Students from two colleges spoke to each of us in turn for five minutes. The group was mainly women – two thirds of practitioners are according to the CIPR’s State of the PR profession survey – and, when I asked which sector they were thinking of going into, a high proportion said: “fashion PR”. As far as I can remember, not one mentioned any kind of public sector PR.
I’ve pondered for a long time about why this might be. When you’re in local government, you realise just how fast-paced and varied public relations is. No day is the same as the next. The media want to and will engage with you. You’re dealing with a range of services, specialists and communities. Politics – local and national – is fascinating. You can help make a real difference to people’s lives. There are some remarkable things going on, especially with digital, and it’s a sector where people want to share and do.
I know that local government PR isn’t all rosy, that the nature of some of our services mean that when things go wrong they go seriously and life-threateningly wrong. That you generally have a budget of nil to work with and need to counter general negativity towards councils; but I do believe that the pros outweigh the cons.
If I know this, and others in similar jobs know it too, why didn’t these students know? Why hadn’t we told them? Why did their eyes invariably glaze over when I told them where I worked?
I can take a stab that plenty of 18-21 year olds probably aren’t that engaged with councils and neither know nor care what we do – I know I didn’t . Perhaps we’re guilty of not offering enough entry-level positions like Solihull Council’s graduate internship. If we gave more people their first break, we might be more visible on career radar.
And while I understand that fashion PR probably sounds a lot more glamorous than working at a town hall – where it’s more brew than Bolly – it seemed a crying shame that these students as a whole were missing the vast potential of exciting jobs they could be taking on. Perhaps our branch of PR needs some PR.
Photo: SewingMachine-0281 by University of Derby Teaching & Learning via Flickr