Guest post: Starting out in a regional agency

Guest post: Starting out in a regional agency


Regional public relations agencies provide a greater breadth of experience for graduates in contrast to London counterparts according to Stephen Johnson. After graduating from Sunderland University he’s spent the last two-years working at Newcastle-based OPR. By Stephen Johnson

As a graduate, I thought one of the biggest challenges I’d possibly ever face was in securing my first job.

Immediately you’re presented with hurdles you need to overcome, such as going through the rigorous and time consuming process of building an online profile in a bid to stand out in a crowd; or building the confidence to approach potential employer at a networking event.

I’ve quickly come to learn that these were the first of many hurdles, and that public relations, at times, more of a life-choice than a career.

It gets easier, networking becomes more relaxed the more frequently you attend events. Building and maintaining an online profile becomes less of a chore, once you’ve developed close relationships with a few industry peers.

I knew I wouldn’t start my career anywhere other than in the North East. I’d heard horror stories about agencies in London making their graduates ‘sell in’ from Monday through to Friday until they were blue in the face.

I secured my first job using Twitter. I built my following by taking part in online discussions, such as the weekly #commschat and followed directors and owners of North East PR agencies.

In my final year at Sunderland University, I wanted to gain some professional agency experience, so I tweeted asking for a placement. OPR got back to me that day offering me one day a week, which then became a full-time position.

With an enthusiastic attitude and willingness to work hard, the experience readily available to gain in an agency in the North East is the opposite.

Often less departmentalised than those in the ‘big smoke’, a regional agency will give you the opportunity to work within a smaller team, completing a broader range of day-to-day tasks and giving you more responsibility.

You may quickly find yourself working with clients directly over the phone and attending meetings or sitting in on creative brainstorms.

And working within a smaller group, your creative ideas will be listened to and considered, giving you a real opportunity to provide ideas that help steer a client’s campaign into new, uncharted directions.

When a new client brief has came into the agency asking to run a Facebook competition, I’ve been given the opportunity to help build an application to support it.

After my first year working full-time, I’d turned my hand to video production, app-building and blogger relations as well as press release writing, media relations and much more.

In many respects, working at a smaller regional agency allows you to progress quicker If you’re willing to work hard and grasp new opportunities, you’ll quickly discover that you’ve developed a varied skill set more quickly.

My advice to those who are just starting out in any PR agency is to find your niche, take ownership of it, and try to learn as many new things as you possibly can along your journey.

About Stephen Johnson Stephen works as a digital content executive for North East-based agency OPR, working mainly on digital and integrated campaigns as well as occasionally traditional forms of media. Connect with Stephen via Twitter @Jonk87.

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