The next instalment of our ’10 questions with’ series gets to know one of our Account Directors, Polly Clarke. During this series we’re hoping we can give you a real insight into the people in our team, the type of personalities within the PR industry and what different roles involve.
1. What does ‘public relations’ mean to you?
For me public relations is all about managing a company’s reputation, whether that’s positive, or you’re dealing with a crisis. It’s about getting under the skin of a company and working out the best way to communicate its messaging to the relevant audiences and stakeholders.
2. What do you love about PR? / What excites you the most about work?
No day is ever the same and I’m lucky to work with a whole host of interesting clients. It’s a very people focused job and I’ve loved being part of the growing team at Houston – when I first started, we were a team of five and we are now close to 50!
3. How and why did you get into PR?
My previous job involved selling houses, and I was looking for something which was equally fast-paced, and people focused. I’ve always loved writing, (I studied history at university), so PR sounded like a good fit. Houston immediately felt like a company that was going somewhere and five years later that is still very true!
4. Typically, what does your role at Houston involve? / What is your role, and can you give a brief run-down of what you do?
My overarching focus is giving advice and strategic account direction for my clients, developing messaging and narrative, raising the profiles of businesses and individuals, helping to design activities and strategies, and overseeing the execution of all of these with the rest of the Houston team. I also work on crisis and issues handling across our clients, leading the team to ensure we’re delivering the best work possible. I run accounts including Admiral Taverns, easyHotel, Inspiring Learning and Arco.
Aside from client work at Houston, I’m very involved in our social and charity committee, helping organise our fundraising and team socials – one of the best ones recently was taking the whole team to London’s version of the bake off!
5. If you weren’t doing PR what do you think you would be doing?
Something to do with food – I love everything about it, cooking, eating, reading about it, discovering new dishes, visiting new restaurants.
6. What is a common misconception of working in PR?
The quote from Bridget Jones, where Hugh Grant tells Bridget she doesn’t understand the problem because all she does is “fanny around with press releases”.
PR is so much more than issuing press releases. A huge amount of corporate communications is preparation behind the scenes, the strategy, the messaging documents, the timelines – everything which is prepared before a piece of news, an acquisition, a campaign or concept is launched to the public. There is a lot of forward planning to cover every scenario and prepare our clients for every possible outcome. The other part to this, is that communications is not just press releases. Content we produce is used across so many platforms, from websites to social media to blogs, to letters to MPS, brochures, comments – all manner of platforms.
7. What do you like about working at Houston?
It has to be the culture.
I’ve been at Houston for five and a half years and one of the key reasons I joined was because I immediately was drawn to the team. And this hasn’t changed – we’ve grown so much, but the culture and the people are still inspirational.
8. If you had any advice for someone starting out in PR, what would it be? / Do you have any career advice to give to someone interested in PR?
Absorb every bit of news you possibly can through as many channels as possible – newspapers, social media, TV, radio, TikTok, village shop windows – everything. The more you know about the news, the more you can understand the landscape your clients fit into and the part they can play in it.
I’d also say, remember we work in PR not ER. It’s a brilliantly fast paced and exciting environment which can sometimes be stressful, and this nugget has helped give me perspective many times.
9. What did you want to be when you were little/growing up?
When I was very little – a chef. Growing up I wanted to be a barrister.
10. If you could have a dinner party with any 5 people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?
– George Ezra – one of the nicest human beings alive IMO.
– My husband – best dinner party guest/co-host on the planet.
– Amor Towles – one of my favourite authors – if you haven’t read his latest book “The Lincoln Highway” I highly recommend it!
– Elizabeth I – As a history student she is fascinating, a power woman of her time and I’d love to solve some of the mysteries surrounding her reign.
– Jack Whitehall – if conversation runs out at least someone can make us laugh.
Keep an eye out for more ‘10 questions with’ blogs to come and learn about the different role levels we have here at Houston.
If you are interested in PR or joining our team as an Account Director, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org