It’s been an eventful and exciting few years for Account Director, Aaron Bass. Since joining us as an intern, Aaron rose swiftly through the ranks and has now been an Account Director for 18 months. To find out how his internship laid the groundwork for future success, Deborah Eder, who herself recently transitioned from intern to Account Executive here at PRO, sat down with Aaron to discuss the key ingredients for a successful and rewarding career in PR.
Speaking from your own experience Aaron, please can you give a brief overview of PRO’s internship programme?
At PRO, we ensure that our interns have a really broad experience and can contribute to a wide range of clients. Rather than completing ad hoc tasks, they actually become embedded in client teams and attend team meetings, join client calls and, if at all possible, meet the client. I found that interacting with clients in this way from the start, alongside the breadth of opportunities offered to me, meant that I could find my own strengths early on. In my opinion, that secure grounding in PR at the intern level enabled me to firmly establish my confidence and hastened my learning process.
What value do you, and PRO more generally, see in having interns?
From our perspective, having interns is really great for a couple of reasons. Firstly, interns bring with them knowledge of different mediums, creative ideas and fresh perspectives. I also think it is valuable for us, as a team, to be able to give out leadership roles to people who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to be a mentor. It offers them, as well as the intern, the chance to really learn how to communicate and bond with people at different skill levels.
In your opinion, what personal qualities does one need to progress in PR?
I think that the number one thing that you need to have to progress in PR is a can-do attitude. You never know what is going to come in on any day, so you really need to be prepared to rise to the occasion. The second thing is to ask as many questions as you possibly can and be pro-active. Learning from people with different experiences is how you can progress faster. The old saying is you learn from other peoples’ mistakes, but I think in PR you also learn from other peoples’ campaigns: what has gone well, what hasn’t gone well and what can be improved. The third thing is a passion for news and media. The more passionate you are, the more willing you will be to put your own mindset into that of a journalist. In turn, you are much more likely to relate to your end user and achieve your communications objectives.
In your opinion, what professional skills does one need to progress in PR?
My internship really taught me that it is all about having the attitude that you want to learn and really absorb everything around you. Everyone will have their natural skill set and for the PR professional it is really about making yourself into a sponge, both for that skill set and for the things that are, perhaps, less natural to you.
PR is a particularly fast-paced industry. From your experience, what is the best way to keep up-to-date with the profession?
We are very lucky that there is something called social media now. Even if you are not at a conference, reading a live thread can really give you a great insight into what people are saying in the industry. In my experience, reading industry publications, CIPR and PRCA reports are really good ways of getting up to speed. I personally really enjoy listening to people speak. For example, I went to the CIPR 360 a couple of years ago and I got a lot out of hearing about how different people approach campaigns. I also always really enjoy Gorkana breakfasts, where you hear people talking about what they are looking for in a news story.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far?
In terms of career progression, I think that taking on new roles within your team, and not just doing what is habitual to you, is something that takes a lot of skill. Having supportive role models around you, like we have at PRO, is something that has really enabled me to achieve that.
What would you say is PRO’s USP with regards to career progression?
We work on so many different clients and areas in the industry, making each day so varied and allowing each member of our team to build their own niche and understand how different communications channels work. As a professional, each day you are learning. It doesn’t matter if you are an intern or the Chairman; you are going to gain a new set of experiences each day.
In retrospect, what tips do you wish you had been given at the start of your career?
Number 1: Google it. Before you ask anything, have a google so you have an idea to present.
Number 2: It is really ok to observe someone senior doing a task. You will get a much better idea of how you can improve going forward.
Number 3: Read around your topics. If you don’t know what options are available to you, you will never come up with them as an idea. The news story might be there, but if you don’t know enough about the subject matter, you will never know what the news story is.
Number 4: Always say yes. Give yourself every opportunity to progress. It may be that expectations need to be managed externally or internally. However, you want to be putting yourself out there and doing as much as possible, as soon as possible, as that is how you can really get ahead.