Live Q&A: Getting into – and getting on in – PR

Peter Mountsteven’s big break in public relations came when he sent locks of his hair to dozens of PR companies.

Now, I don’t blame you if you think this approach sounds rather bizarre. But bear with me. Peter, who was keen to break into music industry PR, accompanied his locks with a cleverly-written letter debunking the cliches of the music business at the time – including the fact it was dominated by balding executives with ponytails. The hair, he claims, helped hammer his point home.

Despite meaning he had to sacrifice his long hair for a shorter style, the unusual approach had the desired effect and got him through the door. Peter, now a managing partner at Taylor Herring PR, still thinks a creative application is the way to go in this industry. He’s had people order him pizzas which arrives with a CV in the box, which he says helped them stand out from the countless other applications he receives.

So, how important is it to come up with quirky ways of promoting yourself, when it comes to a career in PR? And, once you’ve made it into a PR agency or an in-house team, what are the next steps to getting ahead? And, as well as plenty of personality, what types of skills do employers want to see? Ask our experts in a live Q&A on Thursday 21 April between 1pm and 4pm.

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Our panel:

Sam Holl has been working in PR and communications for seven years, specialising in high profile consumer campaigns for the public and private sectors. Sam is a associate director at Kindred.

A former BBC TV presenter and journalist, Agatha Chapman-Poole owns Chapman Poole Communications which she formed after working for global and national marketing and PR agencies. Agatha works with travel, food and drink and lifestyle clients.

Stephen Waddington is the managing director of Speed Communications. Stephen sits on the Public Relations Consultants Association council, the CIPR council and is a member of the CIPR’s social media panel. His blog can be found here.

Katy Creates is UK press officer at disaster relief charity ShelterBox. Katy has worked in PR and communications for four years, working both in an agency and in-house across a variety of sectors.

Ravi Pau has three years of experience in PR. He is currently working as an account executive at Lawson Dodd. Ravi works across a variety of food and drink brands including Lavazza Coffee and Guylian.

Jonathan Lomax is deputy chief operating officer at MHP Communications. As well as advising a range of clients, Jonathan oversees all recruitment for MHP, one of the country’s largest PR and public affairs companies.

Ellie Hernaman created boutique agency Truffle PR at the age of 25 after working for some of London’s top PR agencies.

Jon Cope is course leader of the BA (Hons) Public Relations degree at University College Falmouth. Prior to his career in higher education, Jon worked in public relations for a range of statutory organisations and PR agencies. He is Guardian Careers’ PR careers expert.

Lee Edwards joined the academic world in 2004 following a career in PR consultancy. Lee is a lecturer in corporate communications and PR at Manchester Business School. He is also a trustee and board member of Ignite, the network of PR professionals focused on promoting the benefits of cultural diversity in the profession.

Andy Barr is managing director and co-founder PR Agency 10 Yetis. Andy’s background includes roles in both crisis and consumer communications and marketing roles.

Zena Martin is a marketing communications consultant, operating across several industries. Zena is a trustee of Ignite, the network of PR professionals focused on promoting the benefits of cultural diversity in the profession.

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