Tag Archives: interview

Going Global Interview: Edward James Herath talks PR in London


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!

To read more of Edward James’ work visit http://intellectualmasculinity.tumblr.com/ or follow him on twitter @EdwardJamesH!

- S.


Interview: Brenda Urban from Bravo TV series Eat, Drink, Love

Eat, Drink, Love - Season 1Pictured: Brenda Urban — (Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Bravo)

Brenda Urban is a public relations professional based in Los Angeles working in the hospitality industry. She is currently on the hit Bravo TV series Eat, Drink, Love, which chronicles the lives of five single ladies working in the L.A. food industry. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Brenda on her life in PR, and the world of reality television. She shares with us inspiring insight on the challenges and benefits of the industry, while providing words of encouragement to aspiring PR pros. Here’s what she had to say:

1. How did you get started in the field of public relations? What made you pursue a career in the industry?

Work hard, start at the bottom, and don’t accept “no” for an answer. Public relations is one of those fields where you don’t get hired unless you have experience.  Unlike a lot of young professionals pursuing a career in PR, I had absolutely no experience.  I graduated Mason Gross School of the Arts with a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in dance, and I never did an internship during my four years of undergraduate studies.

The only choice I had to find a job after graduation was to start at the bottom and work my way up.  I took an administrative job and my starting salary was $23,000 a year.

2. When you were living in New York, you worked on the entertainment side of public relations. What made you decide to transition into the hospitality sector?

After 6 months of sticking it out, I secured an entry-level position with William Morris Agency (now William Morris Endeavor) in New York as a “floating assistant.”  Basically a glorified secretary for whatever department they needed me in.  I can’t stress enough how my work ethic really paid off.  I worked long hours and did monotonous tasks.  Do you know agents don’t ever actually pick up a phone and call someone?  I would have to “roll calls” all day so if a client didn’t answer, the agent wasn’t wasting their time.

After a few YEARS of assisting, I decided I needed a change.  I had the worst interview of my life with the head of PR at Glamour magazine.  She took me to lunch and told me that she would never hire me because I had no PR experience.  I thought “what a waste of time that was!” By the time I got home, I had a message from that woman, saying she was recommending me for a job with the first PR firm I ever worked for, Lou Hammond & Associates.  Apparently, even though she didn’t want to hire me, I made such a good impression that she saw my potential.  Anyone you meet, could be the most important person you meet that day.  Treat everyone with respect.

3. What’s your typical day like?

My day typically starts very early, returning emails from the night before, watching the morning talk shows (to see which ones are booking what guests), and reading the news.  In order to be a great publicist, you need to be familiar with the producers and journalists that you are pitching.  Know what they cover and where their interests lie.  Nothing is more embarrassing for the PR industry than people who send out a pitch about a client that the producer or journalist would never cover.

I write A LOT.  I write press releases, I write speeches, I write press materials.  I cannot stress enough how important writing skills are.  My first boss in PR used to mark up my press release drafts with a red pen, sometimes 10 or 11 times!  I resented her for it then, but realize now that the tough love made me a great writer, and in turn, a great publicist.  PR is twofold – who you know and how well you write.  If you write with confidence, clients will appreciate your work and your counsel.

4. As we all know, life in PR isn’t as glamorous as people seem to think it is. What do you find to be the most challenging part of a career in Hospitality PR? Most rewarding?

I often hear that people think PR is a super glamorous job.  It can be, but it is also a lot of long hours behind a computer and on the phone to make those moments spectacular.  I see a lot of younger PR gals expecting the world on their first day.  They want to schmooze with journalists, have cocktails at 5, and stay out late at fabulous parties with celebrities.  Haha.  Don’t we all!  The best part of my job isn’t the schmoozing.  It is getting the results of the sometimes weeks or months of pitching, and as a result winning over the trust and respect of journalists and my clients.

5. When you were approached about Eat, Drink, Love, what were your initial thoughts? Were you skeptical at all about bringing your professional life to reality television?

I never wanted to be on reality TV.  I was introduced to the producers through Kat Odell, who is on the show with me and writes for Eater LA.  I was very hesitant at first, but they made me feel comfortable.  I have been a publicist for 10 years, so I knew that my contacts in the industry are strong, and that I could really show viewers how PR works in LA.  I don’t think many people realize that behind most great stories is a person who jumped through hoops to make it happen.

6. As a PR pro, you know how valuable Twitter is for our industry. Does interacting with your fan base (which is amazing, by the way!) come naturally for you?

I think having conversations are very important in PR.  That is what it is – public relations… relationships with the public.  Whether it be through traditional media (newspapers, television, etc.) or social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) those conversations are essential for exposure.  I have so much fun with Twitter, and I am lucky enough that those people who follow and Tweet me are (for the most part) nice and supportive. And I think it is amazing that I can reach people I don’t know who live thousands of miles away with 140 characters.

7. How has your career as a PR professional changed since you’ve been on the show?

Something that people don’t tell you is that being on a reality television show most-likely won’t change your life (unless you are Snookie, perhaps).  I still go to the office every day.  I rarely (if ever) get recognized.  The best part about being on the show for me is that I behaved professionally, and now I am getting potential clients reaching out because they saw me on the show.  Like I said before, I think the show has been great for showing folks what PR professionals do, and how we really do make a different for our clients’ businesses.

8. In 2012, you opened your own public relations and marketing agency called Urban + Allen, with partner Edward Allen. How has this business venture shaped your career?

I have been incredibly lucky to find a partner as supportive as Edward.  We work so well together, and in the process have fun. I no longer get the Sunday night blues thinking about going to the office on Monday.  I look forward to everyday.

There has been nothing more rewarding than working for myself.  I recommend that everyone do it, if they have the chance. Was it scary?  Of course!  For the first few months, my income relied solely on when and if my clients paid me on time.  But now, I have the freedom to turn down clients I don’t want to work with.  And believing in my clients and loving what they do makes my job so much easier.  Trust me… no matter how much I got paid, I would never take on a fast food brand as a client.  It is just not what I believe in.

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring PR professional?

Work hard. Find a mentor who sees your potential and is willing to take you under their wing.  As I said earlier, know who you are pitching and what they cover.  You are only as good as your contacts.  Find out what interests you, and do PR in that field.  I never understood folks that love fashion, but represent healthcare clients.

Thank you to Brenda for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions! She provides us with valuable knowledge about the PR world, and most importantly, shows how dedication and persistence in the industry is crucial to a successful career!

Don’t forget to tune in to the season finale of Eat, Drink, Love this Thursday night at 7/6c on Bravo TV – The Final Course!

Follow @msbrendaurban and the rest of the cast on Twitter to join in on the conversation!

- S.


© Copyright 2013 – Image Courtesy of NBC Universal