Last week we had an amazing PR talk from former lecturer and beloved honorary patron Paul Simpson, who delivered the good, the bad and the ugly within the PR industry.
With a vast background in talent, consumer and political PR, Paul had many truthful and incredibly helpful insights for the members of our Fraternity. The evening was enjoyable and full of laughs from start to finish, and in addition to Paul’s wonderful talk, he brought together amazing alumni and connections for current students to make.
Within PR, Paul offered us his key points on how to act and what you need to succeed.
You need to have a thick skin when working in the industry as well as applying for jobs. You could be the best in your sector and there will still be a lot of people who will say no. It can be a little damaging to the ego and confidence to begin with, but Paul states that we should ‘fight it’ and pick yourself up to carry on. He also suggests that we should question why, as constructive criticism is key in improving yourself.
The one thing Paul learned in his experience is to make sure you build positive relationships especially with journalists as they can help more than you realise. When working in PR, Paul stated that it was all about ‘understanding what makes people tick‘.
Whats the Itch?
What is it which makes the task or story interesting?
Make sure you always ask for evidence and ensure that you pay attention to detail at all times.
One of the first stops on Paul Simpson’s PR train to success, is his work for Simon Hughes the Liberal Democrat. Paul worked on writing speeches and national press releases, and although the pay was not amazing, the experience in itself was valuable for Paul. It is where he first realised the importance of your audiences and how to construct your messages to suit different people.
“Seeing the whites of their eyes”
Paul’s next big stop was becoming the BBC Publicity Assistant in 1995. He stated that although it was very well paid, it was more of an admin position which wasn’t his style. Paul wanted to move up and get a promotion, but they typically didn’t promote people within the company. He knew that the only way to change it was to become the top dog. However, due to his heart not being in the job, he moved back towards the political PR route for a bit. Paul enjoyed it there because when people didn’t like his work they told him to his face. It helped build a stronger and more confident version of himself. Eventually a couple of years later, Paul moved back towards the BBC when he was head hunted and made the head of PR.
It was here that Paul was able to have more control in how things were run and express his creativity. He was initially put on the Chris Moyles launch, experiencing talent PR up close and personal. Paul was given the 4am Chris Moyles show to work with, and at this moment in time, Chris was not the well know radio presenter we all know and see today. There were not many listeners or fans and they needed to build quick. Paul had the idea to create a ‘buzz’ around the show. They would turn away people who came to report on the show if the turned up late. This got people thinking that it must be something worth paying attention to if they turn away people at 4am. It was a photo shoot suggested by Paul and his team which shot Chris to fame, even though he tries not to admit it.
Another career highlight Paul Simpson was proud of, was his work alongside Scott Mills and the strategy which was used for him. At the time, Scott was a closet gay and the public were unaware. Scott’s agent wanted to keep it that way, however when the opportunity to ‘come out’ popped up for Scott, it was Paul who helped guide him with the way it was done. There was a guardian interview to nip rumours in the bud, A photo shoot with Attitude magazine and Paul got a thank you in the biography for his help!
Pauls last tips where inspiring. The first is be ready to go anywhere and be prepared. When working at the BBC, it took him from Ibiza to Glastonbury Festival to Clacton! His final piece of advice was light-hearted as he advised ‘don’t assume every PR campaign is good…even if it is in PR week!’
Afterwards, we had an informal social at the Greenwich Tavern and it was lovely to have personal communication with Paul and his friends. Paul was great with the first years and is an absolute credit to the PR Fraternity. The executive team would like to thank him for his generosity and commitment to the society.
If you missed out on this evening, not to worry! Come to the Big Picture Lecture at 5PM today to catch Danny Rogers on ‘Post-Trump victory and Brexit vote, what does professional communications look like in 2017?’