For those of ya’ll who don’t know me…

08Jan09

Well it’s 2009 and I’m feeling guilty about not posting for ages, so while I get all my other long-awaited posts finished, I thought I’d repost something I put together for Adam Lewis at Flawless Buzz. He’s been running a series of interviews of PR professionals to give his readers a window into what working in different aspects of PR is like. Adam writes a great blog for anyone studying or just getting into PR, asking questions like “How specialised should a gradute be going into PR?” The original post can be found here.

1. How is work at Shiny Red going?

It’s going very well – we’re busy, which is a great sign in the context of the press doom and gloom about the economy. It’s really encouraging to see that brands are looking to social media now more than ever, rather than seeing it as optional and as a bit of a risk – which is the standpoint that some brands have historically approached the internet from.

2. How does the atmosphere and work differ from your time at AxiCom PR?

The atmosphere is very different, AxiCom is well known for people that really get technology and can communicate really intricate things in a really compelling way. The Red Consultancy is the UK’s number one consumer agency so the emphasis is much more on people, brands, creativity and originality. At Shiny Red, our role is to apply that outlook to the world of social media, so my role here combines the two – it’s both about having a good understanding of the technology behind it all, and working with clients to help them engage as a brand online in the social web. The one other thing to point out is that while I was at AxiCom the male:female ratio was roughly 3:2 at Red it’s closer to 1:6 – which has an entirely different effect on the atmosphere.

3. What made you want to move?

My previous role involved working with clients that were both building blocks and disruptors of digital media, so companies like RealNetworks, The Slingbox and Brightcove – which runs the Guardian’s online video platform, so I was very aware of the latest developments in the online world. Everything in media has been going online since before I started working in PR 6 ½ years ago, and I’d heard of the Red/Shiny Media collaboration at launch. It was something that struck me as really forward thinking and something that I wanted to be involved with. Shiny Red was launched as a social media agency before Facebook got huge and before every agency under the sun offered to track online buzz. This stuff is in the company’s DNA, we’re not playing catch-up.

2. What is your role and what kind of things do you get up to during the average working day?

I’m a Digital Account Director – which I guess makes me a DAD. My role is to consult with clients on how best to conduct particular social and digital media activities in order to get to where they want to be in the minds of consumers or communities or bloggers. The second part of that role is enabling the team to deliver that back to the clients at the end of the day. As with most agencies, we’ve got a mixture of personalities and skill sets, so I guess I see myself as a conductor, trying to bring about that teamwork so that we’re all working to the best of our abilities and continually learning new stuff about social media and about brand interaction online. Finally, I’m very much involved in the new business side of the company. We’re constantly getting briefs both from Red’s clients and from external companies looking for ideas for social media engagement, which is a chance where we get to put those learnings into practice.

3. Would you ever consider in-house?

Yes, I think that having experience of both in-house and agency positions can provide an important perspective for any marketing professional. I think you develop different skill sets at an agency, in particular managing multiple clients at the same time.

4. What skills do you think are required to do what you do?

Awareness: of what’s going on in your team, at your clients’ businesses, in the industry, in the world in general… and an ability to think beyond the particular conversation or meeting you’re having, and into the wider context. Organisation: which is a tough one. Creativity, and the ability to communicate all kinds of social media goodness to those who are still a little reserved about the whole internet thing.

5. Did you know what you wanted to do after leaving University?

I knew I wanted to be in communications and media, since I’d done a little media psychology as part of my course at the LSE – I studied Social Psychology and Philosophy. Actually my dissertation was on engagement with online communities in the field of healthcare marketing, that was back in 2002. I don’t remember much of what I concluded, but looking back I feel slightly before my time! I started out after that with a two month work experience placement at Consolidated Communications, when that finished I was offered my position at AxiCom.

6. Do you plan to stay in this sector of PR?

For the foreseeable future yes – there’s so much going on in this sector, so I’m excited to see what’s next.

7. Dream job?

My grandfather used to be a pilot, with the RAF and then commercial flights. Every time we visit him, he always has a story to tell of his flying days. They’re very glamorous, and actually I think I’ve been blessed with his eyesight genes, so flying fighter planes would be pretty cool. In PR, I’d love the opportunity to work with a media company to help transform it from publishing 1.0 into a model that embraces the way that people communicate and share information online – a company like CondeNast for example, only has a window of about 18 months to 2 years to really up its game.

8. How did you end up getting your job at Shiny Red?

Actually through a recruitment agency, but as I said before, Shiny Red was a place I actively wanted to work at. I was freelancing for most of 2007, so when the call came in, I didn’t wait a second before going for the interview. We’re always on the lookout for bright people at all levels who are passionate about social media, so anyone interested can email hr@shinyred.co.uk

9. Best and worst parts of the job?

Best – seeing the joy people experience when they realise their brand is having a direct impact on people’s lives because of something we’ve done with them in social media. The worst part is coming up against people who don’t take bloggers seriously unless they have solid readership figures, that just shows a lack of understanding and being set in the old way of thinking.

10. Brand you most admire?

Nokia – I think they’re real innovators in the phones they make, but also in thinking about how they fit in as part of a wider lifestyle. The Comes With Music service is really disruptive, it makes the industry sit up and think, “how does that affect me?” and I like that.

11. Something anyone going into PR should know?

It’s not all parties, champagne and blonde girls with degrees in History of Art.

12. Tool that is the most useful for your work?

You didn’t say web-tool so I’m going to go with my phone. I use a Nokia N95 and I can get everything I need on there – all the web services like Twitter, RSS, IM (I use Fring), and email. Plus, occasionally in PR, you actually have to call people! If I’m out of the office, I like to check in with the team before and after meetings to make sure that everything is running smoothly at base camp.

13. Any advice to students applying to graduate entry-level jobs?

2009 will be hard – most agencies aren’t going to take on as many grads this year as they did last year. Look at agencies that have already seriously invested in digital, any spare money in ’09 is likely to go to an agency that can prove some return on investment, and social media is increasingly that measurement tool.

14. A reason why graduates should go into PR?

It beats being a lawyer.

15. A reason why they should choose Shiny Red?

Working at Shiny Red you get to work across public sector, healthcare, FMCG, tech, and even corporate accounts. We have high standards and want to do the best work possible so we want to keep innovating and staying creative. Anyone joining gets to work across a wide range of sectors, pick up lots of new skills, and be part of a team of committed people who want them to succeed.

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