In Conversation: Joanna Ayre & Katie Swain

Last nights PR event was a corking success with past Public Relations and Communications alumni giving the fraternity advice on how to succeed in the PR industry. As well as informing us about their own personal experiences in the industry and how they got to their roles they have today.

Joanna Ayre, who graduated around two years ago from the University of Greenwich, had originally started her studies reading Anthropology at the University of Kent for two years. However, after stopping studying she worked in the retail industry before eventually embarking on studying here at the University of Greenwich.

Katie Swain graduated over five years ago from the University of Greenwich. Swain always knew that she wanted to work for an agency and managed to achieve her goal with the help of the contacts she gained within her 2nd year on her internship at Bell Pottinger. Recently, Swain switched from Bell Pottinger to become an Account Director for Freuds.

Gerda, our President of the PR Fraternity asked them the tantalising questions we all desperately wanted to find out to allow us to gather an insight on the ‘dos’ and don’ts’ in PR.

What challenges did you face getting that first PR role?

Joanna: The belief in my own abilities and what I could achieve; I would say to be more confident and feel like you can achieve the role. Constantly self evaluating can actually help you in the industry, as when you have a project, you’re always worried about getting it wrong that you edit it, until you can be happy with it.

Katie: I think I was similar in terms of lacking in confidence, but you should just show that you can do the job. Once you have the internship, and put your all into it, it can help you later on in your career. Another thing would be to keep your options open as you never know what opportunities might arise.

Tell us about your day-to-day work?

J: I work from home most of the time with an office space in Angel.

It was very challenging to start with because I didn’t have other people there to bounce off. I make good use of Slack, which is a work chat messenger to share files.

What would you want to change about the company?

J: The business is growing quickly and its a lot of work for two people which is a small challenge, but we are making it work at the moment.

Tips at University?

J: Make sure you keep yourself open to any opportunities, for example something like social media for a small company is small but a good way to start.

K: From an agency perspective, they are interested in freelancers quite a lot, so look for freelance work. It’s another way of getting your foot in the door.

Another thing is that you can never ask too many questions; the senior team members want you to have a voice and opinion so do not be afraid to speak up but just make sure you think about your question and use common sense.

What are your future goals?

K: I will probably try in-house more but will most likely end up back in an agency eventually at some point in the future.

What were your dissertation topics?

K: It was based on how social media was changing and the change in communications theories.

J: Mine took a long time to think of a topic – so if you’re struggling it’s completely normal. After endless times visiting my dissertation tutor, I settled on focusing my dissertation topic on social media channels and how the British Museums were using them.

What was the most exciting campaign that you’ve been involved in?

K: HSBC for 4 years. HSBC was launching a report across 16 countries, and there was a huge media bang on the day which made it very satisfying for me personally.

J: It’s not a campaign but I love doing live events, and the live event that I did the other week resulted in 700,000 impressions on the hashtag and trended for 7 hours on Twitter – It was a great result which I’m glad to have been a part of.

Additionally, Swain brought a visual aid with her to help us understand a deeper insight into what Freuds as a communications agency does. As an agency they’ve worked on The BAFTAs and the ‘#LondonIsOpen’ campaign.

At Freuds, client management, reviewing press releases and proposals, drafting messages and narrating for brands, and issues management are some of the areas they work on in an average day in their agency.

Swain believes that the difference of working in-house means that you can really get under the skin of the brand. With it’s wider marketing strategy and developing the digital importance which is crucial for online brands.

As communications professionals, we need to understand its ability to influence.

Overall, it was a great event for those wondering about doing or looking into internships and how to behave once you are at your internship. A massive thankyou to Katie and Joanna for giving up their time to come and talk to the PR Fraternity.




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