Starting a PR career during the pandemic

Beck Q&A_Blog

Q&A with Beck Dawson, Communications Associate at Hard Numbers

Tell us about yourself and your role at Hard Numbers

I started my role as a Communications Associate during the first wave of the pandemic, soon after graduating from the University of Birmingham. Almost one year on, I currently work across three of our fintech accounts: BlueSnap, Paynetics and phos. This means keeping up to date with media trends, building relationships with journalists and clients, and securing coverage. 

Day to day, I write and edit social media posts, pitches, articles, blogs, bylines and press releases. And as our focus is on providing tangible ROI for businesses, I also create weekly measurement reports for our clients. Then there’s the bread and butter of PR: creating agendas and action lists to stay on task and drive our different projects forward.

What’s been the hardest part about working remotely?

My biggest challenge at the start was absorbing new information from my work environment. Being new to the PR world, naturally, there were terms and procedures I hadn’t come across before. And when 90% of communication is said to be non-verbal, learning an entire industry remotely can be tough.

Thankfully, the team kept in really good communication throughout, with regular check-ins and Zoom calls. Before I started my role, Hard Numbers paid for me to get my CIPR Foundation Certificate to lay some groundwork. And since then, I’ve completed HubSpot and Google Analytics courses to further upskill. PR webinars, internal training and blogs have all helped me strengthen my confidence and industry knowledge.

If there was one word from the last year you could ban, what would it be?

“Unprecedented”. Or if I’m allowed a phrase: “these unprecedented times”. Because after over a year of the pandemic, this has become the new normal… Though, that’s another phrase on its way out.

How have you stayed resilient while working remotely?

I think daily structure at home will always be a bit of a struggle for a lot of people. I try to maintain all the usual suspects: eat right, sleep right, and exercise daily. Ultimately, though, everyone needs to find their own rhythm to stay resilient. 

It’s easy to look back and laugh at the banana-bread-bakers and cross-stitch-makers of early lockdowns, but there’s definitely something in making time for yourself to try out new skills.

Within and outside of work, having achievable goals to work towards is key. And these don’t need to be running a marathon or becoming fluent in Mandarin. For example, I’ve recently taught myself to roller skate and have been learning how to use the Procreate app. Building momentum doing the things you love protects against burnout.

With hybrid working set to become the norm, what tips would you give on making WFH a success?

Once companies begin moving to a hybrid working week, we’ll be able to enjoy the best of both worlds. Working from home definitely has its pros when you need deep concentration time to write a press release or a byline. Equally, being back in an office will help with relationship building, quick-fire communication, and brainstorming. The key will be to structure our time to harness the strengths of both environments.

By now, we all know that a pretend commute and eating schedule helps to structure remote working. So the new challenge will be returning to office working, without letting our good home-working habits unravel. My main tip would be to ease back into the packed schedule. Just because we can see friends and family now, doesn’t mean you have to do dinner and drinks seven days a week.

What advice would you give PR students / aspiring PRs after your first year in the industry?

Before you graduate, jump on any semi-relevant opportunity you find to develop your skills in professional settings. I promise real-world experience is going to be far more valuable to employers than a two-year Hummus Society Presidency (though that does sound great).

Then, once you’ve got the job: ask questions. Even when you think you’ve asked far too many. If your employer wanted someone with five-plus years’ experience in the industry, then you wouldn’t have won the role. But you did. And it’s always better to ask a question to clarify information, than it is to take a guess and make a mistake.

What are you most enjoying now that lockdown restrictions have eased? 

Without a doubt; being back in London, live music, and hugging friends again.

I’m also looking forward to working in the same space as my colleagues in the near future, so that we can share insights and learn together. I think like most people in PR, I’m keen to do a little less zooming and a little more brunching.

Want to join Beck on our fast-growing team? We’re currently hiring for a Communications Associate (26-28k) ー if you’re hungry to learn and can write a mean press release, apply here.

Want to join the team but can’t see an open position? We’re always up for a speculative chat, so get in touch and tell us why you’re Hard Numbers material!

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