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How to get a job in PR & Communications with Tolulope Olorundero

Tell us about your journey into PR:

Growing up, I read Enid Blyton novels. With my dad being a journalist, we had books all over the house. In my yearbook in SS3, as my future career, I had put down - law and journalism. At the time, I had not heard about PR. I got into Olabisi Onabanjo University to study English instead of Law.

I can’t remember how I came across PR but by 300 Level, I registered for NIPR. By 400 Level, I had written the certificate stage and got my NIPR certification by the time I was done with NYSC in 2010. I wrote my CV, ready for jobs. At the time, I was dedicated to buying Guardian Newspapers; On Tuesdays they had a section with job vacancies and I would apply for anything that had to do with writing, reading or speaking. These are three skills to note if you are interested in the PR profession.

I was applying for jobs, whilst teaching until I finally got an offer. Here is something interesting; if you are still in the university and you are thinking “I need to finish school before I get experience”. Guess what? You don’t. I started Mosron Communications (at that time it was Mosron International) in University at 300 Level in 2006. Then, all I was doing was editing articles and essays for my course mates. This service, coupled with being the Head of the Publicity Unit in church, made up the experience on my CV. I was able to show that I had done pro bono service around marketing communications and content creation for people while I was at school.

One time, I was contacted to write the content of the marketing material for a school event. I wrote a letter of invitation to the then Regional Head of HR at Ecobank and it got the man’s attention. That was when I realised that when writing formal documents, there is a way to communicate such that the person receiving that document is compelled to give you the response that you want.

What is PR, in its most basic form?

Public Relations is simply everything and anything that you do to make the people that ‘you want to like you’, like you. PR is everything that you do that makes people agree with what you are saying. It is you putting together activities, speaking, and writing to make people see things from your own perspective and the very simple way to do that is mostly by writing and speaking.

Community Relations and CSR aid Public Relations but the bulk of things that form Public Relations and help shape perceptions are more of the things you say and write.

Misconception with PR and Comms

A. PR is Marketing There are misconceptions about PR being Marketing and also about which should come first. The truth is, these things are interwoven. For example, it is like you trying to decide which is more important between a phone carcass and its OS (operating system). If you have the OS and there is nothing to put it in, the OS is useless and vice versa.

To be in Public Relations, you should have a basic understanding of Marketing. However, they are not the same and don’t have the same aim. Marketing’s aim is to sell, condition the mind of people who are receiving the messages of a brand or an organisation to take an action that would bring direct profit to that organisation. An example of a marketing effort is advertising. It could be an advert for you to buy a sim or recharge your line. It drives you to take action that would exchange value for value and the company can immediately see the impact on the bottom line. Public Relations, on the other hand, is something that is long term and completely strategic. I worked as the Brand Manager for an IT company in 2013/2014, and the company wanted to sell but we understood that the first challenge of selling was that people didn’t necessarily understand what we were selling. We were selling enterprise software for tech that can be deployed to companies with thousands of customers or with branches across the country and beyond. Firstly, our target market was not sure we knew what we were doing. Secondly, they were not sure of the benefit of the software to them. They were also skeptical about how it works and why it was different from other types of software, so that was a business challenge. The thing about Public Relations is that you must first understand the business challenge and then begin to extract public relation strategies or tactics that can be used to address that business challenge. So the business challenge was the target market not understanding the product, not trusting the brand enough and not being completely sure that the product was of benefit to them. The Public Relation strategy for that was to embark on an ‘education spree’. We put together exclusive mini-events for the target audience. Now, we understand that to buy enterprise software in an organisation, the C-suites are the ones capable of such decisions, and not the IT officers. So, we targeted the C-suite who could make a buying decision, who also needed to understand the value and benefit of the product and we put together this event periodically to educate them. We went out, searched LinkedIn trying to get databases of people who were likely going to be interested in it and we sent them invites. This aspect of Public Relations was to educate them. This is where Marketing comes in. In this context, Public Relations has invited people to attend an event and that’s the end to a large extent of Public Relations. Marketing then takes over to begin to set up appointments with the attendees. The beauty about PR is that it makes Marketing and Sales easy and the sales cycle faster. If the PR team had not taken time to educate the people, the Marketing team would spend more time making initial contact, educating and explaining the value. This way, Public Relations crossed out all those barriers by connecting the targeted audience and the Marketing team, who then took it up from there.

B. PR is Media Relations

Many people confuse Public Relations for Media Relations. They think it is only when you are seen in the papers or on TV, that PR is happening. At Mosron Communications, Media Relation is the fourth or fifth step in terms of the services we offer.

Public Relation is something that happens in the background and that is one of the challenges young professionals will face. Many people may not know you if you don’t actively put yourself out there as yourself because all your work is subsumed under a brand. Nobody knows the name of the PR Manager or the person who came up with the idea for the design. You may only see the CEO talking so you definitely need to consciously put yourself out there.

Media Relations is used as a strategy to further the aim of PR. After an education event, we can decide to send out a press release about the experiences, thoughts and testimonials of attendees. The PR team would take the feedback and craft a media press release for publishing, and may also put together a nice educational article for their website.

PR is really A telling B that C is fantastic; in this instance your brand is C, A and B are the people you want to reach. You want them to agree with your perspective but if C comes out to talk to A and B, that is Marketing and Advertising because you are talking to them directly. PR is something that you do in a roundabout way where you are not the one speaking for yourself, but where someone else markets you to others. So, we put all that insight together and put it up on the website, in the newspaper, on social media and then PR will rest. The insight gotten from that is what marketing will now build on to pull out sales.

A week in the life of a PR Manager

I’ll take a week during this COVID-19 period. We have a couple of clients and of course the demand of each client differs because of the strategic nature of PR. It is not something that you can do monotonously at this level. It is different from when you are working within an organisation.

We have daily team meetings from 8:45am to 9:30am where we go over everything we want to do for the day. Each team member states out their objectives for the day and we agree on priorities to make sure we can deliver on tasks. There’s a part about being a consultant to organisations. You can deliver the strategy, tell them the tactics to use but the implementation largely falls on the company. So, you have to follow-up or else your strategies could fall flat. You have to keep thinking of your client’s representatives to make sure that they are up to speed and they are actually working on the strategies that their management agreed to. You need to always keep the business objective in mind when designing and implementing a PR strategy. So on Monday for example, you are keeping an eye on all the strategies and the companies that you have reached out to and just trying to make sure that you have your hand on the pulse and by the close of the day you have your to-do for the next day ready.

On a Tuesday, while you have your to-do ready, you might suddenly have a brand crisis; one of your clients for example calls you because their CEO received a WhatsApp broadcast advocating against their brand and of course; all your priorities change. Now you are thinking of the best strategies to redeem your client’s brand.

On a Wednesday or a Thursday you’re asking yourself, out of all the strategies that you have created and have been able to deliver on, which one can be turned into a case study with articles and content that showcases Mosron Communications as a thought leader and expert in PR.

There are PR insights in everything. Towards the end of 2019 I got somewhat popular because anytime there was a crisis on Twitter, I would look for the PR element in the crisis and address it. I wasn’t looking to blame anyone, but to help others learn from it for when they have a crisis.

Social Media and PR

The beauty of Social Media is that you can make an impact from wherever you are. It's about your content, how you say it, how you position yourself, how you present your statements and how you organise your sentences completely. You are not a PR practitioner (either you want to be in the profession or you are already there) if you still use certain abbreviations and internet slangs.

I want to position myself correctly and so I always join conversations where people are talking about PR. The other day I wrote a thread and I found two people who pitched themselves with their full CVs in one tweet, riding on a tweet that I talked about crisis communication. It was very strategic. You should also be on Twitter when you are looking at thought leaders in your industry, make sure you are following them, when they have conversations around the profession, make sure you contribute because that’s how people begin to know you. You don’t need to have a godfather. When I started, I didn’t know anybody but I was always on LinkedIn. I followed everyone relevant to my career. Now that we have started talking about Nigerian women in PR and I reach out to somebody to say “oh, I want to send a DM” I would see that we are already connected and I’ll check back and it will be a connection that happened in 2012 or 2013, I took it as a personal task because I wanted to see how they grew.

What skills, Traits or Characteristics should a new PR professional have?

For skills; you must definitely know how to write and speak and because those skills are now to a very large extent universal, it looks like anybody can get the job and that is the downside of this. You must be able to write flawlessly across different industries. To achieve this, you need to make a habit of listening a lot to other people who speak well and read as widely as you can. Follow sensible people on Twitter, people who write well and share sound content on Twitter. Get on LinkedIn too, if you are not the type who likes to read books, read articles on LinkedIn and threads on Twitter.

In terms of characteristics or traits that will make you succeed in PR, you must learn continuously, know how to project-manage yourself first. Give yourself tasks and deadlines and meet the deadlines without external pressure. If you are working in an organisation, you must be an entrepreneur; take it as your business, that is how I've always been with all my units, I take that unit as a company on its own.

Give yourself work if you want to keep your job, I tell everybody that I come across. Fundamentally, when you are starting out in PR, nobody will give you metrics to work with because they may not know, so you must give yourself KPIs. Ask yourself in your workplace what the problem is that you can fix because they may not tell you until there is a problem.

The other day, I put the link of the article written about the Nigerian Economic Summit, I don’t necessarily read these things because I want to learn about the economy but I was interested in the writing style and I brought it out and when I was going to write my own tweet, I adopted that writing style. Read things like that so that you have different writing styles that you can adopt for different situations.The way you write for an investment company differs from the way you write for a tech company and that’s what makes you different from any random person claiming to know how to write. Everybody knows how to write, but when you are a PR person; you can write to fit each audience.

Another important personality trait that you must have is confidence and assertive intelligence.

How do you succeed when you get the job? What’s the first thing you should do?

You need to go through all the communications materials that the organisation has. If your company does not have a company profile, your first KPI should be to create a company profile for them. Also look at their website again; if they didn’t get a communication person to put it together, there might be work for you there. From updating the information on the website to checking the social media pages to confirm that the keywords that describe your company were used. Look internally at the emails people send, does it have a standard signature ? Does everyone sign off the same way? Do they have the logo of the company at the bottom? Does the company have an official font size? In the first one week, you should crosscheck all these things and set a deadline of a month to get them sorted.

These things may seem very trivial but that’s how they know there is a communications person on ground.


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