Jessica has been on my radar since I first delved into my PR degree.
Her name has frequently been brought up during our classes as an example of how a practitioners personality can shine through in their blogging. When she agreed to take part in my ‘A Conversation With…’ series, I couldn’t wait to pick her brain about her experiences within the industry, and her journey to become a Senior Account Executive with The Source.
Make sure to check out her blog and to follow her on her social media which will be linked at the bottom of the post!
Could you briefly describe your current role?
Sure! So, I’m an Account Executive which means I do a lot of leg work on campaigns and client accounts, this can be anything from weekly social media content, reactive social media content, working on community campaigns, writing and issuing press releases and so on.
At Source we’re responsible for managing and improving the reputations and presences of our clients, and this is done in a number of ways but mainly through PR, social and content marketing. Being an Account Executive means I get to work on all of these things. I’ve also been able to bring in some of my SEO and digital PR skills from previous roles into the job and so sometimes I work on improving client’s websites, and writing optimised blog posts, for example.
Tell us a little about your background and how you first came into the industry?
I studied PR at university, which actually most people in PR don’t seem to do… But I did! I chose the course without knowing much about it if I’m honest but ended up really enjoying it and knowing I wanted to work in PR and marketing. It gave me a really solid knowledge of the foundations of communications and because the course was combined with business, I also got to do a lot of other modules including enterprise, HR, accounting and so on.
I decided to get some experience in my third year of university and that’s when I started working 1/2 days a week at an agency in Manchester doing digital PR. I learned the ropes pretty quickly that way and went full time after a year of interning. From this I moved on to my current role where I’ve been for around a year and a half now. I’ve had quite a few interviews over the years for various agencies, but I’ve found that the best way to begin and build on a career is to get experience and make connections.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to start each day by checking the news and social media, just to see what’s going on in the world and if there’s anything relevant to any clients. I think for anybody working in PR, it’s a good idea to do this as not only can you use stories to your own advantage, but you also develop a good understanding of journalism. This only takes 10 minutes or so but helps me to feel set up for the day.
A typical day thereafter is never really the same, my tasks can include anything from social media content planning, blog writing, issuing press releases, working through campaigns (and even sometimes visiting organisations that we are working with) or optimising websites. We also have client and team meetings often which help us to keep connected.
I try to keep reactive throughout the day too, so keeping my eye on anything journalists might be writing about that we can get involved in, as well as what’s going on in the PR industry in general. One thing about PR is that you learn to keep very alert, it is hard to switch off; but I am trying extra hard to make sure that I do; if my mind is still active I try to write on my PR blog so that I can ‘brain dump’ all of my thoughts and then have a chilled out evening.
What are your favourite things about your job/the industry?
I love how no two days are ever the same, working agency-side means you get to work with lots of different brands. One day I can be writing social for a wedding venue, the next day an in-depth feature on UK dairy supply. You become a mini expert in lots of different fields and that’s a really rewarding feeling for me.
Another thing I love about working in PR is how the feeling of seeing coverage comes through never gets old, whether it’s regional or national level, there’s such a satisfaction from seeing your hard work pay off.
Finally, I love the supportiveness of the PR industry (mostly, I’ll tell you more in a minute). People are very supportive, friendly and always rise you up. I never feel like I’m alone as I can ask so many people for advice, not just my colleagues but anyone from the industry. It’s truly a special relationship.
What are your least favourite things about your job/the industry?
There’s a lot of PR bashing that goes on, from both journalists but from PRs too – which is never nice. We’re all guilty of having a giggle at a dodgy outreach email but more recently (too much time in lockdown perhaps) I’ve noticed more and more people are criticising the work of others without being very constructive.
I’d say around 95% of the industry is VERY supportive so it is disheartening to see this happening. It happens a lot from journalists too, PRs get a lot of criticism on Twitter for bad practices, but this ends up tarnishing the whole industry. I think a lot of people don’t understand what we do, or they’ve gotten caught up in old stereotypes, and this means that there’s a misconception of the industry.
With better education, hopefully one day there’ll be a better understanding, and therefore more tolerance, for us PR people who are just trying to do our jobs well.
Tell us a little bit about your blog – why did you feel it was important to start a blog?
So, I started my blog back in 2017 when I was still studying and it’s just grown ever since. I wanted to have something that would help me to stand out in interviews, and I just got carried away with that really. I now use my blog to share opinions that don’t fit within the Twitter character limit and as it’s my own blog, there’s no limits to what I can write about.
I love having the freedom to say what I’d like and it’s even better knowing my content is actually enjoyed by people and that they find it useful. I’ve been named a top 10 PR blogger two years in a row now and that’s just crazy to me… Even one view means the world so to know so many people are interested in what I have to say, is just brill. It keeps me motivated to continue writing even though I can get very busy from time to time.
At the time, it was important for me to have a blog to help build my personal brand and showcase some of my relevant skills, now that I’m in a stable job that I love, my blog is more about sharing my opinions and hopefully providing useful content for likeminded people in the industry.
Where and how do you tend to gain inspiration for your blog posts?
Anywhere and everywhere but mostly Twitter, I like to write about things that are trending in the industry and that everyone’s talking about; it’s my way of weighing in – but in a more ‘long form’ kind of way. I also like to talk about my favourite PR campaigns, and for that I find inspiration from various sources such as Famous Campaigns and @digitalPRex on Twitter. One thing I would say to people who are looking to start a blog is not to force inspiration, often my blog ideas come to me when I’m not thinking of them, and for that my notes app is really handy.
Do you have any advice for those first starting out in the world of communications?
Definitely try to make a name for yourself the best that you can and build a personal brand. Whether that’s establishing a Twitter or LinkedIn page, or taking the plunge to start a blog, vlog or podcast. I’d also recommend linking up with industry professionals wherever you can, connecting on LinkedIn and joining in conversations on Twitter (#PowerAndInfluence is a great one on a Wednesday evening). It is competitive, but there are also lots of opportunities, so as long as you can show how creative and passionate you can be, then you should find yourself in a good position as you step out into the world of communications.
Do you recommend any books/blogs/other resources?
Yes, I have quite a few but here would be my top recommendations:
- Famous Campaigns (website) – to learn about various PR campaigns
- Orlagh Claire (blog/podcast) – for all things communications and careers
- PR Place (blog) – roundup of all the best PR content, including student blogs
- Ulster PR Student (blog) – great to read content from other PR students
- Myths of PR, Rich Leigh (book) – a right of passage for any PR pro to read
- The Art & Craft of PR, Sandra Stahl (book) – a go-to handbook for all things PR and communications
- Crisis Communications Strategies, Amanda Coleman (book) – a go-to handbook for all things crisis comms
- The Choice Factory, Richard Shotton (book) – understand the psychology behind marketing
There are so many more though, definitely check out Vuelio’s top 10 PR blogs for inspiration too.
What is one of your personal career highlights?
It sounds cliché but being happy in the job that I’m in. I left a position where I was very unhappy and was second guessing whether I wanted to work in the industry, to work for an employer that is very appreciative of all the work I put into my job and where I feel very proud of the work that I do. I have had a few highlights along the way such as winning top 10 PR blog 2 years in a row and being promoted to a senior, but happiness and contentment is my main goal and so for that, achieving this status is my biggest career highlight so far.
Jessica is a huge inspiration for me as someone just starting out in the industry, and I want to say a massive thank you to her for taking the time to contribute to the blog.
Make sure to check out Jessica’s blog here – https://jessicapardoe.com/
You can also follow Jessica on:
If you are a student or a professional within the communications industry, have a story to tell and would like to feature on ‘A Conversation With…’, please get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,