Lisa Addie is a public relations and brand executive at threebrand, an award winning design, branding and PR agency based on the shores of Leith in Edinburgh.
Lisa graduated from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh in 2012 with a first class honours degree in public relations and marketing. As with many media related graduates she found it difficult to see how theory can relate to practice and for Lisa her PR and marketing degree was no exception. Although a placement position wasn’t a course requirement until her final year, eager to stay ahead of the game, Lisa secured a position at an Edinburgh PR agency in 2009.
“It’s safe to say that I put my success after university – that is, securing a full time job relevant to my studies within six months of graduating- down to the work experience I completed during the course of my studies”
But what roles and duties can a PR newbie expect nowadays? Gala events? TV appearances? Not quite. And more importantly, how do you know if a career in PR is right for you?
For Lisa it was surprising to see how wide ranging her first PR role would be. From administrative duties; scanning daily media for coverage of clients her agency represented and issuing press releases to running competitions and managing clients’ social media accounts, the role was both challenging and rewarding.
“I wouldn’t say the role was what I was expecting after university, but it made me aware of what career choices lay ahead”
With her role split across the two disciplines of PR and branding Lisa found her new position of responsibility at threebrand a gratifying one. Her place at the company evolved from the kinds of tasks Lisa completed whilst on placement and finds the new level of client contact an exciting endeavour.
“I never had that before – it’s great, it really makes me feel trusted within the organisation”
Attending client events complete with cocktail mixologists, wrapping personalised gifts to be sent to journalists or securing newspaper coverage for clients – it’s not just a routine nine to five for Lisa.
“There’s no such thing as a typical day in PR – the news is constantly changing, clients expectations are constantly evolving and you find yourself having to be able to work under any conditions more and more, by the day”
Reflecting on the big issues in the PR industry at the moment, Lisa questions what effect client expectations are having on the work she does. An economic recession has meant that PR budgets have been slashed, however Lisa says clients do still want to see the results that have come to expect as standard. That’s an opinion echoed by Lisa’s colleague Gillian who has over eight years experience in the PR industry. In her opinion the changing of client demands is a result of budgets being squeezed. Clients have cut their spending but are also expecting the PR agencies they use to work even harder.
Also, Lisa highlights the effect of social media on PR. She says that PR practitioners now need to know how to manage social media pages effectively to create engaging content, but also how to respond to comments or tweets from their audience – one mistake and you could find yourself in the middle of a PR disaster. Lisa worries that that’s something big brands still don’t know how to do. Gillian, on the other hand, reflects on how trends are changing in terms of social media, and how those trends can be hard to keep up with.
“That also makes life difficult for public relations practitioners as there’s more chance of people criticising your brand publically and if not managed correctly, that can very quickly turn into a PR disaster”
So what is it about this hectic line of work with the ups and downs that draws people in? For Lisa, it’s a blend of seeing good results and a passion to move things forward quickly. Writing a press release that generates coverage across a list of titles is an exciting accomplishment, but, the role does have its frustrations. It may be that she needs a client’s approval or information from them to complete a press release, but waiting on others to move forward so she can get through her work load can be a task in itself.
Lisa reckons that the most important character trait for someone wanting to work in PR is confidence. You can’t be shy to pick up the phone when working in PR or be too afraid to shout about an idea you’ve had, however weird or wonderful it is.
“It’s important to be open minded in PR. When I first ticked the box to study at QMU I never thought I would be writing press releases about fruit, but now that’s a regular thing for me! I work with an amazing team of people and feel very privileged to do so. I’m lucky – I sincerely enjoy going to work each day”