Agency Life: A year on and the lessons I’ve learnt

By Ellie Greenfield, former senior account executive at MK PR.

Before starting at a PR agency, you will be given many a lecture on how challenging, diverse, rewarding and downright bizarre it can be. Whether it’s clients who won’t get back to you, the press who don’t think the story you lovingly spent time on is newsworthy, or the parents who still can’t quite get their heads around what it is you actually do (no mum, I’m not going to be on the telly…yes, I know my Grandma would love to see me on Look North)…

What these lectures fail to mention is how much working in a PR agency can teach you about resilience, the art of being a skilled plate-spinner and, most of all, you. In the last 14 months, I have learnt more about myself than I thought was possible to know; whether it’s my ability to use my Barnsley accent as inspiration for PR stunts, the fact I’m able to carry five cups of tea all at once or that I’m a whizz when it comes to resizing images on Paint.

Don’t get me wrong, working in a PR agency is hard; it’s such a fast-paced and ever-evolving industry that there are days you don’t have time to stop for a brew as the emails fly thick and fast to your inbox… But I’ve learnt that if you can learn to take the good with the bad, it’s an incredibly rewarding, ridiculously fun and ever-diverse job.

People often compare agency experience to in-house and the comment is usually how varied not only the job, but the backgrounds of the people working within agencies is – in this team of 9 we have retail PR experts, public sector PR experts, ex-journalists, history graduates and ex-referee managers for the Football Association; all sat within five metres of each other… and don’t even get me started when it comes to hobbies and interests outside of a work capacity.

Drawing from one another’s backgrounds is endlessly useful; whether it’s finding out who the best person to send a release to at the Sheffield Star is, advice on how to write the most pun-derful headline, which are the best bloggers in the region to bring to an event, or which word sounds the most business-y to use in an award-entry – these people are your lifeline.

So, here are my top tips for anyone thinking about, or currently working in a PR agency:

  • Learn to accept mistakes and move on: things aren’t always going to be tickety-boo, and that’s okay. There’ll be days things don’t go to plan and you end up going home feeling deflated – but learn to accept it, analyse what could’ve been better and put it to rest.
  • Swot up: unsurprisingly in agencies, you will be given clients who operate within an industry you’re unfamiliar with and you will be handed a task you’re not sure about – whether it’s technical telematics terms, restrictions when it comes to gin or spreadsheets where you’re not even sure where to start. Swotting up on the train on the way home or in the bath will mean you can take more in your stride and have a better understanding of your clients.
  • Go at everything full-throttle: whether it’s donning a bright red jumper and elf ears for a Christmas Parade, chatting up bloggers at a cocktail launch or bringing a million ideas to a meeting – PR is a brilliant industry for self-development, and you’ll learn so much if you open your brain to anything and everything.
  • Make friends with your colleagues: for the days you don’t have time to pop and make a brew or need a good rant about a press release you just can’t get right, your colleagues will be there to lend a helping hand, bring tea and pop across the road to grab you some emergency chocolate.
  • Enjoy it: every second is an adventure, the opportunity to grow and develop is humongous and you get out what you put in.

So go forth and get stuck in. You never know what you might end up doing… Au revoir!