Blog

Ask the Graduate: senior PR manager

RO Central Team - Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Posted 24 days ago

May 2019

Tom Curry: A day in the life of a senior PR manager 

Hi my name's Tom, I'm 29 and I'm a Senior PR Manager at Audible UK. Audible, if you've not heard of us before, is part of Amazon. We make some of the world’s best audiobooks, podcasts and audio dramas – pretty much any kind of audio entertainment you can think of! I studied English Literature, Politics, History and Philosophy at A-Level, and got four A’s which meant I could apply to the University Of St Andrews in Scotland to study English Literature. I chose St Andrews because I'd always been fond of Scotland (despite the cold!), the English department had a good reputation and the campus was absolutely beautiful! It's right on the coast! It was a fantastic experience and one I'd thoroughly recommend. I'm currently studying an MA in Radio at Goldsmith's University, I should finish in June this year. Audible has been fantastic in letting me reduce to part-time hours so I can complete the course and move into a producer job once I've finished my studies. The company has been incredible in helping me fund the course and cover the cost of books, microphones and other equipment.

Whilst I was studying at St Andrews I did work experience in a bunch of different industries to see what sort of thing I might want to do after graduating. I worked with my local MP, at the London Mayor's office, at a couple of different advertising agencies, at a PR agency and at a magazine owned by Vice. It was really useful in helping me figure out what I wanted to do after finishing my studies. Oh! One last thing, the photo below is of the PR team at Audible at an event we hosted in March for International Women's Day (I'm the one on the left!).

Morning

I often listen to podcasts as I get ready for work – as we release a lot of podcasts, audiobooks and audio dramas, it’s good to have an understanding of what’s popular and what types of content other people are making.

I tend to be in the office for about 09:00, and the first task of the day is to review all the big newspapers and magazines to find out if Audible has been covered in the press. If we’ve had a review in the Sunday Times, or an interview with one of our authors has been published, I’ll add that to our files and send a few emails thanking the journalists for their write-up.

From time-to-time I’ll meet with journalists for breakfast to talk to them about upcoming Audible projects, find out what stories they’re working on and what kinds of topics they’re interested in to see how we can work together on upcoming features.

Mid-morning we normally have calls with our PR agency to talk through the projects they’re working on – do we have any celebrity/author interviews in the works? Are we sending out copies of new podcasts/audiobooks for review? Do we have any launch events that we’re working on? Recently we organised interviews with Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Andrew Lincoln. We also hosted a launch event for a new Harry Potter audiobook called Quidditch Through The Ages.

Afternoon

On Wednesdays the whole office gathers together in our break-out area for lunch, if the weather is good, sometimes we’ll head up to the roof to eat with views of the Barbican gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral.

The afternoon is normally spent in meetings with the content teams to find out what books/podcasts/dramas we’re releasing throughout the year. We’ll read manuscripts together, listen to early samples of the audio and talk about what releases we want to prioritise for PR.

Once we’ve selected the audiobooks/podcasts/dramas that we want to focus on, my boss and I will brainstorm different ideas for how we can launch the new title. We often visit our PR agencies to plan ideas for new events, and talk about creative ways we can showcase each new release.

If we have authors or celebrity narrators giving interviews, we’ll attend press junkets with them to make sure the questions being asked are relevant and appropriate to the launch. As we work in audio, a lot of our interviews are with BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4, which means frequent visits to Broadcasting House.

Day-to-day tasks for the afternoon include sourcing information for journalists – this could include sending audio samples, artwork, release dates or podcast/audiobook/drama synopses.

Evening

We normally host our launch events in the evening. Our job is to welcome media and other guests, and make sure that the event runs smoothly. For the launch of Alien: River Of Pain (a collaboration with 20th Century Fox) we hosted 120 people at the Greenwich Planetarium – including journalists from the BBC, Independent, Guardian, Esquire, Vice, BuzzFeed and others – for an exclusive first listen to the drama. Once the performance was finished, we welcomed guests outside to watch as we transmitted the audio through space to the planet 55 Cancri.

Feel free to ask me any questions about my degree, uni and my career. I look forward to hearing from you! 

Answers from Tom Curry, senior PR manager

1. Which other universities did you apply to and what made you pick St. Andrews?

Ah! I wish I had a proper answer for this! Truthfully? I knew I didn't want to study in London – I grew up here, figured I'd probably end up working here after I graduated so decided to see what it'd be like to live somewhere else in the UK for a bit. Beyond that, I remember Googling different campuses to see which ones looked nice. Something with proper old fashioned buildings you know? Something with a bit of history. I then browsed through the Guardian, Times and a few university guides to see which ones were recommended for English and made my choices that way. Not very scientific! At least, not as thoughtful as I perhaps should have been. It worked out in the end though! I applied to St Andrews, York, Warwick, Cambridge and Bristol. St Andrews was right on the coast which clinched it for me!

 

2. Do you have any tips for networking/making connections in certain industries? I'm wanting to be a filmmaker but the idea of promoting myself seems terrifying!

I tend to find in-person networking extremely awkward, even on Twitter or LinkedIn, I'm hopeless at reaching out to people. It might seem a bit of an odd suggestion, but if you enjoy writing, I'd highly recommend writing about films that you love. The more you write, the more opportunities you'll get to speak with directors and filmmakers about their craft – those conversations can be invaluable. For film specifically, I'd make an effort to try and volunteer at events like the BFI Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest, BFI Flare, Edinburgh Film Festival etc. You'll meet lots of likeminded film buffs, and will likely get chance to steal a few moments with the festival organisers to ask their advice. Interning with distributors or production studios is also a good starting point – not only will they show you how the industry works, they'll also give you valuable contacts you can reach out to as and when you need advice.

 

3. In your opinion what do you think is the best part about university?

Good question! I did enjoy my subject, but the extra-curricular bits were really good fun. I worked on all sorts of stuff, music events, photography exhibitions, writing for a couple of different student papers. I had such a good time. St Andrews is so tiny that you're constantly bumping into people you know from halls, or your class, or societies that you're a part of. Everything is a 5 minute walk away, so it's a really social environment to be in which I loved.

 

4. How did you secure your work experience placements? Did the university help?

Hmm, the careers team at St Andrews, though lovely, weren't hugely helpful in getting work experience placements. They were always on-hand if you had questions, but the answers were perhaps a little more vague than I was hoping for. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated, so spent some time thinking about things that I enjoyed and tried to find out what careers aligned with those interests. Once I'd done that, I spent a lot of time getting lost down Google shaped rabbit holes, finding company contact details and noting them down. Before emailing, I always gave them a ring to see if I could get a named email address (rather than just info@company.com). The first few times I wrote myself a little script, just to stop myself getting nervous. Probably overkill, but it really did help!

 

5. How did you know you wanted to work in PR?

That is a very good question! The honest answer, I'm afraid, is that I did not! I knew I loved journalism, but at the time there was a lot of anxiety about job cuts (there still is now I think) so I tried to find professions adjacent to journalism. I really enjoyed House Of Cards and thought it might be quite 'cool' to work as the PR officer for a high powered politician. After doing some work experience with my local MP I realised it's actually not glamorous or powerful (no disrespect to my local MP). After I got started in PR, I quickly realised that brands (McDonald's, eBay, Coke etc) were less exciting to me than content makers – I gradually began edging myself towards film studios, book publishers etc and that's how I ended up at Audible.

 

6. What does a radio producer do?

A radio producer is essentially the person who finds interesting stories to put on the radio. So, if you were assigned a story about knife crime in London, it'd be the producer's job to record interviews with victims' families, the police, local politicians etc. Sometimes you might be researching and writing questions for the host of the show, other times you'll be recording material yourself, doing the interviews yourself. It means you get to travel to all sorts of different places and ask people interesting questions about a wide range of topics.

 

7. How did you get your job with Audible – what made you stand out?

Ooof, tricky. The interview process at Amazon/Audible is pretty long. I think I had 8 interviews in total. It was a bit laborious, but I wrote down all the questions I thought they might ask me (not a huge list, maybe 20?) and drafted answers to them using examples from my previous job. Amazon use behavioural interview questions, so you can research examples online. I listen to a lot of podcasts and had done a fair bit of research about the industry before I went in for my interview. Audible had just started making its own podcasts in the US so I think that extra knowledge helped.

 

8. What’s it like studying and working at the same time?

Ha, well, the simplest thing I can say is that two part-time jobs doesn't equal one full-time job. For the last year or so, I've had to work quite a few evenings and weekends to make sure all the work is done in time for my deadlines. It's not too bad though, the radio MA is is really interesting and the work is enjoyable so it doesn't feel like too much of a chore. One surprising thing, that I didn't quite expect, the thinking you have to do for university is quite different from the way you have to think at work. It requires a real switch mid-week to get back into a working frame of mind.

 

Questions for this month's graduate

Post has no comments.

Post a Question




Captcha Image