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A lot can change in a year – returning to consumer PR after 11 months away

Since starting my career in 2018, I’ve almost worked across more sectors than I care to name. From drainpipes to smart home technology, strawberry liqueur to international acquiring banks and even a spot of time within the ‘proptech’ sector with a start-up online estate agency, my career path has taken me from the most corporate end of the B2B spectrum right through to some of the most consumer-focused clients it’s possible to get.

Early in 2021, I left my previous role as a consumer PR executive for a new experience in the world of fintech. Product launches were replaced with capital raises and lifestyle magazines with payments webinars. It’s safe to say that the move represented a seismic shift in the practices and processes that shaped my job and my career.

However, after almost a year away, I’ve returned. Leaving the world of fintech behind, my career has taken another turn and I’ve re-entered the world of consumer PR at Democracy – to find some familiarities, and some significant differences, from the discipline I moved away from at the start of 2021.

 

The ‘real world’ is real once again
One of the biggest changes that I’ve noticed since returning to the world of B2C communications is the return to the ‘real world’. Across my last 12 months in consumer PR, Covid, lockdowns, and the virtual world dominated the national conversation, forcing a step-change in how we targeted and engaged with journalists across the entire media spectrum.

Virtual coffees replaced meet-and-greets and Zoom-based press conferences became the norm as the world readjusted to a life dominated by the pandemic. As someone who loved building relationships and expanding my network of contacts, it was a tough change to deal with.

This is why it’s so pleasing to be back in the consumer space as we return to a ‘new normal’. Meeting journalists in person, creating stunts in public spaces, and live press conferences formed the backbone of my formative years in the industry, and it’s fantastic to see that journalists and PRs are raring to get back to our old habits.

 

Digital is here to stay

Despite being away from the consumer world for almost a year, there are also some elements that are identical to my final day with my final day of consumer PR in 2021. The rise of digital media as the primary source of news was well established before I moved to the B2B sector, and it’s a trend that has continued to gain momentum.

While physical media still plays a key role in the journalistic landscape, online channels and news apps are now the dominant force for consumers who want a world of information and insight at their fingertips. Curated channels, such as Apple News, enable consumers to find and intake huge amounts of content in a matter of minutes and are playing an increasingly key role in PR strategy and tactics.

 

Relationships matter

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – building, maintaining, and strengthening relationships with journalists and the media is still one of the most critical parts of PR. Whether you’re in your first month as an executive or a decade-plus veteran of the industry, you can never undervalue the impact that a strong relationship with a journalist has on the success of your work.

Developing these relationships was perhaps the most important skill that I learned as a junior team member, empowering me to grow in confidence as a communicator and supporting me to extend the reach and impact of my campaigns and activities.

The results you can get from knowing your contacts, understanding their needs, and planning where you can position yourself and your clients are immense. Whether it’s landing on the front cover of a national paper thanks to a coffee date with a tabloid journalist or securing a daytime TV spot thanks to a Zoom call, relationship building has always, and will always, be at the heart of everything we do.

I’m incredibly lucky that I get to do what I enjoy most for a job. As someone who thrives on developing new ideas and forging new relationships, consumer PR is the perfect environment – and it’s a discipline that I’m truly excited to be returning to.

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