Career in Public relations
Sarah French is communications manager for Britain's biggest conservation and heritage charity, The National Trust, and manages the communications department's support staff. She is based at the head office in Swindon but works in the London office too, and is in regular contact with regional teams around the country.
What does your career involve?
My main responsibilities are in external communications, I produce news releases to send to the press – newspapers, magazines, TV/radio contacts and freelance journalists – and deal with enquiries from them. These can be about the Trust's activities, new properties opening, new developments, events being organised and so on.
I also collect information and articles for our website, researching and writing features and sourcing photographs to accompany them.
Does this mean a lot of research?
Yes, mostly at my desk – telephoning people who work in the regions and at our properties for information. I also visit our historic houses and gardens, to see them personally and find out about the latest news and events.
What are your routine tasks?
I co-ordinate the work of the support assistants to ensure our team functions as smoothly as possible. We regularly meet to discuss their workloads and plan forthcoming projects. We do a daily press summary, which involves searching all papers and magazines for articles or letters about the National Trust or any major issues that might affect our work in certain areas.
I have to work to deadlines all the time. At the moment I'm organising an event to introduce volunteers to our new promotional campaign. I'm also working on a new archaeology section for the website, which has to be up and running by the end of the year.
What do you like best about your career in public relations?
I enjoy all the different tasks and subjects I get to work on. The Trust's work is so diverse, as we own and manage coastal and countryside areas as well as all the different types of historic properties.
I deal with lots of interesting people too – 15 altogether in communications, and a multitude of Trust conversation staff, volunteers, members and journalists.
What particular skills and qualities are needed for a career in public relations?
It's vital to have a genuine interest in the organisation you're working for and believe in its work and aims. This is especially important working for a charity, as salaries are usually lower than in commercial companies. You also have to be hard working and creative, with good people skills.
What are your main challenges?
Having to work on lots of projects and jobs at the same time can be quite a balancing act. It's a challenge and you have to be flexible, but it's fun and a great way to develop skills.
Do you have any plans for the future?
I love working for The National Trust and would like to build my career here. It'–s a very supportive organisation, with plenty of opportunity to move into different areas of work – at the centre, regions or our properties. With training and experience, I could perhaps manage a country house one day!
Sarah's route to her career in public relations
- Degree in History.
- Started work for The National Trust as an assistant in the communications department.
- Promoted within six months.
Sarah's public relations tips
- Gain experience by doing voluntary work.
- Try to get work experience/holiday work with a local newspaper, radio station, communications or public relations company.
- Read up about the activities of companies/organisations working in the type of business which interest you.
Public relations related jobs
- Advertising account planner
- Advertising media planner
- Marketing manager
- Publishing editor
Salary working in public relations
- The usual starting salary for a communications or public relations (PR) manager is between £15,000 and £20,000.
- With experience, this can rise to around £24,000 to £25,000.
- Senior communications managers/directors can earn from around £40,000 up to £100,000 or more.
- Salaries vary according to experience, type of employer and location in the UK.
How to work in public relations
- Most communications/PR managers are graduates. It is a very competitive field of work, so having a Degree in Public Relations can often be advantageous. Other useful subjects include English and marketing, although some employers do not ask for a specific subject. The Institute of Public Relations (PR) can provide a list of approved public relations degrees and postgraduate diploma courses.
- It is possible to work up through an organisation to management level, especially with experience of working in its communications, PR or marketing department.
- Other useful qualifications are the IPR Diploma and Advanced Certificate in Public Relations and BTEC/SQA Higher National Diploma (HND) in Media (Journalism).
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