So, You Want to Work in PR?
Starting your own public relations or marketing agency is a dream shared by many young communications professionals and students. But for every one person who makes it on their own, there are at least 10 more who don't—or who don't even try.
Brisbane's Elyse Goyen is that one in 10 who took a gamble, and made it work. At just 20 years old she joined what was then a very fresh face on the Brisbane agency scene—Felix and Slink. Fast-forward five years and Goyen is FS Group's Public Relations Director, owns 25 percent of the agency, and has lead the charge on campaigns for Topshop, Forever 21, Sunland Group, Westfield, and Jones Lang Lasalle. Impressive, right?
She's also a finalist in this year's Telstra Queensland Young Business Women's Award—a major coup for any young professional. To celebrate, we sat down with Elyse to get her insight into the world of PR, small business ownership, study, and her advice for for making it in the marketing game. Take notes, folks.
What did you study and where?
Bachelor Journalism and Bachelor Business (Public Relations) at Queensland University of Technology.
Did you always know you wanted to work in PR?
Definitely not! As a teenager I wanted to be a school teacher. By the time I finished high school, I’d applied for law. Five weeks into my law degree, I dropped it.
How did you get your foot in the door?
I applied for internships everywhere, followed up with agencies daily, and eventually someone took me (a huge win for my perseverance)! My goal was to make the best impression possible—I arrived early on the first day and did every job I could. I interned two days a week for three months before being offered a part-time paid agency role. Given I hadn’t taken a PR subject, I was pretty chuffed!
Who has mentored you throughout your career?
I’ve been so fortunate to have found a mentor in the most incredible woman—Cathie Reid. Cathie is a pharmaceuticals success story and someone I absolutely admire. Whilst our industries are worlds apart, we’ve found so much common ground and her advice has been invaluable to me.
How did you find mentors?
By chance, I guess! I met Cathie whilst shooting Queensland’s 50 Most Stylish—she was on the list and we connected straight away.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve been given by mentors?
"It doesn’t matter how many balls you’re juggling—if you drop one, you can always pick it back up."
And, "Ignore the naysayers!"
What does and average day look like at work for you?
You’ve heard it a million times, but in this industry, there is no average day, and that’s what I love most about it! My day usually starts when I roll over in bed and check Instagram, the Sydney Morning Herald and Twitter. I’m usually in the office early—writing to do lists, planning my day and catching up on emails (with a coffee in-hand of course). I work bestbefore lunch, so you’ll usually find me working on communications strategy and press releases, preparing client budgets (and timelines) and pitching to media. By 11am, I’m usually on James Street meeting with clients and media. The early afternoon is spent catching up on emails and admin—as a small business I’m across quoting, invoicing, legal and HR. Most days I’ll get out of the office by 6pm to squeeze in a workout, then jump back on my computer for a few hours in the evening. If not, I’m in heels with a blowdry at an event.
What was your first paid job in the industry?
KDPR, PR Co-ordinator.
What did an average day look like in your first paid job?
Lots of databases! Whether it was media contacts or event guestlists, I spent a lot of time working on databases—and to be honest, it’s one of the most valuable skills to develop. You never know when you’ll need to whip together a media targets list for a client.
Also: Coffee runs, media scanning and of course pitching to media.
Do you think it’s important to get a university degree in your field?
I think it’s important to understand the industry, and I think a university degree certainly helps. PR is not for the faint of heart, and I think you need a certain maturity, which more often than not, you won’t have when you first finish school.
What skills are most important to develop in order to be successful in your industry?
Communication skills are critical—both written and verbal. The job is about communicating—whether it’s managing client expectations, pitching to a journalist, liaising with a supplier or managing the team.
You need to be personable and have the ability to make people feel at ease with you upon first meeting and you also need a thick skin. Things won’t always go your way—you’ll deal with difficult clients, dismissive journalists and disgruntled suppliers, and you need to learn to take it in your stride and not take things personally.
Who do you look to for career inspiration?
I believe you should absorb knowledge from wherever you can, and I’m inspired by any woman who has excelled in her field.
The women I admire most are the rule breakers and game changers in their industries. Emily Weiss from Glossier; Founder of Net-a-Porter, Natalie Massenet; Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg; publishing entrepreneur Lisa Messenger of Renegade Collective and my darling friend, the treasure hunter behind Molten Store, Jessy Cameron. I think you can find inspiration everywhere!
Are there any professional or networking groups that you’re a part of?
This question is a reminder that I should be part of professional and networking groups.
What has been your career highlight so far?
It’s honestly too hard to say! There are so many accomplishments that I’m proud of and that hold a special place in my heart. Landing our first publicly listed company was huge for us, hiring our first full-time employee absolutely changed our business, being a finalist for Telstra Business Woman of the Year has been incredible.
Do you set personal goals?
Goal setting is incredibly important both in business and in life. At the start of each year I sit down and identify six things I want to improve on. Over the course of the year I work towards those goals—usually week-by-week, reassessing every three months or so. I think when you write something down and reflect on it regularly you’re in a better position to achieve.
What’s the most common question you get asked by marketing and PR students, and what answer do you give them?
Definitely how do I get my foot in the door or how do I land my first job in the industry! My advice is always be yourself—find a way to stand out and persevere. The chances of landing an internship or job with one application are slim, but the tenacity you show whilst seeking a job is certainly noticed. Like most aspects of PR, if you want something you have to work for it, whether it’s socials coverage in the local newspaper, a news package on a national network, or a potential client you’re wanting to secure. Pick up the phone and followup—I promise it won’t go unnoticed.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love being on the go and being around people, so for me event days are always really fun—bumping in, managing talent, dealing with media and greeting people on the door, it’s all such a blast! But being honest, there isn’t much I don’t love about my job, except maybe legal and finance.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Managing expectations—of clients, staff, media, suppliers is 100% the most challenging part of my job.
Where do you see yourself in fives years?
Growing the empire.
What app do you use most on your phone for work purposes?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Instagram!
What's the piece of advice you're glad that you ignored?
Don’t rock the boat… I’m sorry, but the boat is there to be rocked!
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