With so many people wanting to work into PR, I sat down with Françoise Peretti for that much needed view from the inside. Having established the very successful Peretti Communications PR agency with offices in London and Paris, she is the person you want to turn to for tips and tricks to get into PR.
With clients in the field of fashion (think of Phillipa Lepley, Sergio Rossi, Ted Baker, Thomas Pink to name a few) to the health and beauty sectors (La Prairie for example) and everything in between such as food/drink (e.g. Champagne, Gordon Ramsey), destination/travel/hotels and much more, Françoise has an impressive wealth of experience.
Here’s everything you always wanted to know about working in PR from how to land that job to what it takes to be successful.
How would you describe PR?
There is a lot of misconception about PR, like it’s all about parties, organising ones and attending them. Of course, it can be a part of it, but PR is not a social occasion. It’s a proper job. PR is about promoting and publicising brands and services. Enhancing clients’ reputation by creating and implementing impactful campaigns whereby social networks and the digital world are just one of the tools.
What’s really important in PR are the buzz words, listen and understand, planning and benchmarking. And with benchmarking I mean constantly going back to see whether you’re delivering, what are the results and the impact of the campaign.
What is it that your clients are looking to achieve when they engage an agency like yours?
Good publicity. They want to have a positive result and want us to communicate their message and have impact on their audience. Some of our clients are well known in other countries, but are new in the UK. In that case they are looking for guidance, they want to understand the UK market better and here they buy into a team with a wealth of experience in the luxury sector.
What do you love about your job?
I love how I broaden my horizon while working in PR. Every day you learn something new. Like learning about a new sector, learning about the world where a product comes from, the people who work with a product, the knowledge they have, what it takes for them to get a top product whether it’s a watch, champagne, bridal couture or the hotel business. That’s what makes it so interesting even after these many years in PR.
What is the most challenging part of running a PR Agency?
It’s recruitment. In PR there’s this tendency that people stay between 2.5 and 4 years at the same company. They move companies even if they’re happy and love what they’re doing, because either they have the feel that it’s a must-do, which it isn’t, or they go for a lifestyle change, leaving London. As much as I love educating people, one basically needs to learn on the job as there are no PR schools. At the time people leave they are finally ready for the PR business.
What skills does a PR practioner need to have?
Two words, willingness and awareness. Willingness to go the extra mile, to learn, to expand your horizon, to plan, and to deliver to name a few. Awareness to what your clients want from you. Always check whether you’re delivering what’s agreed upon, what are the results, and the impact of the campaign.
What are you looking for in a potential employee?
I’m looking for people who are intelligent, lively, passionate about PR and people who are fun to be around. I’m not necessarily looking for people like me. I’m looking for someone who is complementary and also someone who is international. Meaning, people who are curious, people who are open to other cultures and are interested in that. With a large international client base it’s basically a prerequisite.
Obviously you also need to have the potential to relate to our clients, because that’s what PR is about. And you need to be confident without being over confident. Simply put, you need to be comfortable with yourself without being overly cocky.
Say you’ve found the PR agency you want to apply to. What tips and tricks would you suggest for landing the job?
Know who you’re writing to. Take the time to do some research. Don’t start an email with ‘Dear Sir, dear Madam’ or ‘To whom it may regard’. That’s not going to grab attention.
Also, don’t just send a CV. Always include a motivation letter stating why you are passionate about the sector/PR. The motivation letter should also demonstrate that you know the sector we’re in, what your skills can bring to our clients and what you expect from us. I love to hear how potential candidates get from studying to wanting to work for me.
The letter should be interesting, but please don’t use “I am organised”, “I am ambitious’ “I love parties”, “I am a social person so PR is for me” and “I love fashion”. Those are red flags and a real turnoff.
And please make the motivation letter personal. Don’t just use the same letter for every PR agency as they have all different clients and many may not be working in the same sector.
You’ve landed an interview with a PR Agency. Now what?
Again, do your research on the PR Agency, its clients, projects, and the people working there. Know the person you’re talking to and their work.
Try to get some inside information on the company, for example, by networking with your peers. Approach people on Linkedin (send a Linkedin message) who worked for the company, like someone who did an internship. I wouldn’t suggest approaching someone who’s still working at the company.
And think about how your skills can benefit the company, basically what can you bring to the table.
What should people wear to an interview and what not?
Dressing for work or an interview is about relating to the company’s culture. Don’t dress ‘fashion’ if you’re interviewing at Google. Inversely, dress fashion if you apply at a fashion PR consultancy. It’s all about understanding the company’s cultures.
How to make it in PR?
Think about your skills and how you’re going to use them in PR. Maximise those skill sets, find a specialisation, be curious and passionate, relate to the place where you are going to work and the clients. Also think of what you want the PR agency to teach you, as it’s always a two-way street.
What’s the biggest mistake people (can) make in PR?
Underestimate the personal input that is required to succeed while it’s all about being curious, investigative, persistent, resilient, learn about clients and relating sectors.
On what (fashion/beauty) items should people splurge and save on?
Best beauty items: great knowledge, fabulous smile and enthusiasm.
Lastly, what do you have in your handbag?
My iphone in its red Noreve case, B&O headphones, Prada glasses, Graf von Faber- Castell fountain pen and my Tate Modern clad Oyster card!