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#CareerGoals: Press Officer

If a company or brand does something significant in the world but no one hears it, did it really happen?

Similarly, how do they manage their image and perception among the general public?

Which? press officer Ifrah reveals what it's like to work in the fast-moving world of public relations, how her creativity helps in her role and the one, simple thing some graduates let themselves down on when breaking into the industry.

Meet Ifrah...

Graduated in: political science at University of Nottingham
A-levels studied: English literature, government and politics and history, plus psychology and general studies at AS-level

Dare we ask, is there such a thing as an 'average day' in the world of PR?

It's impossible to say. No two days have been the same here at Which? (yet). It all rests on the news agenda that day and what's happening in the world when we wake up.

Also, it depends on whether we, as an organisation, want to react to it. It's what makes the role so exciting! 

To give an idea, though, a typical day could be comprised of writing press releases, meeting with journalists to discuss upcoming stories or coordinating and briefing a spokesperson ahead of a TV or radio interview.

What's the biggest myth about working in PR?

People often think PR people go out and attend parties all the time. I mean, Absolutely Fabulous has definitely linked the two worlds together...

There's a little bit of that, of course. But mostly, it's about making sure you're on top of everything in the news and everything on Twitter!

So social media is an important part of the job?

A presence on Twitter is definitely something I'd look for if I was, say, hiring for a graduate role. You'd be surprised how many graduates who want to work in PR aren't active on Twitter - it's so important these days!

What else would you look for in a graduate?

Relevant PR work experience, a consistent interest in the news and current affairs and great organisation skills. The ability to organise yourself properly is important in any role, but especially in this one. You have to be able to keep on top of your workload, say no when you really need to and manage expectations well! 

What's the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of all PR roles is making sure the story is 'newsworthy' and interesting enough for media to want to write about it, out of all the stories being pitched to them that day.

Throughout my career, I've had to sell-in some hard stories which aren’t all that 'sexy', or don’t quite jump out when people are scrolling down their newsfeed.

It can be tough. But when you do get some coverage on a story, it feels like a great achievement!


Public relations not quite your thing? Read our #CareerGoals interviews with our lawyer, doctor and engineer instead. 

What was your dream job as a kid?

I actually always wanted to be a newsreader! We'd watch the news on TV and keep up-to-date on current affairs over dinner as a family, so I always knew I either wanted to work in the news, or shape what people across the country read or saw in some way. 

What was your first part-time job? 

My first part-time job was as a beauty adviser at The Body Shop. It was a great mix of interacting and engaging with people, plus cosmetics and beauty (which I love). 

It was really hard work, though: early mornings, long hours, grumpy customers (sometimes), messy displays and not much free time over Christmas and New Year. But it provided me with great experience. I was given more responsibility quite early on, managing the shop floor, designing displays, sorting out budgets and tills and training new members of staff.

I moved up fairly quickly to supervisor in just a year, which looked great on my CV when I graduated from university.

How did you make your university choice?

I studied political science at Nottingham. Deciding what to study was actually really easy as I studied government and politics at A-level. I really enjoyed seeing how decisions made at a higher political level impacted us all, even if you thought you were far-removed from 'The System'. 

I chose Nottingham for a few reasons. It was close to home, plus I got a good vibe at the open day. Also, I had already read books written by two lecturers who taught the course, so I felt confident that the course would address the exact areas I was interested in.

That's something I would really recommend to students choosing where to study: research who will be teaching you and what their background is, so you can make sure it aligns with what you want to get out of university. Or, if there's a leading figure in the field whose work you admire, find out where they studied or have taught at for ideas on where you should apply to.

Have there been any work experience placements that you look back on fondly?

Originally I wanted to be a journalist, so I interned at my local newspaper while at university, writing news stories and helping out on the newsdesk. This all encouraged my desire to work in PR, and I'd strongly recommend students looking to get into PR do it too, so they can see exactly what happens behind the scenes. 

We would get the local council reacting to news stories quite a lot, which led me to work for them as a communications assistant, again while I was studying.

Another lesson: there are always people to meet and connections to be made at every event, job and experience thrown at you!

Sounds like you kept busy at university outside your course.

Absolutely! We were encouraged to do as much work experience and voluntary work as possible, which has really helped me to develop as an individual over the years.

I'm a huge fan of the creative arts, so I volunteered with Midlands Mencap, designing and implementing lesson plans for young people and adults with learning disabilities. My lessons would range from knitting and dress-making to gardening!

This taught me how to handle every situation and person individually, with a cool head. It also helped me to realise what my strengths are: creativity and patience. 

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    Biggest career highlight or proud moment to date?

    I'm proud of everything I do! But a standout moment would be launching an insurance scheme to the public and handling all the media inquiries for it throughout.

    It received blanket coverage across most national newspapers (including the front page of The Financial Times), plus broadcast TV and radio like Channel 4 News, BBC News and Good Morning Britain.

    It was a huge success, very fast-paced and I loved every minute of it. 

    Final question: you're having a day where nothing is going right. What do you do to calm down?

    Time to have a five minute break and grab a coffee!
     

    Now you know more about working in public relations...

    Learn more about studying public relations at university. While you don't necessarily need a specific degree in public relations to work in the field, it's still an option to consider.

    Read our guide, including examples of modules you'll study, comments from current students studying the subject, key stats and more.

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