

3x1

What made you get into PR?

Probably one too many episodes of Absolutely Fabulous.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

The variety of work you get to undertake day in day out for such a wide range of interesting and exciting clients.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

Trying to sell-in a story with no news value while handling a client’s expectations can be tricky, but with lots of creative thinking and perseverance you can get the results.

What do you respect most about your boss?

Both have very different styles of working which complement one another perfectly, and they have built a multi award-winning and hugely successful agency from scratch.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

Determination, ambition and a sense of calm.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

I have a few weaknesses. I’m not telling you what they are, but I plan to learn and develop with the help of my peers.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

I can see why journalist would be annoyed if a PR call’s to sell-in a story with no real knowledge of the title and it’s readership; there’s no excuse for not knowing basic information.

How far do you want to go in the business?

For as long as it stays fun and challenging.

08 Katrine Pearson,

Consultant,

Real PR

What made you get into PR?

I came to Real PR to do some work-experience, after I had finished my degree, and never left. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but enjoyed my time with Real, and decided this was the job for me.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

I love the variety of being agency side; every day is different and I meet such a wide range of people that I am not sure I would in any other job. My favourite thing though would have to be writing, I really enjoy putting together press releases, and as we have such a variety of different clients there is the opportunity to work with different styles of writing.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

There have not been any major obstacles so far, touch wood, although I do often find that being younger works against you. It can be difficult to get people to take you seriously when you are younger. You just have to get on with it and prove you are capable of doing a good job.

What do you respect most about your boss?

Her ability to keep a cool head in a crisis.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

Perseverance. The first ever call I made to a journalist resulted in him kindly telling me that yes he had received the information I had sent over and had promptly filed it under ‘B for bin’. You have to keep plugging away and get used to the knock backs.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

Handbags and shoes – see below.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

They don’t consider how their actions affect the rest of the industry. People in general already have quite a poor perception of PR, many seem to think it’s all spin-doctoring or partying, without bad practitioners making it worse.

How far do you want to go in the business?

Far enough to make plenty of money to keep me in handbags and shoes.

09 Caroline Jessop,

Consultant,

Porter Novelli

What made you get into PR?

The prospect of working in a varied and fast-moving environment, where there is the potential to see the results of your hard work the following day.

What do you enjoy the most about working in PR?

Team working and exceeding client expectations.

What have been the biggest PR challenges that you have faced and how did you get over them?

Working with multiple stakeholders can be difficult. With so many parties involved there is a danger that communications can become overly complicated and lack focus. Agreeing a contact from the outset is key, and also makes best use of time and resources.

What do you respect most about your boss?

Optimism.

Which personal quality do you think makes a great PR person?

Optimism.

What is your biggest single weakness and how do you intend to address this?

Writing. By reading more and eating more chocolate.

What annoys you about bad PR and bad PR practitioners?

Lack of focus, woolly chat with no substance and over use of the e-mail.

How far do you want to go in the business?

Running our office in Wellington would be nice.

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