There is something about working in a public relations agency that stands out from any other profession. The fast-paced, coffee-driven action, constant creative energy and daily unpredictability all make agency life both a unique and coveted field of work. It’s the type of work where you can arrive in the office at 8:30am with a full to-do list, and by 9:30am your day has totally been turned upside down with a creative client task. I understand that not everyone likes that. I absolutely love it.
In my final university year, I managed to land an internship opportunity at Melbourne-based public relations agency WE Buchan. WE Buchan is the Australian partner of worldwide firm WE Communications – a global agency well-known for its work with Microsoft. WE Buchan has offices in Melbourne and Sydney, offering its clients investor communication, digital and social brand strategy, corporate B2B, consumer services and media relations.
Having completed my first internship in an in-house marketing role at BDO Australia, I was determined to make the most of my agency internship and gain the skills that are almost uniquely obtained in PR agencies. Little did I realise when I showed up on that first day that WE Buchan would play such a huge role in my professional development and early career. Here are five significant career lessons I learnt as an intern at WE Buchan.
1. Being able to pitch is a valuable skill
Like most PR agencies, WE Buchan staff spend a lot of their time writing media releases, preparing pitches, and speaking on the phone to journalists, with the aim of securing high-quality press coverage for their clients. When I first arrived, I wasn’t expected to jump straight into phone calls. I was glad because I felt far too inexperienced to pitch stories to journalists.
A few weeks into my internship, Account Director Lauren Nowak (you can read more about Lauren here) prepared a media pitching training, which I was permitted to sit in on. The training taught me what a journalist’s day looks like, the best time to contact them, and some conduct ‘do’s and don’ts’. I cannot describe how helpful this insight was – to learn such a vital skill in the agency skillset. A few weeks later, I was given the daunting task of following up a few press contacts myself, which was exhilarating.
2. Learn to be a good operator
This doesn’t just go for public relations practitioners, but for any professional in an administrative office role. I learnt at WE Buchan that having good operating skills really pays. Simple things such as keeping task journals, promptly returning phone calls, and answering all emails, no matter how small, are proactive moves that ensure tasks don’t slip through the cracks. They also prevent tedious follow-ups from colleagues.
The fast-paced workdays at WE Buchan proved an efficient PR practitioner doesn’t just have to have skills in their field, but also great operating skills.
3. Journalism is still valued
Every day, we hear stories about the change and decline of traditional journalism. With redundancies and job cuts being announced on a monthly basis, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the traditional press may soon lose all importance.
While I am uncertain of the future of traditional journalism, let me tell you something I learnt at WE Buchan: the corporate world still values news coverage.
WE Buchan is a forward-thinking agency, offering services that reach out via digital and social media. But one thing I found is that the main priority of many of its clients remains to build a strong presence in the newspapers. It really shows that while traditional journalism is changing, there is still an important place for it in Australian society.
4. Client work takes priority
The simple priority of putting client work ahead of anything else is something I came to understand at WE Buchan. From an intern’s perspective, this meant each day was unpredictable. Whilst an intern, I was given various administrative tasks to attend to, such as keeping spreadsheets up-to-date. No sooner than I’d arrive most mornings however, I would be assigned to a big adventurous task for a client, which occupied most of my day. I came to understand that this adventurous trait was a regular part of PR agency life. Brilliant!
5. Work can be fun
One thing that helped me discover I was suited to agency work was in becoming familiar with the office culture, and the people.
Throughout my internship, I participated in many social events such as Friday night drinks every week, as well as various dinners, nights out, and a volunteering day with the Fr Bob Maguire Foundation. My colleague Nick was our resident DJ, and played music over the office speakers all day. Once or twice a week, members of the team would bring their puppies to work, which provided a great morale boost for the whole team. We also had a few walls that we were allowed to write on! This fun and friendly culture made waking up in the mornings so much easier.
WE Buchan taught me that work can be fun. If you’re in an office for 40 hours each week, why can’t it be fun?
Thanks WE Buchan for teaching me these important career lessons.
visit the WE Buchan website