Expectations vs Reality: working in the communications industry

26 Feb 2021

When joining any industry for the first time, it’s normal to have preconceived expectations about what this new career direction will be like. With the diversity of the professional landscape, the differences that make every organisation unique, and the period of change the world is currently going, my presumptions were put to the test. As a Gen Z new joiner in an entry-level position at Sinclair, I take a look at the differences between my expectations and the reality of working in the communications industry, especially when starting out during the COVID-19 era.

Exposure to different industries and tasks

Prior to joining Sinclair, I was unaware of the level of exposure to different industries and tasks that I would receive. A huge advantage of working at an integrated PR agency that services both consumer and corporate clients is that you get exposed to a wide variety of sectors and marketing disciplines very quickly. In just a few months, I was able to gain experience in working with clients from the tech, B2B, travel and hospitality sectors – and the list expands each month. This gives the opportunity to foster essential skills that are transferable across projects, clients, and industry sector, which can then be nurtured and developed over the years. It also really allows each employee to discover their strengths and interests in different fields, which makes the job engaging and exciting. Furthermore, at Sinclair every team member has the opportunity to vary their daily tasks by working on digital marketing, content creation and other areas beyond traditional PR work.

Working with senior team members

One aspect that may not be very obvious when first joining the industry is that it’s common to work with people across all levels in the organisation on different projects. This job feature is great because it increases a junior’s exposure to the thinking process, experience, and style of work of senior team members. It’s definitely something that boosts performance and motivation, and I find that I am constantly learning from and being pulled upwards by experienced team members, and encouraged to step outside the box and my comfort zone to reach new heights.

Working with clients

When joining an agency, it is an obvious assumption that your employer is the agency itself. However, in reality it feels more as though you are a part of each individual client’s extended team. The longer you work with the same client closely on a project (or multiple projects over time), you feel like you are part of their team. At the same time, you also have the advantage of being somewhat of an outsider, hence being able to look at things objectively and give great advice as a result.

Making events digital

Joining the communications industry at the peak of COVID-19, with social distancing restrictions in place, venue closures and event postponements was challenging in many ways. In addition, the full team was working from home and all interaction with new colleagues took place over Zoom and Microsoft teams. My expectation was that the role would involve face-to-face networking, team meetings, brainstorms and lots of live events, however in reality, and heightened by the pandemic, my initial experiences were driven by online communications and digital activations. I quickly adapted to working from home, and learnt about the world of virtual events, and pivoting strategies. The advantage of entering the industry during this time is that I let go of any preconceived ideas on how to operate and could be a sponge for learning something entirely new. This was helpful because when you are thrown into a situation where you cannot do anything the traditional way anymore, you have a fresh perspective, which should be utilized to the fullest.

The importance of media relationships

I learnt very quickly about the importance of strong media relationships – I knew it was essential to know publications well but did not realise how closely I would be working with journalists in my day-to-day role. When working in public relations, media relationships are vital and need to be developed fast. Media relationships are crucial for pitching features, securing coverage and interview opportunities for clients. If the relationship with the journalist is strong, you will have a better understanding of what the journalist covers, what topics they are currently focusing on, or who they can connect you with that may be interested in your news. These relationships drastically improve the impact and efficiency of PR work.

Joining any industry at a time of great uncertainty is not ideal. With constant talks of waiting for the world to get ‘back to normal’, you wonder how will these changing circumstances affect your job and your career in the long run. However, since when was the communications industry ever about staying the same? In communications, we are always pushing to innovate, create, and speak in new ways that resonate with our ever-changing audiences. The industry was always adaptable, and therefore requires flexibility and open-mindedness from new-joiners as well. As opposed to creating ‘normal’ outcomes, we want to create ideas and content that is fresh and inspiring, and connects with audiences in ways that are engaging and authentic. Therefore, even though it’s hard to know what to expect when joining any industry at this time, one can look at it as an exciting journey, that opens doors to new possibilities, challenges, and solutions.

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