Name: Paul Raeburn
Degree and university: BA in Politics, Philosophy & Economics from Pembroke
College, Oxford University.
Job title:Associate Consultant at Fishburn Hedges PR, (joined in August 2006)
Were you always interested in PR?
I had never really considered PR while at school or university. When I graduated, I looked around at all the options open to me, and wasn’t initially convinced I suited any particular career. It wasn’t until someone said to me ‘in PR, you’re paid to read newspapers’ that it dawned on me. I’d always been a big consumer of media and, once I found out more about PR, I realised the chance to earn a living through your writing, and verbal communication skills really suited me.
What factors made you decide on your particular university/degree?
My two favourite subjects at school were History and Economics, and I’d always had a keen interest in Politics. Oxford had a great reputation for Politics and Economics, and although I had to do a year of Philosophy (which was tough at times) it was worth it to study the two subjects I enjoyed the most. Having a good understanding of the news agenda and the big issues of the day was part of my degree and is now a big part of my job.
Can you describe exactly what you do?
I work with five clients, all with differing needs. For some, I spend a lot of time talking to journalists, trying to persuade them to write directly or indirectly about my client. The trick is to provide journalists with ideas or content that will be useful to their readers or viewers, but also positive and helpful to my client. At other times, I will be advising clients about engaging with other stakeholders, such as the government or consumer watchdogs, to build support for what they do. In and among all this, there is a lot of writing to be done, such as drafting press releases, preparing briefing documents for clients, writing proposals for new ideas, and producing copy for the articles we sometimes write for our clients.
Would you undertake further study to help your career progression?
Not in the short-term. In the early years, I think you progress fastest by doing the job, and there is no substitute for experience in handling tricky situations, which unfortunately you won’t get in a classroom.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides?
I like the fact you really need to have a lot of skills at your disposal. You need to be creative to come up with new ideas, but that’s only the start – you need to sell your ideas, manage your relationships with clients and journalists, and be able to deliver on what you promised at the end of it all. On top of this, the issues and challenges can be completely different from one client to another. You can be trying to engage teenagers in the morning, and then appealing to CEOs of major companies in the afternoon. The feeling of looking back at an idea that you came up with and then hearing it being discussed on the radio is very satisfying, and there aren’t too many other professions where you can really see your results so vividly. You need to understand that your role can sometimes be in the background to others and you may not get all the glory from your good work. Clients can also be demanding of your time, and you always need to remember who’s paying the bills and be nice to them! I also have a lot of friends who work in the City and I would admit that my wages don’t compare to theirs. That’s never been too much of a problem for me, but I guess that could be annoying if you’re very motivated by money.