Meet the PRofessionals | Deb Sharratt, Deb Sharratt Communications

Welcome to the first instalment of my 'Meet the PRofessionals' series on this blog, see what I did there? I'm interviewing some amazing PR professionals from around the country to share their experience, opinions on the industry and words of wisdom - so keep your eyes peeled each week for new additions. The first time round, my PRofessional in the spotlight is Deb Sharratt.

What is 'Meet the PRofessionals'? 

When I started studying PR I often found it difficult to find how other people got into the industry and have always found it interesting when speaking to professionals that everyone takes their own path, it tends to be that no two people got into the industry the same way.

That's why I wanted to start this series, that I'll hopefully be posting a new addition to each week. A space where we can be inspired to learn and be successful like these people. I have asked those important questions to gain an insight into the industry of how these PRofessionals got to where they are today, and how as a PR student we can emulate their success.

Also, if you're reading this and in the PR industry please do get in touch! I'd absolutely love to hear from you and I'm sure many other students would benefit from the advice you have to share. But for now, let's get into it...

Meet the PRofessional: Deb Sharratt  

Deb Sharratt is founder and owner of Deb Sharratt Communications, an award-winning PR practitioner who also has her own blog and media space, My Boys Club, which is an integral part of the business. Deb is also a CIPR Council Member, PR lecturer and Vice-Chair of CIPR North East, and the 2018 winner of the 'Outstanding Independent Practitioner' category at the CIPR North East PRide Awards. With her extensive CV and years of PR knowledge I can't think of anyone better to launch this 'Meet the PRofessionals' series.

1. How did you get started in PR? 

I studied Media, Culture & Society as an undergraduate, however I then trained as a probation officer before a change in career and my first PR job was as Fundraising & PR Officer for Children North East. However as a student I'd been an elected student union officer on a platform of communicating and campaigning at the University of Birmingham, and spent lots of my spare time at University on the entertainments committee booking and promoting events, so I guess it was my destiny! I then took a professional PR qualification whilst working at Children North East.

2. What is your current job title and what do you love about your job?

I'm an independent PR Practitioner and have four different work strands. I work alone, but also with colleagues as an associate for other agencies. I teach at Newcastle University and Sunderland University and also professional CIPR qualifications for nesma; and I write a family lifestyle, travel and food blog.

What I have always loved about PR is the flexibility and unpredictability of everyday. And that through PR you can support an organisation, business or individual to achieve their objectives and contribute to their purpose, and really make a difference. I also love the many different people I get to meet, life is about relationships and PR is definitely a job where you get to develop relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.

3. Why did you choose a career in PR? 

Thirty years ago I don't think I really 'chose' a PR career. It wasn't mentioned as a career at school, it wasn't an academic subject that could be studied easily, there wasn't much written about PR as an industry outside of London, and when it was the focus was very much on media relations. I chose the role at Children North East because I liked what the charity stood for, its values and thought I could help them to achieve what they were trying to do. This approach has influenced my career ever since.

4. What does your daily routine look like? 

No two days are the same I know that. If I don't have any urgent work or an appointment or meeting before 10.30am I try and swim after taking my kids to school, but I will have already checked the news, emails and social media before and after breakfast.The rest of the day is a combination of planning, research, meetings, phone calls, admin and evaluation unless I am teaching. I take a break, if possible, when my children finish school and then I'm happy to work into the early evening or attend evening events. I set my own hours and this works for me, but you do have to be very organised and disciplined to work independently.

5. Can you describe your job in three words? 

Communication. Challenging. Creative.

6.  Who has been your biggest role model in your career so far and why? 

I think you always learn a lot from your first employer. At Children North East my boss was the CEO and was very inspirational in relation to what she had achieved but she always put people first, listened to and guided people no matter who they were.

7. What type of person thrives at your organisation? 

Me! But someone who is willing to learn, share, grow and is organised and disciplined but also willing to help others to be the same. More interested in the collective success than individual egos.

8. What are three must-haves that are crucial for you to get the job done?

A professional approach, knowledge, skills and expertise and a willingness to really listen.

9. What is the most memorable or meaningful moment in your career so far? 

Winning Independent PR Practitioner in the CIPR PRide Awards in the North East for the second time in 2018 was a very special moment. Working independently can be difficult and challenging but recognition from your industry and peers is a very welcome confidence boost. But equally so is also the moment when you step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Personal development however achieved is meaningful and memorable.

10. What do you wish more people understood about the PR industry? 

That PR really can make a difference. That it is not just about writing a press release or a tweet. That it is integral to the business or organisation and has a worth and value to society as a whole.

11. And finally, what advice would you give to a PR student like myself that is looking for a foot in the door in the PR industry?

  1. Have conversations and ask questions both in person and in the virtual world.
  2. Take advantage of technology and learn how to use it for good not evil.
  3. Expand your networks and reach outside of your own bubble, to further your understanding and knowledge.
  4. Always have a willingness to learn. Read books, watch and listen to video, podcasts to help you form your own opinions about things - don't rely on what someone else says.
  5. Challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. 
  6. Offer your opinion when appropriate but also learn how to listen.
  7. Join the CIPR - and not just join but participate - you really do get back out what you put in.
  8. Know your own values and try to live up to them. 
  9. Learn from mistakes but don't punish yourself.
  10. And finally above all else be kind.

Thanks for your time Deb – you're one of the reasons this blog was born and you’ve shared some great advice to go forward with! 

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