How to get into PR – an interview with our Deputy Managing Director and Head of PR Hannah Elwell

PR is a fantastic career for those who are organised, love to communicate and have a great work ethic. But as glamorous as it may be portrayed, working in PR can be extremely challenging and getting your foot in the door isn’t always easy.

If you’re considering a career in PR or are looking for a new challenge, we’ve conducted an interview with our Deputy Managing Director and Head of PR, Hannah Elwell, to give you helpful hints and tips on how you can kick start your career and stand out from the growingly-fierce competition.

If you don’t know where to begin, what employers are looking for, or if you have what it takes, we’ve got you covered.

Do you think having a degree is vital for a career in PR?

Hannah: Most people looking to get into PR will have a degree under their belts so without one a candidate will need to have even more relevant experience in order to shine.  A degree tells me that someone has a certain standard of writing ability and is able to research and apply their knowledge.  The degree subject isn’t so important, for example it doesn’t have to be a degree in Public Relations but one that has a focus on essay writing is most appealing.  In either case candidates must have a portfolio of written work to show at interview.

What do you look for in a PR Account Executive at Unsworth Sugden?

Hannah: A positive attitude and bulldog determination are key. We are ‘can do’ people at Unsworth Sugden and a willingness to just crack on is the most important feature that I look for. Obviously an excellent command of the English language is vital as is the ability to write a high standard of copy quickly and accurately. I also look for someone that can get their head around subjects that may initially seem alien without being phased.

What do you think are the most important qualities you need to be successful in PR?


A high level of writing ability.
Someone who takes pleasure in crafting good copy.
A happy outlook and positive demeanor.
A list maker, someone who takes satisfaction from seeing a job done properly and to the fullest outcome.
Being organised.
Being curious by nature, never taking no as an answer and being determined to learn as much as possible about something.
Being able to find a good news angle, knowing what’s interesting and readable.
A people person, someone who is comfortable and confident speaking to all kinds of people face to face and over the phone.

From your experience do you think PR is hard to get into and if so why?

Hannah: I think it’s fairly competitive as it’s such a popular industry but I think a lot of junior candidates don’t realise how much hard work a role in PR can be. There are times when working on a high profile client can be glamorous but those occasions are few and far between and the bread and butter of PR is about knuckling down and delivering for a client.  If you demonstrate you’re a hard worker and are loyal and committed then the rewards are there.

Would you recommend people take relevant qualifications to further their career in PR?

Hannah: For an entry level role I think a degree is sufficient as long as the candidate has a great portfolio and can demonstrate experience within a work place.  Once you’re in a post then you can look at other options for developing your specific skill base.

Do you agree that people with all different backgrounds and educations can get into PR if they want to?

Hannah: Yes absolutely. Our clients cover a wide range of industries so it’s always interesting to meet with people that have different past experiences.  As long as they can prove that they can write then I’m interested.  After all, a good writer should be able to turn their hand to any subject matter. Many of our PR staff have previously worked as journalists, in other areas of marketing and have undertaken degree courses in History, Law, English and even Dance!

Why did you choose PR and why do you think it’s a popular choice these days?

Hannah: I just wanted to write. I don’t think I had any clue about what PR was all about when I was first job hunting after university!  I worked freelance during term time as a copywriter for a neighbour who had his own marketing agency and I was lucky enough to get work within the agency during holidays.  He took me to client meetings and we worked on brands such as Lil-lets and Simple Skin Care for Men.  I also had a year out before going to study and spent three months teaching at a secondary school in Mexico and the rest of the year working in a bar. So by the time I graduated I was independent and very, very hungry for a career.

What do you like about PR the most?

Hannah: The satisfaction of seeing a job well done with the best coverage we could hope for and a happy client.  I also take great pleasure in witnessing when one of the team delivers a great story, when the research, the writing and the angle all click and they’ve been able to put all the elements together in a timely fashion to make a project happen.

What can people expect from pursuing a career in PR?

Hannah: Lots of hard work that’s for sure!  But it’s also incredibly satisfying and there’s a lot of opportunity for personal achievement.  As an agency we take pride in our relationships with clients and have worked with many of them for a number of years so there’s also a great chance to build really strong connections with people, making work a real pleasure.

What is Unsworth Sudgen’s approach to PR?

Hannah: As an agency our focus has always been and will always been on service. Clients are our most important consideration at all times and pride ourselves on having many long standing relationships in place.  We are professional and make things happen so that clients see us as an extension of their own business and come back to us time after time.

How does our work as a PR agency differ from in-house PR and how can this benefit someone looking to start a career here?

Hannah: Agency work will give candidates a really great understanding of all kinds of PR and how it fits into the wider marketing mix. It will keep you on your toes and there will never been a dull moment!

Experience is always key when looking for a new job – when do you offer work placements/ experience and what can people expect from this? How do they apply?

Hannah: We are always looking for future talent and work experience is a great way for both candidates and employers to make contacts.  We have a number of staff past and present who first started out at the agency on a work experience placement or as an intern.

Just get in touch and sell yourself to me!