I am absolutely delighted to bring back my Day in the Life of a PR series.
I’m not lost on the irony of this title, because we all know that in the PR world, no two days are the same, and no two jobs are the same, but throw in a pandemic and ever-changing goalposts, and I am aware that those working in this industry are facing more challenges and ever.
I hope that this series will highlight the amazing work you are all doing and showcase outstanding PR people, working with fantastic brands and for brilliant businesses.
To kick things off, Justin Fox, a PR & Outreach Manager for the team at CoursesOnline is here talking about his new role, what it’s like working virtually with a team you haven’t met in real life, and his hopes for this summer.
Over to you, Justin.
Tell me about you and your work
I’m the PR and Outreach manager for the website CoursesOnline, handling (as the title implies) their PR presence and link-building processes. We’re a comparison website for individuals and
It’s a role I started only in November, having spent 4 years working for the digital marketing agency Distinctly as part of their SEO team, again with a focus on link building. I’m yet to actually meet my new colleagues though in person or visit our London office but fingers crossed that will change in the next few months.
What is your morning routine before you get to your desk?
I typically get up at 7am with the aim of starting around 7:45 or 8 at the latest. First things first whilst still in bed is to check my inbox to see if any outreach leads have come in since the day before and that’s followed by a sweep of Twitter and Reddit to catch up with the news. Once I’m back commuting though things are likely to be a bit more urgent in order to beat the crush on the trains.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk?
Being obsessed with links and PR coverage, step one is always to hop on AH Refs and see what links it’s detected that I might have missed (not that many tend to escape my sight!) That’s followed by a similar Google search for our brand name plus modifiers depending on the campaigns which we are running at a given time.
Tongue in cheek question, what does a typical day look like for you?
Other than continuously refreshing my inbox? I like to send any outreach emails between 9 to 11 so the time before that is spent making any last minute additions to contact lists built the day before and finalising the text of what I’m sending out. Once that’s done the following few hours are normally given over to any meetings or calls that I have scheduled and the afternoon is used for curating the next day’s outreach.
How have you kept your business on track over the past year and dealt with the impact of COVID?
We’re fortunate that we’re in an industry that when compared to others is relatively insulated from the worst effects of the pandemic. With people being forced to stay at home we’ve seen an uptake in people looking to spend that time productively and opting to undertake some kind of training course. The work which our team does has likewise always been done online so whilst we’re missing out socially, our productivity thankfully hasn’t taken a hit.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for PR at the moment?
I would say the biggest challenge is coming up with campaign ideas that have a unique hook which can differentiate them from the many other campaigns that are also being sent over to journalists/web editors each day. We constantly have to be asking ourselves what is making our offering better than the next one and the one before as generic offerings won’t stand out in an industry with so much talent. Whilst it can be tempting to just throw stuff out there in order to reach deadlines and hit targets, speed is no substitute for quality.
What are the non-negotiables for you in your business?
The most crucial non-negotiable for me is to always be polite even if you’re internally annoyed. We’ve all had times when we think we’ve got the perfect piece of content or campaign, crafted the perfect email to go with it…only to be rejected for a reason that from our perspective seems flimsy.
Venting your frustration and having a go at the recipient will solve nothing and will only reflect badly on your business. It’s better to do things with good grace and leaves the door open for you to contact them down the line with something more suitable.
We know working in PR can be stressful, how do you look after yourself, as well as your clients?
For myself I’m currently jotting down a list of everything that I want to try out when I can once lockdown restrictions are lifted, currently I’m looking to experiment with some form of martial art and also trying my hand at some cooking classes – not sure which I might end up regretting first!
Whilst I don’t have clients anymore being in-house, I like the idea that I’ve seen discussed online of some agencies altering their payment plans in response to how their clients are performing, eg: deferring payments if revenue has been reduced. Although this might not always be possible, it can help struggling businesses to stay competitive in SEO terms and can really help with client loyalty in the long run.
What plans do you have for 2021?
Honestly not many right now. I’d settle for being able to work in the office for 2 days a week and having my Saturdays back for a bit of sport. Perhaps my most ambitious plan is to be able to have a small get together for my birthday in the summer.
What advice would you have for someone looking to start a PR career?
My main piece of advice would be not to compare your work to the campaigns which you see getting shared around on social media. As good as those pieces are, they are put together by teams with years of experience in what works and more crucially, what doesn’t work. For every one of those campaigns that you see, how many less successful ones have they done which hasn’t gained so much traction? Whilst that’s not to say that you shouldn’t aim to be on their level one day, it’s ok for you to walk before you can run relatively speaking.
What motto do you live and work by?
Going to have to be cliche and answer with a line from Lord of the Rings – ‘all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us’. It’s a line
I really hope you like what you read, and if you would like to be part of ‘A Day in the Life of PR’, get in touch and let’s chat.
Have a great Thursday, and take care.