Interview with Andrew Smith, Director at escherman

This week for my Interview Series, we have Andrew Smith, Director at escherman, talk about his career path, current role, changes he’s seen in the PR industry over the years and his thoughts on the future of PR.

andrew-111. Before working in PR, you spent a couple of years working as a Deputy News Editor at a weekly UK publishing trade title. Can you talk about your experience working there and why you decided to enter the PR industry afterwards?

I started life as an editorial assistant on the Retail Newsagent Tobacconist and Confectioner in September 1985. In spite of appearances, this was an excellent training ground in journalism. One of my former predecessors in this role at the magazine – Mark Haysom – went on to become Chief Executive of Trinity Group Newspapers  and one of the most powerful people in British newspaper publishing.

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Interview with Jamie Garantziotis, PR Manager of Regional / Corporate Social Media at Southern Cross Austereo

This week for my Interview Series, we have Jamie Garantziotis who is currently working as the PR Manager of Regional / Corporate Social Media at Southern Cross Austereo. Jamie discusses his career path, internships, keeping up with the PR industry and provides some insight into New York’s PR scene.

1. You graduated with a BA (Media & Communications) in 2007 and went on to complete a Master of Communication in 2009. Were there any particular reasons this? Did you find that it benefitted during job hunting?

I didn’t have a straight path into the study of PR. When I finished school I realized that I really enjoyed the world of media and communications but didn’t know where within that broad field I wanted to focus my studies – hence the reason I chose to study Media & Communications  at The University of Melbourne.

I remember that it was during my third year study at Melbourne that I knew I wanted to move in the direction of PR and Corporate Communications. Given that my education to date had been highly theoretical, I wanted to gain practical PR experience, so I headed to Queensland to undertake my Masters study at Bond University. Looking back, the practical training and experience most certainly helped me develop as a professional and to find a job post study.

2. Can you tell us a little about your career path?

During my Masters, I had two internships in PR agencies, working across clients in a range of sectors.

At the same time, I worked part time in Communications for the University’s Executive Education program. After finishing, I returned to Melbourne. The first thing I did was to connect with industry professionals and the local IABC chapter to begin volunteering.

After four months of searching and applying unsuccessfully, I was visiting my brother on the Gold Coast and after re-connecting with a Bond University professor received an email about a PR/Communications role with my current employer – Southern Cross Austereo (then Southern Cross Media). Having been recommended for the role, I stayed on the coast for an interview and within two weeks had been offered the position and jumped back on a plane to Queensland.

After the business merged with Austereo earlier this year, I’ve since moved to work within the Marketing & Communications team back in Melbourne as the Regional PR Manager.

3. What were your internships like? Did you find that they gave you a better idea of which areas of PR you liked / disliked?

My internships were all incredibly different but a lot of fun and excellent learning experiences. No two agencies are exactly alike, and I found that working within different teams and across different sectors did give me a good mix of experience and a better of idea of the industries and practices I enjoyed more than others.

That said; I was only able to find this out by giving everything a go. If I was asked to assist on a fashion account, I would. If I was asked to assist on a legal services client, I would. If I could give current students one piece of advice, it would be to undertake as many internships and gain as much experience as possible.

4. With the online and digital world moving so quickly, how do you find yourself keeping up-to-date with the communications industry?

Seth Godin wrote a great blog post a few weeks ago about the fact that with so many great minds publishing so much content so quickly, we seem to have de-valued this data and information given that it is in such huge supply.

I like to mix up the types of content I consume – most commonly blogs and podcasts. I have a Bloglines account that feeds through all the blogs I subscribe to, and also subscribe to my favourites via email so I can go through them daily and pick the top articles to read. I try to make at least 30-45 minutes each weeknight to read through these, and also have at least an hour or two on weekends to read them.

5. What would be the top 5 blogs that you read?

Okay, the five blogs that I read the most are:

1. Seth Godin

2. Brian Solis

3. Spin Sucks

4. PR Breakfast Club

5. Waxing UnLyrical

6. I read on your blog that you visited New York and subsequently learnt a great deal about their PR and communication scene. Any insights you’d like to share with us?

Ah New York! Yes, I travelled there in May of this year for a holiday / exploration of the communications scene. My friend Harrison Kratz that I work on Engage TV with was based in Philadelphia at the time, and we decided to catch up, head to blog world New York and spend some time meeting fellow PR and social media practitioners.

To be honest, I learnt so much – more than I could put in the answer to this question. In summary, the biggest lessons I learnt can be found in my blog post – What I Learnt in New York, as well as a video interview I had with my friend Des Walsh for Social Media Club Gold Coast. The big lessons / insights were:

•           Lead, don’t follow

•           Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right!

•           Connect in real life (IRL)

•           The bubble isn’t about to burst

•           The time is now!

7. And lastly, any tips for PR students trying to network themselves into an internship / first job

– Gain as much experience as possible – be pro-active in seeking experience and take the opportunity to try different areas of communications across a range of industries and practices. Even if you’ve recently finished study and are looking for a full-time job, take the chance to intern, network and add to your portfolio.

– Build a personal brand – make sure you have your professional LinkedIn profile set-up to showcase your goals, experience, education and interests. If you’re not already following new media technologies, start to get comfortable with reading blogs / forums and listen to the conversation. Once you’re more comfortable, set up a Twitter account and begin to engage with fellow practitioners. From there – the sky is the limit really. With the barriers to entry for publishing and sharing your own material and thoughts so low, there’s never been a better time to establish your unique brand and voice.

– Connect in real life – take the time to seek out professional events such as networking drinks, social media club meetings, or young professional groups. In Australia, IABC and the PRIA are good associations to follow and attend their events (disclaimer – I am a member of both, and sit on the board of IABC Victoria) – you never know who you might meet and connect with.

– Be authentic and let your passion shine through. If you love what you do (which I hope you do), let that show for all to see.

– Enjoy the journey! Yes, job hunting and networking can be hard – but during my own search I was able to meet some remarkable people that have been so generous, and continue to help me develop personally and professionally. More than that, it was a learning experience that I will never forget or regret.

Best of luck to you all as you embark on the start of your professional journey!