NE Comms Conversation #21 “It’s about changing people’s perceptions and making a difference”

Poster produced by London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) to promote rail travel to the East coast of England. This poster, entitled 'Sun Bathing', was second in a series of six posters illustrating the various pastimes that could be enjoyed on the east coast. The posters formed a continuous scene when placed next to each other, but each was designed so that it could also stand alone. Artwork by Tom Purvis (1888-1957), who rallied for the profesionalisation of commercial art. In 1930 he was one of the group of artists who founded the Society of Industrial Artists, which campaigned for improved standards of training for commercial artists in order to broaden their scope of employment.

Helen Fox is another ace marcomms professional that I’ve met since starting the in the NHS last year.

She works in the award winning communications team at NHS North of England Commissioning Support and is someone who has really stood out to me since I joined the sector. Here’s here hints and tips on being a successful communicator.

What made you get into the PR/comms business?
My background is marketing and market research and a few years ago, PR got added to my job role. A few years later and I suppose PR/comms is what the main focus of what I do – although I still do the marketing and market research elements still too.

How have things changed in the last 5 years?
I think digital has changed the speed that we need to react. There are also more channels that we use to get our messages out. You also need to make sure that you evaluate the success of what you do and there’s a lot more tools out there to help you do that.

What single bit of advice would you give graduates just entering the business?
You need to get real work experience. Most entry jobs still want some level of experience so in the summer months, see if you can do some volunteering in a PR department. I can remember a marketing graduate coming to work with us as a volunteer as she was struggling to get a job – she got the experience she needed and never looked back.

Are disciplines like PR, marketing and advertising becoming the same thing?
I think the boundaries between PR, marketing, advertising are becoming blurred. They’ve got so much cross over – it’s all about content after all that I don’t think you can distinguish between them. Marketing/advertising create the awareness and PR maintains that two-way communication. I can’t remember the last time that I met someone who only specialised in one area anymore.

What are the key traits people in PR need to succeed?
You need to be personable and willing to get stuck in.

For you, what’s the real benefit of good PR/comms?
It sounds a bit corny as I type this but it’s about changing people’s perceptions and making a difference.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Get more work experience

What’s the best thing about living/working in the North East?
Just the fact that you’ve got a great city, great countryside and the coast – all so unbelievably close together.

What’s your favourite film?
Has to be Pretty Women

Who will play you when they get round to making the biopic of your life?
I went with the asked a colleague approach…. They came up with Elizabeth Olsen and I definitely approved!

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