Edward James is a London-based Account Executive at McCluskey International specializing in Travel & Lifestyle PR, with a background in journalism. In this interview, he dishes on life in Public Relations from a UK perspective, and shares his thoughts on working in the industry.
1. Introduce yourself! (current job, schooling etc.) How did you decide on a career in Public Relations?
This is so difficult to do! I’m notoriously rubbish at talking about myself…especially questions like the above, but I’ll give it a go. I’m 27, London bred…if not London born! I went to school in London but went to University outside this great city…and absolutely loved it! I currently work as an Account Executive for a PR agency called McCluskey International. We handle a variety of clients ranging from the Jamaican Tourist Board to Kimpton Hotels, who are very well known in the USA!
From an early age, I’ve been passionately curious about the world and I always knew that I wanted to be a journalist. My inspiration was Tintin – pronounced ‘Tan-Tan’ – the young Belgian reporter created by Herge in the 1930’s. He had a profound influence on me as a child and I would avidly read about his adventures with Snowy, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. He always came up with the goods and he was just a young journalist!
That was inspiration enough for me. Travelling the world and seeking stories like the fictional Tintin, is what I always wanted to do. Now, I work on the ‘flip-side’ of journalism, which is to provide the information to the journalist for that particular story. I will go back to journalism one day, as it’s always been my first love and PR is a stepping stone for me in terms of building media contacts and relationships. The moment I fall out of love with PR is the moment I go back to being a journalist. I don’t know when that will be, but for the moment, I’m enjoying my PR career immensely.
Aside from that, I have an avid interest in fashion – I’ve worked at London Fashion Week for a top British shoe designer – and I love music – I’m a DJ! And I love to dance! I’m proof that you can be nerdy but still cool!
2. What’s a typical day like in the life of Edward James Herath?
In PR, you never have a ‘typical’ day. I’m firmly of the belief that no two days are the same, because every day the client will have different needs and something else that needs reactive measures, from a PR perspective. The essentials still stay the same however. The e-mails, the endless reports and the social media management.
The social media management is probably the most interesting aspect alongside the events management and networking. I manage some of our clients’ corporate social media platforms, which is a lot of fun. Getting paid to manage content on Facebook and Twitter is a dream come true!
I do a lot of networking which is always fun and is an essential part of being successful in PR. If you can build and maintain successful professional relationships with your media and trade contacts, then half your job is already done!
3. How does your Journalism background help you as a PR professional?
PR and journalism go hand-in-hand these days. Without PR’s, journalists especially in the travel trade industry, wouldn’t have any stories to write. Having a journalism background helps because I know how a journalist thinks. I am one! I know how to pitch a story to them and not be “PR” about it. The journalist generally wants you to get straight to the point and not include any unnecessary fluff! The key point to remember is that if you are able to convey your message to the journalist quickly and succinctly, then your story will be out sooner rather than later. Most importantly, journalists can write well and our written skills are highly valued in PR.
4. What opportunities are available for PR Professionals interested in making the move overseas? (e.g. London!)
PR is an ultra-competitive industry – no doubt about that – so wherever you go, opportunities are going to be limited. London agencies are always on the look-out for interns and American interns have a reputation for being harder working than their British counterparts. Don’t ask me why, but they just do! If you network with the right people and put yourself in the right place at the right time, then you may get the opportunity to work in London. The best way to do that is to try and secure a secondment to the UK. You’ll basically be paid by your agency to work and travel around London. Not bad at all is it?
5. What do you find to be the most difficult aspect about PR? Most rewarding?
The most difficult aspect is undoubtedly the paperwork! We have so much of it and I don’t know anyone that likes compiling reports, because it is the dullest and most time consuming aspect of PR. The networking is for me, the most rewarding aspect. You have the opportunity to meet some very interesting and quirky characters who you would never get the chance to meet normally. Embrace it and enjoy it, because it doesn’t last forever!
Recently, I was involved in the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race and as our client is the Jamaica Tourist Board, we were involved in launching Jamaica’s entry in the competition. I had the pleasure of meeting some incredibly talented individuals such as Sir Robin Knox Johnston, the first man to circumnavigate the globe solo and Levi Roots, a famous Jamaican chef in the UK. It really made all my hard work rewarding. Find out more here: www.clipperroundtheworld.com.
6. What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in PR?
You have to be really sure that you want to pursue a career in PR. It’s a tough industry to be successful in, as a lot of it depends on being a skilled multi-tasker, hence the reason why women do very well in it. I’m the exception to the rule I guess.
The key thing I would say is to be dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic. Obviously, you have to have the necessary set of skills – writing, communication, flair – but aside from that you need to be remorselessly determined. If that hasn’t put you off, then what I can say, is that it can be very rewarding.
7. What motto/personal mantra do you live by when it comes to your career?
No matter how much I love PR, just remember that it’s your job, not your life. It’s PR. Not E.R.
When you leave the office for the day, just switch off. It’s so easy for PR to invade and take-over your life, to the point that you find yourself responding to a client’s email at 10 at night! No matter how urgent it is, the email can wait. You’re the client’s PR, not their concierge. We have a life to live and we should make the most of it, when the opportunity arises!
My last word would be to work smart – not hard – and play harder. Working in PR can be very stressful and demanding so make sure you enjoy those Friday nights and the weekends!
Thank you to Edward James for sharing his insight on journalism and the PR industry from a UK perspective!