Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
Public Relations and Media Strategy Consultant, HWB Communications
Describe a day in the life of a public relations and media strategy consultant.
There is no typical day. You could spend the day researching and writing a press release for a client or devising a strategy to raise a client's public profile, dealing with a crisis.
Or you could take a day travelling with a client on business, spending time at an international conference or running the media room. The job varies enormously and is not for people who want steady day-to-day routine.
Obviously there is the public face of PR, which is about events and overt publicity, but the profession is changing rapidly and working on a strategic level and using new methods of communications to increase your clients' profits and profile is a great challenge.
Why did you decide on this career?
It chose me. I was working on a freelance basis for HWB Communications in Cape Town and they offered me a full-time job. I didn't think that I wanted to go back to working for a company, but taking up the offer was the best thing I have ever done.
Working with dynamic professionals and being in a stimulating environment that offers varied work means that I enjoy coming to work every day. I do more writing now than I did as a journalist and I am fortunate to work for a company that has a very varied client base.
How did you get into this career?
My initial training was as a journalist and I worked for many years at a morning newspaper, eventually as the assistant editor. I had been there for a long time and thought it was time to make a career move. I had experience of PR from being on the receiving end of it as a journalist and I was fascinated by the range of the work and the ability to work in a strategic way.
As a journalist my work was a mix of idealism and pragmatism and that hasn't changed working in PR.
I love writing and making plans and helping clients devise successful strategies, so PR was a natural move for me when I was looking for a change.
What's challenging about the job?
You have to be prepared to go with the flow and accept that if a challenge arises you have to meet it, often within hours in terms of crisis control for a client, or getting a great story out to the media.
It can be frustrating when you have a really good story and because there are so many former editors and journalists who work with me at HWB we do know what a good story is, and one gets a lukewarm response from the media.
Mostly because of good relationships built over many years this can be overcome. You have to be flexible; this isn't a job for people who want a nine-to-five life.
What do you love most about your career?
I enjoy meeting interesting people and learning new things, almost on a daily basis. There is the chance to be creative and to think strategically about how to achieve your goals. I also like working in a team. There is strength in numbers and opinions when it comes to making the best decision and we brainstorm with each other a lot.
I enjoy variety and I certainly get that on a daily basis. I also like to think at the end of the day that I have added something positive to my clients' businesses and organisations.
What type of person would make a success of this position?
Someone with good people skills because meeting clients, dealing with the media and the public is a large part of the job.
You need to be a person of integrity because that really is the only capital you have to work with. There's no room for bluffing your way through something because people won't believe you in the future and you will have lost valuable contacts.
PR isn't about being a bubbly, fake-grinning person, but about understanding the businesses and people you represent and reflecting them in the best and most honest way.
You need stamina and you need to like working in a team.
What subjects do you need to pass in high school to study towards this career?
There is no one qualification that you must have to work in PR or media strategy.
People come into the business from varied fields, but generally you need good language skills so I would suggest learning as many languages as possible. Business subjects would be a good choice as you need to be able to invoice and draw up reports.
What does one study at tertiary level?
You can study Public Relations Management or a BA in Communications Science.