How To

So you think an ‘ology’ qualifies you to work in marketing?

by Rachel Roberts |

Fans of the 90’s BT advert staring Maureen Lipman will know that grandparents are first in line to celebrate when their youngsters graduate with flying colours. But does an ‘ology’ qualify you for a job in PR and marketing?

Right now we’re recruiting at spottydog and I’m getting some great applications from candidates with marketing, PR and media degrees, plus non-media grads in possession of quite a few ‘ologies’.

What’s brilliant about the world of marketing is, it really isn’t brain surgery. You don’t necessarily need to have studied the subject for three years, as whilst it gives you a head start, the best experience is gained from working on live projects, with real clients, budgets, decisions and results. In my book, three months of real life experience is worth a year’s worth of study.

However, having recently received a few applications from graduates looking to break into the media who do not have a relevant degree (a lot of these being ‘ologies’) and no industry or work experience, as an employer it’s a really tough call to take a flyer on someone with no experience. So I think the advice I gave to a recent generalist grad might help others out there who are looking to get a foot in the door.

“PR isn’t rocket science so if you can demonstrate that you are a quick learner and you’re prepared to put some effort to learn about our sector and what’s involved in a day to day basis you could leap frog over media graduates pretty quickly.

To be successful you need:

To be interested in the news – really interested – not just on twitter – but actually interested enough to watch the in-depth commentary you get on Channel 4 News, Today, PM, Newsnight or Question Time to understand the news of the day, the economy and business landscape. If you don’t know who Eddie Mair, James Naughtie and Emily Maitlis are you better get googling and tuning in.

Comfortable picking up the phone to a journalist to pitch a story – this element can be a bit like cold calling and some people are just not comfortable doing this.

Be creative – come up with ideas to bring stories to life to help the businesses and brands we work with get the attention of the audience they are trying to attract.

To be committed – we work in a 24/7 environment – a story or PR opportunity can happen for our clients at any time, this isn’t a 9-5 job – we have to spin a lot of plates.

To be a great writer – we have to knock out copy quickly – from a tweet through to a technical feature. We haven’t got time to spend the year it takes most students to write a 20,000 thesis. Sometimes I have to write 10,000 word documents in less than two days.

To be interested in learning – especially in relation to social media which is changing daily

Have an analytical mind – the ability to dive into a subject area, quickly grasp the facts and then become a subject expert. Graduates who have studied more generalist subjects are often more familiar with working in this way, so from this perspective non media grads can outperform media grads.

Be solutions orientated – we get thrown new challenges everyday, by our clients, on the back of the media agenda and by curveballs. We have to be able to catch and pitch, not duck and dive difficult challenges.

The other issue is that the perception of what we get up to in the PR sector can be quite different to reality. There are events, fun and social media activity, but there is also a lot of admin, cold calling journalists and filling in excel spreadsheets! You need to be sure that taking this career direction is right for you based on experience of working in the environment not based on perception.”

The point of my blog is not to say that we rule out non media grads. In fact the opposite is true – we’ll give any bright young thing a shot if they can demonstrate they have the right attitude and have done their homework to find out what a career in PR, social and digital media entails. The answers are already out there for graduates who take the initiative and the Chartered Institute of PR is a cracking place to start, and their ‘Careers in PR’ download is a great read for any wannabe PR Executive. I only wished I had had this guide to read when I started my first role in PR fresh from graduating with a degree in Management & Logistics – although luckily I had Sara Tye from Redhead PR to mentor me and that experience was probably equivalent to a PhD in PR. If only if was an ology…. Beattie would be so much prouder….