‘Be humble but most importantly be YOU’ says Chris Owen who kindly took part in my #ThursdayThought series this week. Chris is Director of Tech & Innovation at the global M&C Saatchi PR. He has been nominated for and won many prestigious awards whilst looking after clients in the B2B and tech space.
I was really excited to interview Chris on a topic that has been bugging me for a while. The topic for this week is why don’t more PR students and budding PRP’s use social media to network and ‘PR themselves’? Is there a benefit to making the most of social media? I sent this idea to Chris and asked for his opinion on social media use and how important it is in applications.
LE: How important is it to you for any job applicant to engage with PR/Media on social media?
Chris: In my opinion, especially for tech PRs (the sector I specialise in) I think it is imperative. It builds relationships beyond simply pitching ideas and to clients; you become known and you strike up a genuine friendship and connection. I can’t say how effective it is in other sectors, (and let’s not forget that a lot of influential Twitterati are tech-heavy), but for where I focus, I’d find it imperative to show you know how to engage and form such key connections. Also, while we are about so much more than ‘just’ media relations, influencers are a core part of our job – why *wouldn’t* you build yourself a network?
LE: When you hire for positions at M&C Saatchi PR, do you look at an applicant’s social media?
Chris: Personally, I do, but I don’t prejudice if they haven’t got a profile – this is something, especially at junior/entry level, that we can ‘teach’. After all, we’re not expecting you to have huge media connections while at Uni, but a little initiative goes a long way. The one thing that irks though is when you see CVs with “very socially savvy” and they’ve a poor social profile. Don’t lie – it’ll catch you out; you don’t have to be the finished article when you enter your career (no-one ever *is* the finished article, I’d argue, we’re always learning), so a little hubris is fine; say what you want to be better at and showcase what you already *are* good at. Don’t try and fib your way into a career.
LE: If so, what things do you look for in applicants social media and how important is it?
Chris: Passion. Intrigue. Curiosity. Behaviours that can’t necessarily be taught. You have to want to be brilliant at what you do, and know that you will always be learning new things, new approaches, and new routes to finding the answer. Be humble but most importantly be YOU. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not because a) you’ll get caught out and b) if you somehow don’t, you then have to be THAT person for the next few years while you’re in your job. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing everything and to be honest, anyone that sits down for an interview and pretends they know everything won’t get any further. We’re all learning, all the time – from starting out, to Board level; that’s what I love about this industry.
LE: If a job applicant’s social media page showed them engaging with any subject they are passionate about, would that resonate more than a general, random social media page?
Chris: Yes, it would show they know how to bring their passion to life, and how to engage with people that are equally passionate about that ‘thing’. Our role is to be passionate about clients and about their work/products/services; if you bring the same drive to clients that you bring to your own personal passions, then you’ve a long career ahead of you.
LE: How important has social media become in PR? Has it changed the way you work?
Chris: Hmmm… there’s a longer piece in this as I think it’s changed lately with the advent of fake news, and the toxicity of the platform in the last few months. It’s still a critical part of most programmes, but it’s not the only channel and there are often better, less polluted, routes in (Snapchat, FB) than the hijackable, malicious Twitter. This is a whole new blog post, to be honest, I don’t think I can do it justice in one paragraph.
LE: What would your top tip for anyone looking to go into PR in the future?
Chris: As above, really. Be fascinated about what you care about, and be yourself. Write well, read well, and take time out to stare out of the window and watch the world go by. You need a level head to succeed, and you need to know how to switch your brain into wombling mode – let it fly around a bit and approach things freshly. Processes aren’t always best – personally, I think “the creative process” is an oxymoron. Creativity should be more of an epiphany, you don’t pull it out like a wisdom tooth. And relax – it’s not a race. Enjoy your career – it’s a wonderful industry, so make sure you have fun and don’t burn out.
LE: What stands out to you in job applications?
Chris: Creativity I guess, although to be honest, I don’t usually read CVs I just meet people who come recommended or who are bold enough and write enjoyable intro emails. Don’t try and sell yourself in the cover letter as you’ll waffle and sound like a maniac – just tempt someone into meeting you, promise a bit of intrigue and point them towards something you already do which shows you go over and above, and shows how you think. We employ brilliant brains, rather than mechanical robot clones. Show a bit of your brain.
“Be humble but most importantly be YOU.”
“Enjoy your career – it’s a wonderful industry, so make sure you have fun and don’t burn out.”
CHRIS OWEN – M&C SAATCHI PR
I think that Chris has touched upon some important points in this interview. I find it really interesting to think that the way you use social media could determine whether you stand out or not in an interview. I personally think that social media platforms are a brilliant way to show passion, intrigue and really network yourself before starting a career.
The most important thing I will take from this interview is to always remember to “be YOU”. Don’t force something that isn’t there and “enjoy your career” !