Imagine being thrust into the world of PR, social media and managing someone else’s personal brand and thriving business at the age of 22! Melissa Synnott knows EXACTLY what this is like, and her job as a brand manager and strategist is challenging, exciting, tough and ultra-rewarding… oh, and hands down the best job in the world!
Read more to find out all about Melissa’s path to PR as a career and some invaluable advice from this vibrant and focused gal on the way up in our first #mymoderncareer interview!
How and why did you choose PR as a career path?
I’ll be perfectly honest, when I was graduating from high school at the age of 17, I had no idea what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to become! I wasn’t an incredibly academic or business driven girl, I was that sporty girl who dreamt of competing in the Olympics and treated school as just a means to an end. However, come year 12 I had been faced with making a serious decision about my future. Ultimately, I decided to say goodbye to a future in sport and applied to study Public Relations and Media Communications at Queensland University of Technology. I chose this career path because at the time it always seemed like a super creative, glamorous degree that would be a lot of fun, thinking that it would lead me into a career with a magazine company (something that I had always been intrigued by). However, it wasn’t until I actually started studying this degree that I realised I’d found something that I truly loved. I didn’t realise that I had a passion for business, media, writing endless amounts of papers and developing successful campaigns and strategies for brands – everything that PR entails!
I was incredibly lucky to fall into a degree that I was passionate about, and that I was good at! Fast forward four exhausting years of late nights and last-minute studying, I graduated from University with my degree at 21.
What did your path from University to the PR world entail?
From early on in my degree, I realised the world of public relations and communications are extremely competitive, over saturated industries to work in and so landing a job straight out of uni would require real-world experience. It also doesn’t help that there are hundreds of other ambitious peers just like you, all vying for their spot in the industry. So, before I’d graduated I made myself as employable as I could get. I worked really hard in my last year of uni, I got myself an internship at an Australian and International talent management company and I made solid connections with tutors and course coordinators.
I landed my first job a little differently to most. Instead of just applying traditionally (a snooze fest for most employers!), I actually filmed a video pitching myself to the PR Agency I really wanted a job at. Then from that job, I met my new boss (social media powerhouse Georgie Stevenson) and let’s just say it was a match made in heaven… who I now work for today as her PR Brand Manager. My job as Georgie’s brand manager is fast paced, exciting and stressful! It also involves a lot of hard work and has taught me that you can reinvent the wheel in terms of the way people traditionally achieve success.
Can you give us the scoop from an industry insider on what the PR world is really like?
Although my first little taste of PR has been exciting and challenging, it also showed me that PR isn’t for the faint hearted. It can definitely be cut throat industry, and as a sensitive girl myself I knew that I would have to develop a tougher skin and gain some confidence if I was going to stay! It can be very tough to distinguish the genuine from the ingenuine, so even though it basically has to be in our DNA to network and know who’s who, I also strongly encourage young aspiring PR girls (like myself!) to stay true to their core values and focus on creating genuine, mutually beneficial connections. These will mean so much more in the long run!
“If you’ve got a keen interest in the complex, exciting world of media and a knack for growing and shaping someone’s brand image – then you were made for PR!”
What would you say is key to starting out in PR and the qualifications, experience and skills that are essential?
No two ways are the same to get involved in PR! I know people who have studied degrees such as Journalism, Marketing, Advertising, Business and even no degree at all that have ended up in the public relations industry! Take Roxy Jacenko for example; she’s living proof that all you need is a bit of hustle, determination and grit to be a household name. I will say however, studying a degree with a major in public relations definitely prepared me for the type of work that is involved.
In terms of work experience, I strongly suggest gaining experience in the industry before you graduate. As I have said before, the industry is getting increasingly competitive by the day, so the more experience you have the more likely you will be to land your dream job. Even with one internship under my belt, I still got knocked back by a few grad jobs before I got any success.
Having an arsenal of personal skills is also a big part of working in PR! Firstly, brush up on your creative writing skills. It’s a true talent to be able to write a captivating pitch, campaign, blog or media release – I am still learning myself, but I find it super helpful to look at the language used in successful media coverage for some guidance. If you have an amazing mentor or boss, get them to give you some tips. Additionally, being able to be an effective communicator is a must! I used to think in order to communicate well I would have to develop and extroverted personality, however now I know that being extroverted doesn’t automatically make you a good communicator. If you’ve got the passion, persistence and confidence, you’ll be great. Above all, if you’ve got a keen interest in the complex, exciting world of media and a knack for growing and shaping someone’s brand image – then you were made for PR!
What is your number one piece of advice for aspiring PR girls?
My number one piece of advice for aspiring PR girls is to STAND OUT! Find something that makes you unique that you can offer up to the table. Do you like to blog? Take epic photos? Are you good at editing video content? The more you can offer to the table, the more likely you will be picked over someone else for the job! I’ve also learnt to appreciate that hard work gets you everywhere in life. I can be honest and tell you that I was never the smartest girl in my class, but I have always known what it means to really work hard for what you want. It doesn’t always mean late nights and weekends (although sometimes it does) but it means not taking no for an answer when you get a setback, persisting in your endeavours and actively learning from your mistakes in order to do better next time. Even though I’m at the very start of my career, the biggest tip I would have to finding success in your job is to treat the company or brand you work for like it is your very own. In doing so, you will make yourself indispensable and irreplaceable!
Thank you so much Melissa for sharing your career story so far and some really valuable insight and advice for young, motivated, career driven gals like yourself who are navigating their own career path and making those important decisions about their future!