This week’s #ThursdayThought is with none other than Mr PR himself (no, seriously). Mr PR (also known as Rich Leigh) founded his own agency, Radioactive PR when he was just 27. He has been listed in PR Week’s 29 under 29 list and named one of the ‘brightest young social media communicators’. On top of this, he also founded the popular PRExamples.com blog and has recently written ‘Myths of PR‘ which is due to be released on April 3rd.
This week, I was really intrigued to find out what Rich thought the highs and lows of PR were. I am only studying PR so it is really interesting to hear what industry professionals like Rich say about this. I’ve also included a question on Virtual Reality as I am really intrigued to hear Rich’s opinion on whether this is the future….
LE: What made you go into PR? How did you start off in the industry?
Rich: I started out in fitness after school – shortly after dropping out of my A-Levels, I trained as a personal trainer as soon as I realised my dream of playing rugby wasn’t going to happen. I worked as a gym instructor first, then as a PT and a class instructor later. I did that for a couple of years, between 18-20 years-old. And then… the credit crunch happened and the majority of my clients decided I was a luxury.
I knew I’d need to find a real job/career, and after considering the things I was good at, I realised I might be half decent in Marketing. I’d always loved to write, and, with very little knowledge of what PR actually was, thought my outgoing nature might suit it well.
I found a job ad in the local paper for an entry-level role at 10 Yetis PR agency, and after a memorable interview in which I was far more self-assured that a young man with no experience nor qualifications should have been, I was hired as their first employee.
LE: What has been the most challenging part of your career so far?
Rich: Starting my own agency, Radioactive PR, without a doubt. I knew it’d be tough, but I was still new to the industry in the grand scheme of things when I left my last agency job at Frank, and had little knowledge of the actual business of PR. As soon as I realised that everybody makes it up as they go along (just that some people are just better at hiding that to others and sometimes even themselves), I felt immediately better. As they always say with anything challenging, though, the more risk, the better the reward, and building a great agency of great people doing great work gets me out of bed with a smile on my face.
LE: What part of PR makes you love it the most? What do you enjoy doing the most?
Rich: I know the usual answer here is to speak to the variety of the job, but for me, it’s having the chance to influence and entertain people. We are in a position where what we say, particularly (and obviously) on behalf of clients, has the chance to change people’s perceptions and even actions. That’s a pretty strong position to be in. The second aspect of entertaining links nicely to my love for creative stunts and campaigns. I started PRexamples.com over five years ago now, and I still get a buzz out of seeing the work done in and around the industry.
LE: The PR industry has grown with social media over the last few years, do you feel that Virtual Reality will grow in the same way too? Do you think that it will become big?
Rich: I have written quite extensively about VR in the past having been fortunate enough to work on some brilliant VR campaigns (here’s something I wrote: ‘VR in PR – why should any of us actually care about virtual reality?’).
I say in the post: ‘I’ve had hiccups that have lasted longer than most ‘next big’ things, but, having grown weary of giving my time (and client budget, AHEM) to new social networks and FUTURETECH, virtual reality excites me’.
It still does.
There are a number of issues with VR though, particularly around adoption of what is still a niche and expensive technology.
We’ve had a number of consumer products released that should be helping to bring virtual reality to the mainstream, but alongside the associated motion sickness and aforementioned cost, I think even the most ardent VR supporter would struggle to convince anybody that it’s anywhere near popular enough to be considered mainstream. Maybe that’s OK – it’s better that the VR industry solves its issues before the mass market try and then dismiss it.
The last thing I want is for VR to be yet another thing the PR and marketing worlds picked up, used, abused and tossed away (with many such ‘world first’-type campaigns done in and around 2015). While I’m not as close to it as I have been in the last few years, some of the smartest people I’ve ever met work in VR and if it’s going to happen on a bigger scale a la Ready Player One, I have full faith in their ability to create technology we won’t be able to ignore.
LE: If you could give somebody who wanted to come into the industry one piece of advice, what would it be?
Rich: To give one piece of advice is tough – because reading and being prepared with as many additional skills and areas of knowledge as you can are HUGE, but if I had to focus on one, it would be:
Try not to take yourself too seriously.
My ethos to be professional-ish. Come into PR with humour and I really do think you’ll be happier and more successful; ours is enough of an introspective and self-conscious industry already.
LE: What do you look out for in job applications?
Rich: I’d be lying if I didn’t say I don’t look first for examples of experience, but given I came into the industry with none, and even less in the way of qualifications, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all.
A cover letter and/or the approach to applying for a job are often better indicators of the person that a CV is, I feel, so I’d suggest people think about that first and foremost. I read my old boss Andrew Bloch’s answer to this question, and, to be honest (despite being infinitely smaller at this stage, obviously!), I feel very similarly. Get your foot in the door any way you can, and try to have a good answer for the question I always ask: ‘what can you do for the agency that nobody else can?’.
“Come into PR with humour and I really do think you’ll be happier and more successful”
“Get your foot in the door any way you can, and try to have a good answer for the question I always ask: ‘what can you do for the agency that nobody else can?’”
Rich Leigh, Radioactive PR
I found Rich’s answers so interesting this week. I have always wondered what professionals like Rich enjoy and find challenging about the industry. But the most interesting answer was surrounding Virtual Reality. We have been speaking about it in University and I have been wondering for a while whether it will actually take off. Who knows, in 10 years time will it become mainstream? Thank you to Rich for taking part in #ThursdayThought this week.