NE Comms conversation #24 “A job where being nosey helps”

Next up it’s the amazing Anna-Maria Cooney with her take on comms in the North East.

I first met AM when I interviewed her to join the internship scheme I set up in my former role. It proved to be a great decision and I’ve blogged before that running and meeting a cohort of interns was one of the best things I ever did.

I think I learned more from them then they did from me, so it’s fantastic to see Anna-Maria making such a success of her career a few years later. I should add that she’s one of the only non-native North Easterners to take part in the blog hailing as she does from Ireland.

Here’s what she had to say.

What made you get into the PR/comms business?
I thought it was going to be glamorous events, amazing freebies and wining and dining journos to take a press release…

On a serious note I started a Commerce degree and found myself drawn to the Marketing and Communication modules so I switched to Public Relations and finished by degree in the University of Sunderland. The rest as they say…

How have things changed in the last 5 years?
5 years ago, I had just moved to Sunderland from Ireland to finish my degree in PR. We had a module on the emerging channel ‘social media’, I didn’t realise then, just what a game changer it would be.

Are you optimistic about the future?
Absolutely, you have to be! I have recently gone through a company restructure – and thankfully come out the other side – but it was a challenging time, especially being new to the business. Consultation is not a word you want to hear in the first month of a new role. Staying optimistic helped me through, everything happens for a reason.

What single bit of advice would you give graduates just entering the business?
Make the most of placement opportunities while at University, it will help your CV stand out from the crowd and may even lead to a job opportunity. Try and get a broad range of work experience, it will help you decide what avenue you want (or don’t want) to go down. I bet you will have a different opinion from when you started University.

What are the key traits people in PR need to succeed?
People skills – you can’t be in Comms/PR without being a people person
Adaptability – especially since the explosion of digital, if you don’t adapt you will be irrelevant
Excellent writing skills- no explanation needed
An inquisitive nature – a job where being nosey helps *hoorah*

For you, what’s the real benefit of good PR/comms?
Cutting through the bulls*** and jargon; telling the story so people want to read it, actually understand it and can relate.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Learn code, organisations like CoderDojoNE (run by my former colleague Ricky Graham) offers such an amazing opportunity for kids, I wish it was around when I was growing up! To anyone with a kid, bring them – when they are bankrolling you in later life you will thank me.

What do you see as the most important issues in PR right now?
Educating those outside the industry about what we do, my mother still asks me what I do for a living! We have had some bad press; we need to ‘PR’ the industry itself.

What worries you about the industry?
That we still need to prove the importance and justify the ROI on Communications, and occasionally still need to explain what falls in our remit to senior stakeholders/clients. ‘Comms’ is a word thrown around to frequently, sometimes you need to push back and say no that is not our job.

What’s the best thing about living/working in the North East?
I had no intention of staying past University, three years later here I am. I think that says it all really.

What are the key issues facing the North East right now?
A pet peeve of mine is the ‘London centric’ attitudes of some (but not all) people in London. We have plenty of PR/comms specialists doing great work in the North East– with much smaller budgets and less resource.

What do you see as the next big thing?
Augmented reality/wearable technology will be used more widely and ‘bring to life’ some really creative and interesting campaigns

Who will play you when they get round to making the biopic of your life?
I do have a soft spot for ‘wor Chezza’ but I can’t imagine her Cork accent would be very good…

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