In the first of the series we talk to Miki Haines-Sanger, founder of multi-award winning PR company Golden Goose PR. Her company is known for their innovative and imaginative campaigns that not only capture the attention of the public but also that of the jaded Fleet St press who have seen it all. Here she reveals what a working day is like for her and gives advice to those who want to get into consumer PR.
My BlackBerry wakes me up at 6.45. I check it for emails, texts and embark on a swift 25-minute getting ready routine.
Although I’m a mum of a two-year-old girl, I leave before she wakes up so it’s possible for me to get out the door without much of a delay. I am incredibly lucky that my husband, a writer and a journalist, has taken a sabbatical this year to spend more time with our daughter. In fact, I think I’ve gained ten years on my life not having to clock watch and rush home to relieve a nanny or do a nursery run, because from six months to 18 months this is how we lived and it felt like every day was a marathon.
I step out with wet hair and spend most of my 30-minute journey into town reading and replying to more emails, checking Twitter, BBC online and confirming diary arrangements.
Once I’m happy that there’s nothing in my in-box I read Metro, hunting for PR stories. What brands have made it in today? Is there a survey? A stunt? Has the London College of Fashion created another dress made out of loo roll? Which brand has made a giant chalk-man doodle in a field in Dorset? I love seeing PR ideas break through, it shows how effective my industry can be.
As I emerge from the Underground, I’ll email myself and my team with ideas we could develop for clients – or I’ll directly mail a brand manager I am already in touch with and pitch a campaign concept. I’m currently trying to convince the owner of a London museum to let us video map his building to replicate an MI6 attack for a movie release. This is the kind of thing I think of, then impulsively try to instigate, as I walk along Oxford Street, buy my Pret breakfast and arrive at my desk.
Golden Goose PR is based in Soho, and I work with a lovely team of people who are like family to me.
I’m very hands-on, I sit with my team and I’ll ask them questions about strategy and creative ideas to make sure that everyone has input.
I’ve deliberately surrounded myself with colleagues who have diverse skills in the office. Whether it’s broadcast, social media, communities, celebrity strategy, business to business, product placement or corporate social responsibility, everyone has their key strengths – and we all have input into each other’s accounts. We all read the news every day and update each other on things we should know. Reading newspapers and keeping up with breaking stories online is critical in PR, particularly so you can provide advice to clients and create campaigns around cultural trends.
No two weeks are the same in our office. If we have a pitch, I’ll avoid all unnecessary meetings and work a solid day in the office with the exception of the time we spend presenting and travelling. Some days we’ll be writing new business pitches, which involves a great deal of research and sometimes we’re selling in a story that requires us to become a 24-hour international press office. Only last month, we set up a mobile office on board the HMS President where my social media and broadcast teams ran live Twitter feeds and managed time-lapse filming of the biggest ever photo of the Royal Family that we blew up to cover Sea Containers house. Seeing our idea reproduced as a 100-metre image and achieve global broadcast coverage was incredible.
At least three times a week I’ll have breakfast, lunch or coffee with a journalist, or a new business lead. Lunch is often at Soho House, as it’s just round the corner and I know my guests are so well looked after there. I like Automat and Dean Street Townhouse too. I enjoy networking and meeting people, but if I’m going to get home in time to see my little girl I need to pack this into my working day so I can head home at 5 or 5.30, sometimes it’s a lot later – but unless I have an unavoidably late meeting, I know I can work on my BlackBerry as I head home and pick up any remaining work once I’ve put Mia to bed.
Getting home at 6, or 6.30, I have a lovely evening with my husband and daughter. After my hectic working day I’m just so happy holing-up. We have dinner together; my husband cooks in the week and I cook at weekends. I pop Mia in the bath and afterwards read her stories in bed. She’s an incredible chatterbox for a two year-old, she tells me all about her day and jumps in to finish my sentences when I’m reading The Highway Rat or The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
When I finally get Mia to sleep, it’s often quite late – because it’s our only chance to spend any time together. But it’s important to me to work, not only because I enjoy what I do, but because I want to provide Mia with a stable future, an education that will prepare her for a very competitive world and opportunities to travel that I hope will broaden her mind and introduce her to many new cultures. I’m also very aware that my daughter has a very independent spirit and thrives in the company of others – she already tells us she “wants to go to school on her own”. So I want to be the best role model by showing her what working women can do.
By 9pm, it’s quiet and peaceful in our house again and Rich and I will tidy up, have a glass of wine, finish off any work on our computers (our jobs complement each other so well as we read and comment on each other’s work) and catch up with any emails and other correspondence with family and friends.
I’ve become obsessed with Bananagrams, which is like a fast game of less intelligent Scrabble. If I can beat Rich at least three times a week then I’m very happy.
If it’s not already midnight, then we’ll go to bed and watch something funny like an old episode of the IT Crowd to unwind.
In comparison to my younger days, my evenings are ridiculously chilled and low-key, but there’s not one night when I don’t go to bed feeling so lucky.
Miki gives her top ten tips for getting into PR
Getting a work placement in a PR agency is the best way to start a career in PR. This applies for any age candidate moving from another profession or a school or university leaver.
1. Approach PR companies with a bespoke cover letter no longer than a page, mentioning one or two of their clients that you’d love to work for and recent campaigns you’ve admired. All of this information is easy to find through their websites, or by buying an issue of PR Week. The person to apply to is usually mentioned on each company’s site.
2. Avoid clichés in your application letter. Everyone says they are a team player. It’s more interesting to hear that you have spent a week working at your local newspaper and that you’re happy to make the tea and mount cuttings for as long as it takes to become a trusted team member. Do remember to attach a brief CV and always run a thorough spellcheck before you hit send.
TIP: if you are a big social media user and you have a large following, PR agencies will be impressed – put your twitter handle and number of followers under your contact details.
3. Now your CV is out there, double-check your Facebook and Twitter profiles and make sure you look presentable enough to be checked out by a potential future boss.
4. Follow up your CV with a phone call – ideally to the HR department, and offer to re-send it to a specific person.
5. Stick with it. PR is a tough profession to break into. But busy companies always need interns. If you’re getting no luck with the larger city-based agencies, try to find agencies more local to you – there are excellent regional PR companies to help you get your foot in the door, you can request a list from the PRCA on 020 7233 6026, or the CIPR on 020 7631 6900. Regional agencies still work on national and international campaigns so the experience you can get from them is just as valuable
6. When you turn up on your first day, make sure you look smart and do offer to make the tea. This display of willing will show everyone that you’re happy to be a grafter. If you’re asked to do other menial jobs don’t be downhearted. We all started doing this and the people who get the furthest never resent mucking in
7. Bring an address book and a notebook with you. When you are introduced to people to report into, make notes about what they ask you to do so they know you’re paying attention. The address book is so that you can keep a record of any contacts you are asked to make. Punch them into your phone if it’s easier.
8. Do all the work that is asked of you promptly, to the best of your ability and with a smile. Always reply to emails to say ‘I’m on it’ or ‘consider it done’ and other ways of affirming that you’ve taken a colleague’s instruction, signing off politely each time.
9. If you run into any problems, always ask someone you work with – don’t just guess and make the situation worse, or hope they’ll forget they asked you.
10. Ask if you can come along to a brainstorm. This is where PR agencies get really creative. It can be intimidating speaking out with an idea when you are new so if you feel shy, it’s a great idea to email the person holding the brainstorm with your thoughts afterwards.
If you do all this well you will make a great impression and the teams around you will want to do their best to keep you, or recommend you to other agencies. A glowing reference will help you move onto the next internship and before long your accrued experience will strengthen your application for a permanent junior role.
Follow Golden Goose on twitter @goldengoosepr.