PR boss dishes top 5 tips for breaking into the industry

Kat Thomas, head of top Sydney PR agency One Green Bean, got her start in public relations pitching stories to hardened journalists on UK papers such as the Daily Mail, the Sun and News of the World.

She founded her own agency in May 2007 and last year made splashy headlines the world over for her campaign for Virgin Mobile involving Brad Pitt’s (much) less famous brother, Doug Pitt.

Idealog caught up with Thomas when she was in town recently for the CAANZ Marcomms Leadership Group forum for 2013 ‘Creative is Not a Department’ and got her to dish on career advice for PR wannabes.

1. Work experience outweighs public relations theory.

“I did a PR degree and the minute I walked into my first job, the previous three years were completely irrelevant. It was just a theoretical degree and I got drunk a lot, which was great. It didn’t add any context or shape to my first job. Work experience, first and foremost, is the thing you need to get under your belt. I’m very vocal about the fact that there are unscrupulous operators out there who will take you on work experience for a year and not pay you – so you also need to understand your own value coming into the market.”

2. Understand your value in being a digital native.

“We have a generation now coming through that has grown up with  the internet. They don’t know the world without the internet, so they’re digital natives. Young entrants need to understand the value of that and how they can contribute that knowledge. Play to your strengths – being a digital native is certainly one of those strengths.”

3. Don’t buy into negativity around Gen Y or millennial stereotypes.

“I don’t subscribe to that argument. I hire a bunch of these guys and there’s a lot of tenacity, passion, commitment and hard work. I’m not one of the drum beaters around the ‘good old days’ and how lazy everyone supposedly is. I don’t see that at all. You’ve got to get in there and you do need to work hard – if you’re work shy, this probably isn’t the game for you, but I think that is the same for every marketing discipline, sadly.  Get the experience you want, be confident and don’t undersell yourself.”

4. Lose the never-ending CV.

“Market yourself in an appropriate way and understand the fundamentals. Don’t have a 12-page CV if you’re a graduate.  I see that occasionally and I think, ‘My god, my 15-year resume  is summed up with a one pager, maybe two pages’ – and then  I get 12 pages from someone who has just finished their bachelor’s degree. That doesn’t say to me that you can write concisely, you’re articulate and that you have a marketing head on yourself.  Really think about the context of your own personal marketing and your own personal brand.”

5. Google thyself

“Make sure you look at your online footprint through the eyes of an employer. We do Google people and in the past we’ve received CVs and found the most incredible collection of imagery that portrays what goes on in these peole’s personal lives. It is human nature to form a judgment from that.  I certainly would say polish that up or have a look at your security settings. From a personal brand perspective I think you have to be very savvy about what you post and what you do online and ensure you understand these platforms and the realities of it.  A social media ‘shit storm’, for want of a better phrase, can erupt overnight and over the most unexpected things.”