Fellow students say 'PR sucks' but I have renewed faith in the power of earned

Tell people that you're leaving a perfectly good job to go and be a full-time student and everyone is lovely and positive. They can spot a mid-career crisis a mile off.

My belief if the power of earned has been reinforced, says Ruby Quince
My belief if the power of earned has been reinforced, says Ruby Quince

"Well done!", they say. I was. And now I’m the oldest student that The School of Communication Arts has ever had on its year-long [advertising creative] course – and its only PR migrant.

I found the school because I’d been looking to hire and it was meant to be where the best creatives came from.

It’s an industry boot camp with a 99 per cent employment rate. It quickly dawned on me that they had no interest in moving to PR. They think that PR sucks. It’s "lame"; it’s "dishonest and tacky".

The irony is that the ideas that ‘win’ our twice-weekly pitches (a mixture of live industry briefs and portfolio projects) are very much PR-orientated.

As a generation of social natives, it’s in their blood.

My class is made up fresh graduates from the arts and young ad agency folk looking to build muscle.

They come for the 400-plus working industry mentors and masterclasses by advertising heavy-hitters like Peter Souter, Steve Henry and Dave Trott.

The mentors are here to learn from this new generation of creative thinkers, too. I know that I am.

Any notion that my 10-plus years’ experience would give me a head start was nixed within days.

Every day my knowledge is challenged. Letting go of what I thought I knew has been hard; ‘unlearning’ isn’t as easy as it sounds.

It’s frustrating to be told by someone 20 years younger, with no apparent experience, that you’re wrong; especially when they are right.

Re-learning from the beginning is a revelation.

I’ve rebuilt my understanding of strategy from the ground up, learned new software, developed craft. I make things every week.

I know my blind spots better, and get to see PR through ad agency eyes. I can step back and really kick the tyres.

Lifelong learning is a cliché, but in an age where the rug is being pulled out from under our industry, it’s vital.

Those learning for the first time learn more quickly, challenge more and won’t be hemmed in by any specific discipline.

The school mantra is ‘we sell or we die’, and they’re coming for our clients. They’re terrifying in all the best ways.

My cohort will be creative directors – realistically, sat in ad agencies – imposing ideas on PR. Many of them are thinking earned-first. But they aren’t given any real grounding in PR.

"Get it banned and it’ll get everywhere" seems to be the apex of success. They’re missing tricks, and I like to think that we’re learning new ones.

I’d started to question the potency of PR, but, looking in from the outside, I keep noticing flashes of brilliance and agencies really joining the dots.

Learning more about the wider spectrum of marcomms has reinforced my belief in the power of earned and the potential to push it further.

Ruby Quince is a student at the School of Communications Arts and a former creative director at MHP Communications

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