PR is changing and it isn't for shrinking violets

I recently interviewed PR director Wayne Halton to gain some insight into the changing world of PR along with a better understanding of his own background.

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What satisfies you most about your job in PR?

I like it when a plan comes together for a client. There is a lot of satisfaction gained from delivering a well thought-out plan. That can be helping with a client launch, making a big announcement or crisis management.

Did you always want to work in the PR industry?

Honestly, no. I hadn't even really heard of PR until my mid 20s in the mid to late 1980s. I always wanted to be a journalist from the age of about 14. And, ideally a war correspondent. After graduating with an English/History degree, I got into newspapers where I worked on four different titles over about eight years. I never did find my war, but I managed to have plenty of battles!

How did you move into PR?

It seemed a natural progression to move from the media into PR. I was exposed to PR agencies and practitioners during my different journalistic roles. By the time I hit 30 I felt I needed to make a career decision and PR seemed an interesting, new route to take.

If you had a choice to work in a different role, what would it be?

This is tricky for me as it usually depends on my state of mind at any given time. Sometimes I think I might have enjoyed being an MP, other times a novelist and more recently a honey farmer. I'm intending to take some bee-keeping courses in the near future and who knows where that might lead.

Tell me two things that most people don't know about you?

Secrets are best kept secret. But, my first name isn't Wayne; and secondly, I'm not as cantankerous as I sometimes appear.

What has been the most unusual or fun project you remember?

There's been so many over the years and it's hard to select. I was proud of a couple of major, international product launches I project managed for Komatsu UK. Another fascinating campaign, and seemingly contradictory, was working for an international tobacco company where I had to help them manage an anti-smoking campaign among young people. There was a political purpose behind this.

What has been the most challenging project you remember?

Challenges are opportunities to embrace and resolve, a smarter man than me once said. Client expectations can be a constant challenge. I once worked for a controversial property developer who wanted his projects in the media but he was never to be in the spotlight, yet he insisted on talking to journalists. The other major challenge is dealing with a fickle media.

Do you have any interesting ways to win new clients?

Sadly, there is no magic formula. I have learned that first impressions are important, along with leaving prospects with memorable moments, so you stand out from the competitors. From experience, I've learned you must be able to think on your feet to spot and address a client's pain point. You should always consider how you can make a positive impact on a client's business.

What advice can you give to those looking to start their career in PR or marketing?

I leave the preaching to others. But I would say, be strong; be flexible; be creative. Strong, because you're often dealing with big personalities and with clients who can sometimes be difficult to please. You can't be bullied by clients or journalists. Flexible, because the job demands a lot of skills and the ability to juggle; it's not just about being able to write well, or understanding social media platforms; you need to be a good people person. Despite the technology that surrounds us and is ever pervasive in communications, never forget that people like dealing with people. And creative, because you must stretch your mind to come up with solutions to meet client objectives.

Fundamentals don't really alter. In the PR and marketing industry, our job is to influence and persuade people to do something (or think differently); that can be helping a company to achieve more sales, build their reputation or increase their status among key stakeholders.

And finally, I would always hope people are inquisitive. An inquisitive mind goes a long way - in many walks of life; you must always be open to learn. I also believe that PR is not for shrinking violets. If you're sensistive and have a delicate disposition then PR and marketing is probably not the career for you!



Written by Evelyn Okukusie at 00:00

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