Youth in Public Relations
An interview with Ewa Grabek and Szymon Dziewięcki
There is a growing perception that young people do not want to work in public relations – they find the industry uninteresting and limited to media relations only. At SEC Newgate CEE, however, you can find many younger consultants who are committed not only to developing their careers but also to promoting the public relations industry in academia.
Emilia Sala, our Junior Creative, interviewed Ewa Grabek, Junior Account Manager, and Szymon Dziewięcki, PR/PA Executive, on this topic.
Recently in class, I came across the opinion that employers now have a huge problem attracting young employees who are interested in developing in public relations. What do you guys think about this? Why don’t young people want to work in PR?
Szymon: It’s not so much that young people don’t want to work in PR, but that they usually don’t know what PR is at all – there is a lack of basic knowledge in society about what the industry does. Many people often use PR tools in their work without knowing that what they are doing is part of public relations.
The lack of interest when it comes to working in PR is also due to the fact that for such a young person, marketing or working in a digital agency might be a more interesting field.
Ewa: I wouldn’t agree that young people don’t want to work in PR – 100% of people who study PR go on to work for an agency or on the client side later on. Interest in the industry is also evident in our UW Public Relations Research Circle, which recruits many people who want to gain experience.
However, if we already speak about the lack of interest in PR, especially in the earlier stages of education, it is precisely due to the lack of awareness – people do not know what PR is and what such work looks like. I myself had no idea that I could be involved in something like this.
And yet, despite everything, you chose PR. What made you choose it?
Szymon: I chose PR because I am aware of my own competencies, which allow me to fulfill myself as a PR person, and even more so as a PA. I’m talking about a good understanding of the media market as well as certain political relationships.
Other than that, I don’t feel comfortable with social media. I find myself much better in public affairs these days.
Ewa: I chose PR thanks to a casual job which, quite by accident, was precisely about communications management. That’s when I discovered how important it is to be targeted and how much depends on it. In addition, I noticed that I simply have certain competencies that work well in this job.
Looking at your successes so far, this was a very good choice. However, let’s go back to the beginning. I’m in my second year of university and most of my friends don’t have any experience in this industry yet. What would you advise them? How do they take their first PR steps?
Szymon: Today’s world is structured in such a way that the sooner you enter the industry and start working in an agency, the sooner you are promoted to higher positions. This is the right place to gain knowledge and, above all, the necessary experience.
The second equally good path is the choice under the title: “I am now focusing on my studies and using this time I have to develop and gain knowledge”. PR is all about leveraging knowledge – it has to ooze confidence from you and you can’t be afraid to get into a polemic with someone. The truth is that if you really apply yourself to your studies, I don’t see any obstacles to entering the job market at a slightly older age. Lack of experience does not condemn you to work in low-level jobs forever. Knowledge really does matter.
Ewa: When it comes to taking your first PR steps, I think what agency you go to is important here. When choosing a company, it’s worth being guided by what they write about the agency and how they write. Whether the agency is at all interesting to us and whether it has values we identify with. It is worth checking who the company works for, what projects it has carried out, and whether it has any industry awards to its credit.
And once such a young people have found their first job, and gets that first PR internship, what can they expect? What awaits them in their first weeks at the agency?
Szymon: It all depends on the agency, of course, but maybe I’ll say what I wish I had when I came to such a job. It seems to me that the worst thing is to assign trainees only trivial, completely basic challenges that artificial intelligence will be able to handle in the near future.
Creativity should be stimulated in young people, they should be involved in various projects where, under the guidance of managers and more experienced people, such a young person will simply be able to prove himself. An employee who has gone through a lot of creative processes is, in my opinion, more valuable on the labor market and can be sure that their competencies will not be replaced by artificial intelligence in the near future.
Ewa: The first weeks at the agency are all about learning the basics, i.e. writing press releases, dealing with journalists or creating media databases. These are important skills that a PR professional is exposed to throughout their life. Throughout this process, however, creativity is key, stimulating it in the young person and showing them how to connect the dots.
Can anyone find their way in an agency? Can anyone work in PR at all?
Szymon: Working in an agency is very dynamic and often involves doing several things at the same time, usually under time pressure, which is why not everyone will find themselves in this environment.
However, in an agency we have great opportunities for development. First of all, in such a place we can come across very different people, with very different experience. In an agency, we also work on projects from a wide range of industries – in one week, you might be handling a client from the construction industry, heavy industry or the beauty industry. This agency diversity allows us to gain very specialised knowledge in different fields, which often comes in handy in the future.
Ewa: I’m not sure I’m the kind of person who should work in PR myself. (laughs) The ideal PR person, if there is one at all, should first and foremost be able to work under pressure – both time and expectations. We work to meet the expectations of clients, superiors and ourselves, and we know the result could always be better, especially in PR, where success is not measured by numbers.
A good PR person is above all a creative person who is not afraid of new and often bold solutions. In PR, it is also important to observe what is going on around us; we need to know what is happening in politics, pop culture, and preferably in five different niches.
Working in an agency means changing topics frequently, jumping from project to project and, consequently, from industry to industry. On the one hand, this is very exciting, and on the other hand, quite stressful. And that’s exactly what working in PR is – exciting, but also extremely demanding.
If you were to encourage someone to work in PR, for example, a young person in their second year of university who is hesitating about which way to go now, what would you tell them?
Szymon: If you’re considering marketing or advertising versus working in PR, it’s worth considering what matters more to you at the end of the day. Is it creative concepts that have a real impact on society, to create some kind of change, or is it increasing sales of a particular product? It seems to me that it is this causality that is the key differentiator between PR and marketing, and this is what you need to consider when choosing your career path.
Ewa: If you are a person who wants to have a real impact on the world, and you love to wield words, then you don’t need to be convinced to work in PR. You already know that this is the best path for you.
It’s hard to ask for a better summary!
From my own experience, I can only confirm the words spoken in this interview. Working in an agency is first and foremost a huge opportunity to develop and get to know yourself better. Nothing stimulates creativity and opens you up to the world like PR – especially when, like me, you come across the best professionals in the industry.