Meet the PRofessionals | Fran Ratliff, O PR

Hello and welcome to the second instalment of my 'Meet the PRofessionals' series! 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 second time round, my PRofessional in the spotlight is girl boss Fran Ratliff!

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: Fran Ratliff

OPR are a PR agency based in Newcastle that have won over 50 industry awards in the last 10 years, making them one of the most awarded agencies outside of London! (They also have the cutest office dog ever - Beau, the Black Labrador). Fran oversees the account management team at O to ensure they deliver strategic integrated campaigns for all clients, providing an excellent quality of service and ensuring that everything happens on time.

It has been great to learn how Fran got into the industry and she has shared some invaluable advice on how to get into PR. As an established public relations practitioner with plenty of experience you can tell that Fran really knows her stuff, so let's find out a little more about her...

1. How did you get started in PR? 

I studied Geography at University, but had always liked the idea of travel writing. After graduating I travelled abroad for a couple of years and did some freelance writing, but didn’t really know much about ‘PR’ or how to get into it at the time. Back in the UK I saw a job advert for a PR assistant role in an organisation I really admired, got talking to the right people (there was an extreme element of luck and being in the right place at the right time as I had no experience!) and the rest is history.

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

I’m Head of Client Services at O and have been in the role almost three years. I love that I get to do a bit of everything – look after our clients and our people whilst having a say in the decisions which are helping drive O forwards and shaping its future with the senior management team. It’s a great mix.  

3. Why did you choose a career in PR? 

It bridges content creation with people – two of my favourite things.

4. What does your daily routine look like? 

No day is ever the same but they always start with an early nursery drop off to send my two-year-old on his way, following which I usually head either straight into the office or visit one of our clients. We introduced Agile in early 2018 so the morning can be peppered with team Kanbans to see where client accounts are at, during which I’ll provide any direction or senior level support advice the guys might need to move things forwards. I line manage a number of people in the team so I’ll often have several one-to-ones with staff during the week as well as lead on any personal development sessions they might need as part of our in-house training school, the Ocademy

5. Can you describe your job in three words? 

Fast-paced, unpredictable, rewarding

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

Without a doubt our MD and my mentor, Kari Owers – I was in the lucky position of working closely with her when I first joined O so I have definitely learnt from the best!

 7. What type of person thrives at your organisation? 

Someone who is curious and asks questions. It is a cliché but being a team player is a non-negotiable, we are all so busy there’s no room for ego here and we always have each other’s backs. Also, someone who is well networked.

Perhaps most importantly, showing you aren’t afraid to work really hard from the outset will put you in excellent stead.

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

The ability to focus, multitask and excellent interpersonal skills.

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

Probably being offered the role of Head of Client Services at O – the role was created around me and my skill set, which has to be one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received.

I also have to add the more recent moment which led me to meet Trinny Woodall. We were supporting Fenwick Newcastle with the launch of her make-up brand and she was incredible – all I had hoped for and more!

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

That it is absolutely vital for a business – whatever the size. The comms advisor should always have a seat at the board room table and ideally next to the key strategy makers. When implemented well, PR can achieve incredible results which impact bottom line. We are lucky to have a client base which values our contribution and they involve us in top level business discussions, ensuring we can get under the skin of their organisation and provide meaningful counsel.

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?

Work experience isn’t enough these days – do try and secure placements where you can but also think really carefully about what can set you apart from your peers and use it to your advantage – from how you present your CV through to any unique interests or passions you might have. Also, network, network, network!

Thanks you so much for your time Fran – it's been great to learn more about you and the impressive agency that is OPR!  

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