Thursday, 12 July 2012

How to get your dream PR job: CIPR’s “Tomorrow’s Talent”

Event: CIPR’s “Tomorrow’s Talent” Event 2012
Date: Tuesday 10th July 2012
Location: Rocket, 6 Adams Court, Old Broad Street, City of London

As someone who is very new to the PR industry, the first week of my financial PR internship has been incredibly exciting and busy. As part of the internship I am able to attend some fantastic events, whether it is the team’s Summer BBQ, 'creds swaps' with other intermediary advisers, or having a special lunch in welcoming me to the Abchurch team. However, the one event which I have found most exceptional was CIPR’s exclusive event “Tomorrow’s Talent” as it gave me the opportunity to speak to people with a variety of PR jobs at different companies who had each taken unique routes to get to the senior PR positions they are currently in.

The event was organised by Abchurch’s Director Jo Shears, who is on the CIPR committee and responsible for encouraging younger members; this was one of a series of events that is being run with that in mind. As a student who has just completed her first year at University and does not yet have a set plan of my future in PR, it was such a perfect event to attend and very reassuring!

The evening began with a drinks reception and an overview of how the event was going to run. It was arranged that we would sit in small groups with one of the CIPR’s Corporate and Financial Group Advisory Board members and we could talk to them for 15 minutes about careers in PR until we moved onto the next speaker. Although there was a real mix of backgrounds and experience levels in the room, it was a very relaxed atmosphere (with a welcomed constant supply of nibbles that came to our tables) and we were able to ask any questions we liked ranging from pros and cons of in-house and PR agency roles, to how they began their careers in the world of media.

The first speaker at my table was a Senior Executive at a City financial PR agency. I was fascinated hearing the story of her career, starting out as a journalist and how she got to where she is now - at the opposite end of the spectrum in Business Communications. Her opinion was that she felt confident making that transition as she had always worked in finance, and she felt like she had an advantage because she knew exactly what was required of a journalist so she could put that knowledge into action.

When our time was up we moved to the next table where we met Tony Halmos, Director of Public Relations for the City of London. Tony gave us valuable advice aimed for a career in PR, and suggested getting a MA or doing a degree associated with Communications or Public Relations, and to get all of the work experience in PR that you can find (lucky me eh?).

We then moved onto our third table and met Claire Jenkins, currently Group Director of Corporate Affairs at Rexam PLC and the Non-Executive Director of Sports Direct International PLC. She described the course of her career; starting from her undertaking a Business degree at University, being employed purely in finance, and then progressed onto Financial PR. It struck me that a pattern emerged and PR clearly seems to be the way forward!

On the fourth and final table, we were greeted by Stewart Prosser, Director of Prosser Associates Limited. We talked about the progression of his career and the companies he had worked at, including being the Vice President of Corporate Communications at JPMorgan Chase, Head of PR at RBS, Director of Corporate Affairs at AXA, and Executive Director Corporate Communications Europe and Asia at Lehman Brothers. Interestingly, he mentioned how it took him 25 years to find out what he really wanted to do (again, very reassuring) which resulted in establishing his own company, which has now been running successfully for 6 years.

I now feel I have a better appreciation of what it takes to succeed in the sector, and I can really understand the PR saying “work hard, play hard”. I learnt a lot about PR careers that night, and the single piece of advice that stood out to me is to get as much experience as I can and as Stewart Prosser recommended, to ‘network like crazy’.


Jo has also given me a great insight into what it takes to make it in the world of corporate communications and financial PR and her own career path is a great illustration of the advice I received. She graduated six years ago with a First Class Honours degree in English from the University of Durham with a host of communications internships and experience and is now a Director at Abchurch, so the proof is in the pudding!

I would like to say a huge thank you to 
Jo for inviting me along to “Tomorrow’s Talent”, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I cannot wait for the next event!

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 6 July 2012

It’s time to turnaround: a discussion of turnaround investing

Event: Building Business in the 21st Century
Date: Wednesday 4th July
Location: K&L Gates, One New Change, City of London

The world of turnaround investment is not a sector for the easily offended, a sector where a sizeable return on investment is sought above everything else. If a change, however large or disruptive it may be, makes financial sense then it is almost certain to happen. When International Law Firm K&L Gates LLP and Clearwater Corporate Finance hosted a breakfast seminar on Wednesday 4th July titled Building Business in the 21st Century, I learnt that a three letter acronym drives the sector. ROI is almost solely all that counts.

The event began with a presentation from Simon Peckham, CEO of Melrose plc, a listed company that looks to acquire businesses, improve them and realise the value created as a result. In simple terms their investment strategy is to buy, improve and sell businesses. Simon discussed Melrose, what it does and how it looks at prospective acquisitions. What became obvious from Simon’s presentation is that the turnaround sector is very much high risk, high reward, as demonstrated by the exceptional growth that Melrose has achieved.

Next up was Jon Moulton, Chairman and Founder of Better Capital. Jon is extremely well known in the City and has over 30 years experience of turnarounds. Better Capital recently hit the headlines with the acquisition of Jaeger, the high-end fashion brand and retailer. Jon certainly didn’t mince his words about the sorts of problems they come across within companies when assessing them. After summing up what Better Capital does Jon discussed the cut throat nature of turnarounds, his experiences and why many companies need to be reinvigorated. His insights into how his team goes about the process were incredibly interesting and his notion that they look for bad management challenged the preconception that private equity looks for strong management teams. In turnaround situations, Jon explained, this is one of the most straightforward things to improve and change.
After both of the speakers had finished the floor was opened to questions from the audience and Chris Smith, Partner at Clearwater and Jeremy Davis, Partner at K&L Gates joined the panel. A number of questions were posed ranging from how big a role does the existing IT infrastructure play on their initial investment decision and what the speakers’ thoughts were on service industries.

One of the most interesting points that arose was the pace at which change is implemented. If a company is taken over, the changes (management alterations, asset disposal etc.) required to reverse the company’s fortunes are implemented immediately, and both speakers emphasised that decisive action had to be taken within the initial weeks. Another interesting point was how far ahead turnaround specialists plan when looking at a prospective purchase. When initially looking to acquire a company, Jon claimed Better Capital would already have an idea of how or when it would look to sell the Company.

The turnaround sector is in an interesting position at the moment. While the economy experiences ongoing challenges, there are many companies that could be depressed in value and therefore perfectly poised for a takeover and turnaround, however the lack of finance available means caution is at an all time high and any acquisition is riskier than usual. Turnarounds are a fascinating period in the life cycle of a company and the rewards are there to be taken for those who have the skill, capital and nerve to act quickly. 

Thank you to K&L Gates for hosting a really enjoyable and thoroughly interesting insight in to a fast-moving sector.

The turnaround investing presentations given at the event can be found at this link:

Oli H

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms