Welcome to my blog series "10 Questions With". It consists of weekly interviews with practitioners from the PR, Marketing and Advertising industry. My goal is to talk to experts, who have interesting opinions and can give valuable advice to young people, who are pursuing careers in those sectors.
Today's interview is with Darren Northeast, MD at Darren Northeast PR and Chairperson at CIPR Wessex Group.
Q1: What was your first ever job?
Well I left school with no qualifications apart from an 'O' level in English Literature (that shows my age!) - I wasn't a fan of school and couldn't wait to leave.
I vowed once I left that I'd never go back - and I haven't! I have done some evening classes over the years.
So when I left school, I joined a government employment scheme called a Youth Training Scheme - which paid £27.50 a week! It included doing a course at Bournemouth College as well as a placement - which was at Poole Council. After a year, I got a full-time job at Barclays Bank in Poole in 1987 - where I was for 13 years.
Working for Barclays was fantastic, and I've always said that my time with Barclays made me into the person I am today. It was a fantastic organisation to work for due to it's development opportunities, staff engagement, training opportunities - as well as the lifelong friends I've still got to this day.
My last proper job I had with Barclays before leaving was working for Internal Communications - which was very much an internal PR role. I had the privilege of travelling around the UK and working with Comms Champions in the branch network, and I was part of a team that was keeping the Comms Champions involved in the corporate messaging of the bank.
Q2: How did you fall into PR?
After leaving Barclays I got a job with a charity in Poole, and the role was Volunteer Co-ordinator and PR Officer. So after my internal PR role at Barclays, and working for the charity in a PR role you can see where I was really starting to fall into PR! I've always been a fairly outgoing person, and love meeting new people and getting to know them and their story. PR is about people, relationships, communicating, networking - all things that come naturally to me I think. Some people out there won't agree with me - but I know who they are!
Q3: What’s the most annoying industry buzzword?
Where do I start! Here's some examples - 'Think outside the box!', 'GDPR!', 'Attack', 'Thought leadership', 'Spin'...just a few to start us off.
Q4: What campaign or work have you most enjoyed being part of?
There are so many great campaigns we've been lucky enough to work on - I really can't remember one that stands out, as they're all great - and I'm so proud of all the work we do for our clients. I do remember one client who appeared in a local newspaper about her weight-loss product that she wanted promoting, she had received so many calls from new customers that at the end of the day, she phoned me to try and get the article taken down as she couldn't cope with the inquiries she had received from the PR we had gained for her!
Q5: Job hunting on social media – yes or no?
Yes, absolutely - why not?
Q6: What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the PR industry since working within it?
The way the industry is forever changing - and the speed of growth of the industry too in recent years has been a pleasant surprise. The global PR industry grew by 5% in 2017.
It never fails to surprise me the way that social media changes by the day and how we engage online nowadays. I was recently lucky enough to be in Singapore and 95% of people we saw whether that be walking along the street or on the subway they were all staring at a mobile phone.
Q7: As an agency founder, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
I know it sounds a bit wooley, but I would say be nice to people! People like dealing with nice people. You don't have to be a b*tch or use and abuse people to get to the top. If you treat people well, they normally treat you with respect back - I say 'normally' as there's lots of people I've dealt with previously, who don't know how to deal with people.
Also, if you don't know something - say you don't know it and that you'll find out. I come across people who brag or say they can do something when quite clearly they can't - so if you can't that's OK, but just say. People respect that more!
Surround yourself with experts in their fields as well. So I would suggest having a mentor from day one, and a good accountant!
Q8: What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?
I wouldn't say a mistake, but I would advise to people that they keep an eye on company finances and be aware of income versus expenditure and being aware of how the business is performing. I work with a fantastic Accountancy firm locally in Dorset (www.coehesion.co.uk) which provides me with very detailed management accounts, which really help me run the business and know where our focuses should be.
Q9: What is the best thing about being a Chairman of the CIPR Wessex Group?
I really enjoy the Chairmanship role, it opens up so many doors - and it's great to be representing such a prestigious organisation. One of the reasons I joined the CIPR was to open up my knowledge of the industry - and it's really done that, it's a role that develops all the time and you're learning about the industry all the time. We have a great committee that helps develop the Wessex groups and our memberships across Dorset / Hampshire and Isle of Wight.
We do so many great events for our members as well - whether they be training events, or visits to look around places i.e. BBC, Hampshire Fire and Rescue - we have an event coming up with Global Radio as well to look around their studios.
Q10: And finally, how would you define PR based on your experience so far?
Communication! Whether that be in the written word, in person, face to face, networking, presenting, social media, online - everything we do is about communication.
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