Career College: 10 tips to making it in PR

Written by Tracey Blake

I saw Ronke speak at an event about confidence recently and she was such an inspiring speaker and has had such an interesting career that I asked her to take part in our Career College slot to share her wisdom. So, drumroll please, this week we talk to Ronke Lawal, 36, PR Consultant and owner of Ariatu PR.

1.Tell us a bit about your job, what the average day looks like and what’s involved…

I work with a variety of small business brands and entrepreneurs in the lifestyle and FMCG industries. I usually go through what needs to be done depending on the client –  that could mean following up with journalists if undertaking a media relations campaign or engaging with a client on communications strategy. I also check in on social media platforms, I use a number of tools so social media can be automated but I also make sure to “humanise” the platforms. I spend a lot of time reading and responding to emails, when I’m not in a meeting or speaking at an event I like to make sure that all client accounts are being managed effectively.

2. How did you get your first job in this industry and what tips would you give to students for routes in?

I became self-employed in 2004,  I whilst I was in a standard 9 to 5 management role – a role in which many people my age would have been happy to have stayed in for many years.  It was an interesting position with lots of responsibility, however I became a robot, unhappy with what my job was turning me into, I was stressed and would often take that stress home with me. My life lacked dynamism and, to some extent, purpose. I felt strongly that I was not following my true life’s purpose and so I made a choice to start my own business. Many people thought I was crazy, I was after all only 23 years old and my only starting capital was my savings, I was taking a big risk although thankfully back then I still lived at home so that helped. I wanted to create a life that I loved and by starting my own business I felt that I was able to do that. My initial business undertook marketing, business development and PR but I realised later on in my business career that PR was my true calling.

3. What one piece of advice would you give to someone/a student wishing to forge a career in PR?

Building relationships is crucial in PR so start networking even before you find a job, in fact networking will probably enable you to find a job much sooner.  So get networking – even if it is at SU events – get involved, start building relationships now to help you through your professional journey later.

 

I would also recommend that any students who want to get into PR should get as much experience in the industry – whether through agency work or in-house.  Check out associations like the CIPR (of which I am a director) and the Taylor Bennett Foundation to guide you.

 4. Who was the one person who had the most influence on your career to date?

That is a great question – I am trying to think of one person but it is difficult as I have had so many people who have taught me something along the way. I would say though that my teachers from a young age. Sean was a primary teacher I had who was tough but that’s because he cared so much and Miss Ford in secondary school who was an amazing English teacher.

5. Considering all the people you’ve met in your field, what personal attributes are essential for success?

Confidence

An ability to work well with people

Being savvy in the digital space helps

Being responsive to change

Understanding the value of personal branding.

6. What do you wish you’d known (but didn’t) when you first contemplated this career as a student?

That networking is such a powerful tool – I learnt this really quickly upon starting  my business but it was never taught in university.

7. What is the best bit of career advice you ever received?

JUST DO THE WORK!

This sounds like common sense but it’s deeper than that – you have to be willing to do the work even when it becomes difficult. I’m not saying do the work when it no longer fulfills you or if it stresses you out and is having a negative impact on you. What I am saying is that even the very career that you love can sometimes have boring days, if you really want to flourish then work through the boring days! Just do the work!  

8. What is your career highlight to date?

To be honest maintaining a consistent presence in PR has been a true highlight – I have worked with so many amazing clients and the fact that I have continued to thrive on this journey has been a real highlight.

9. What are the best and worst things about your job?

Best things include the opportunity to work with so many gifted entrepreneurs, using my communications skills to highlight their stories during a media relations campaign is such a rush! Similar rush applies when helping a client handle a crisis effectively. The worst thing can be when I’m pitching  what seems to be an interesting story and not getting as many responses from journalists as I would like. I aim high, so quite often it’s because I put a lot of pressure on myself to get results.

10. What do you think the industry will look like in the next ten years and what skills do you think graduates will need to stay ahead of the game?

The industry has changed SO much already – I have always been quite tech savvy in terms of understanding the digital space and its impact on PR and you can see the impact with the rise of influencers and social media now. There is a lot of discussion surrounding artificial intelligence and how it will take PR to another level within the next 10 years. Graduates need to ensure that they understand the digital space, get to grips with content creation and the ever changing tech landscape.

 

Ronke’s Mini CV

Lancaster University 1999-2002

University of Richmond 2000-2001

DTI and Insolvency Service (Adminstration assistant) 2002

Cannons (Personnel and Finance Manager) 2002-2004

Islington Chamber of Commerce (CEO) – 2010-2012

Ariatu Public Relations (Founder/Consultant)  2004 – Present

Connect with Ronke Lawal:

www.ronkelawal.com

@ronkelawal

www.ariatupr.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronkelawal/