Media, PR, comms and advertising – it’s all about passion!

That was the underlying message I came away with after a recent AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) conference on the topic of careers in Media, PR, Comms and Advertising in Scotland. Here are a few nuggets of information for anyone interested in finding out more about jobs, applications and selling yourself in this industry.

We were lucky to hear from a range of media agencies who spoke about how they operate and the individual roles

The jobs

As Fiona Leith, an Associate at the PR agency Message Matters put it “the marketing world is now about content and conversational campaigning. It is less and less about being a specialist and more and more about being a jack of all trades and being able to evolve with the industry”

Whether you want to work in Client Services, Account Management, Planning or Digital Marketing, relationships are “gold dust”. So brush up on those networking skills and get out of your comfort zone!

In terms of actual positions, companies are set up in different ways. For example, Whitespace in Edinburgh are one of the few creative agencies that support the full range of advertising functions. Charlie Ball, Design Director at Whitespace, described their various roles as follows:

Planning: only three people but they provide golden nuggets of insights.
Account management: one of the largest teams responsible for building relationships with clients and internal teams (remember relationships are gold dust!)
Digital marketing: this team come up with the strategies and are quite analytical people.
Creative: this is the biggest team in the company and involves lots of different skills: copywriters, designers, animators, illustrators, etc.
UX (User Experience): produce the design experience of a digital product. They look at user journeys and make sure campaigns have the right look and feel.
Digital production: make the shiny, technical stuff.

At STV, a Digital Media Company, Danielle Kelly, Client Services Director gave us a deeper insight into the Client Services function.

Client Strategy: this is about managing the process – bringing in people from different areas of the business depending on the brief (business development, creative, customer insights etc.) and pulling it all together to present back to the client and/or the agency.
Communications: comms are tailored to audiences and this team ensures that everything that goes out is STV branded.
Events and experiences: This team maximise the STV facilities and location for business insight events to help people understand who STV are as a business.

The Application

I had a few questions for the panel about applying for roles in the industry based on the queries that have come from our students.

The CV

All the panel members agreed that the CV should be a maximum of two pages and ideally one. It should be “the nuts and bolts” – keep it simple and easy to follow. Allow your personality and creativity to come out in the covering letter and (if appropriate) portfolio – bring examples of your work to an interview.

In terms of skills, the usual suspects you’d expect are all there. Most companies are looking for creative problem solvers, people who are able to work in a team and communicate with others. But it doesn’t stop there. Danielle from STV spoke about organisation – apparently it’s a good thing to love a spreadsheet in client services! Other common themes from all the speakers included:

  1. Personality: confidence, energy, enthusiasm and the right attitude! In an environment where it’s common to work long hours on intensive projects, you need to be able to fight your own case, persevere and stay positive.
  2. Strong presentation skills: Generally a presentation will always be part of the interview. In the world of conversational campaigns, you need to be able to tell and sell a story with credibility, authenticity and coherence.
  3. Commercially minded: Read the right magazines/blogs/books/articles, know the company better than the interviewer does, have ideas about the next big thing – this all helps in demonstrating that passion.
  4. Spelling and Grammar: Sometimes I get the feeling students don’t believe me when I talk about the importance of this – but it matters. As one speaker put it, if you are prepared to put out a CV with a spelling or grammar mistake, chances are you would do the same when delivering to a client brief.

Selling Yourself

It’s all about networking. At Whitespace, most recruitment is through word of mouth (friend of a friend); reputation; or Twitter/LinkedIn. You need to be in their world to know about opportunities.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get in. Most of the companies run internship schemes (for example Whitespace is about to launch an internship scheme that will have a September intake); are open to work experience if you approach them (Danielle said that if someone makes the effort to contact her directly she finds it hard to say no); and sponsor competitions to try and identify new talent (check out the current IPA case competition). In a world where reputation is so important, most companies hold business networking events that are open to anyone – you just need to proactively seek them out. Again, show some of that passion and enthusiasm.

Some final 

All in all, when it comes to working in PR, Comms and Advertising, the opportunities are there. But you won’t get them by hiding behind your laptop – step out of your comfort zone and demonstrate your passion. Charlie at Whitespace put it nicely when he said:

“Be good. Really good. Or be annoying. Really annoying”.

The message – persistence pays off!




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Image of Diane Gill, Student Projects Manager, University of Edinburgh Business School

Diane Gill

Diane is the Head of Student Development at the University of Edinburgh Business School. She is responsible for coordinating company engagement with student research and consultancy through liaison with corporate clients, course organisers, students and programme administrators.