Working for a PR Agency and Advice for Students: Q&A with Jessica Pardoe

Working for a PR Agency and Advice for Students_ Q&A with Jessica Pardoe

While I’ve talked a little about working in-house on the blog so far, agency work is something that hasn’t come up.


The main reason for that is that I don’t have experience working for a PR agency. I had initially planned to try and get some work experience with one before my course ended, but the current situation has cancelled those plans.


Despite not having experience working for an agency I still wanted to do a blog post about PR agency work, so I decided the best way to do that was through a Q&A.


From the start of this module at University I knew I wanted to try and get a Q&A with Jessica Pardoe at some point.


Jess, herself a PR blogger – and named in Vuelio’s UK Top 10 PR Blogs, is someone I’ve known of for a long time having attended the same school, one year apart, and with her working for PR agency Source PR this seemed a perfect fit for that Q&A.


As well as questions about working for an agency, I also asked about finishing university and the route into work before a final question looking ahead to the future:


What advice would you give for PR students graduating this year who will be looking for work? And also to students still studying or about to start a PR course?

I’d go as far to say that it’s imperative to network and to create a name for yourself if you’re looking for work. Make a LinkedIn, a ‘PR’ Twitter account and if you fancy it, a blog too. Hopefully, you’ll meet some really great people in the industry who may be able to support you in employment after you graduate; or even if you don’t meet anybody who can help you out directly – when you do go to interviews it will be great to show potential employers the portfolio you’ve built up around your own name. The same applies for students just starting their PR course, the sooner you can ‘PR’ yourself, the better really. Also, it’s a really good idea to start reading up on PR and marketing – go further than your course materials as there’s a wealth of really great content out there. Whether it’s checking in and reading PR blogs, or sitting down with an actual book. I would recommend ‘Myths of PR‘ by Rich Leigh and ‘The Choice Factory‘ by Richard Shotton to start you off as they’re both really digestible, easy reads.


You graduated a couple of years ago, what was your route from University to where you are now?

It was a strange one, but one I’m very grateful for. During my final year of university, I was interning 2 days a week at a digital marketing agency, when I graduated they very kindly took me on full time. I worked there, in total, for a little over 2 years. When moving on I began working for my now-employer after already being in touch the Managing Director from applying for an internship there previously. He contacted me when the job came up and it was perfect for me. I’ve not gone down the traditional route of applying for a position, interviewing and then getting the job yet, but I feel the way in which I’ve developed my career is testament to the benefits of building out a ‘name’ for yourself in the industry.


PR agencies haven’t been mentioned on this blog so far…just in case anyone doesn’t know, what does working for an agency include?

Not to sound cliche, but no two days are ever the same. When you work in an agency you’re working for lots of different clients. What’s more, when you work for a smaller agency you become almost an extension to your client’s team, you’re sort of like a mini in-house comms person for several companies and it’s really interesting. I love agency work as there’s always something new and exciting to do, and I also find that you can draw parallels between your clients. They can help inspire ideas for one and other. I might be working on a campaign for one client and it might spark an idea for another client, and that’s what it’s like working in an agency for me. I’d definitely say it’s challenging as you’ll often have a lot of juggle and will need to delegate your time effectively, but it’s very rewarding getting to work on lots of different things. I also find that working in an agency, your tasks will differ from client to client which keeps it interesting. You could be doing press days and product launches for one client, whilst writing SEO-optimised blogs for another. Being an employee of an integrated agency is certainly interesting, and I would recommend it to anybody starting out in PR as you’ll get a really good, varied experience.


Was working for an agency always something you wanted to do; what would you say are the pros to working for an agency over working in house?

No, I never wanted to work for an agency I wanted to work in the public sector, either for the Police or the Fire Service. It was by chance really that I fell into agency life, as I applied for lots of internships whilst studying and for the most part, they were agency-side roles. Once I got a taste of agency life I wanted to continue with it. I’d still love to join the police force one day but for now I’m enjoying where I am and don’t plan on changing my career path any time soon really. As for pros of working in an agency over in-house, as I’ve never worked in-house it’s hard for me to make a really solid statement as I don’t have the experience to draw comparisons. However, for people just starting out in PR I do think that agency work will give you a breadth and complexity of experience that you might not be able to get from in-house work. I started out doing PR in my first agency job, and left the job having knowledge of traditional PR, digital PR, SEO, content marketing, lead generation, web design and more.


I’ve seen a few people saying they think there will be tough times ahead for PR as an industry in the next couple of years, is this something you agree with? Why?

A classic PR answer incoming: it depends. Personally, and I may be biased, but PR and marketing should be at the forefront of your business strategy when we come out of lockdown, you need to let your stakeholders know that you’re still out there and be ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, I think the issues will come from clients and businesses having crippled budgets. It’s easy to cut PR and marketing out of the equation as you can’t measure tangible benefits of campaigns and communications (well, at least not easily and accurately). Whereas with PPC, for example, you’ll be able to get figures on the exact amount of leads and sales generated by those efforts. I guess only time will tell as to whether the PR agency will struggle, but I’m hoping those who understand and appreciate the value of having a prolific brand reputation and a clear communications strategy, will help keep the PR industry strong.


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