Often when we think of women in PR, a stereotypical set of characters can spring to mind. Whether it’s Samantha Jones from Sex and The City or Ab Fab’s Eddie Monsoon – popular culture over the years has shaped the perception of the ‘PR guru’ as being paid to attend glitzy events and enjoying endless glasses of champagne. In reality, it’s a job that simply requires exceptional communication skills and a real love for building relationships with others.
In the run up to International Women's Day, we were lucky enough to catch up with three former LJMU Business and Public Relations students, who all graduated with first class honours and have gone on to forge amazingly successful careers in the world of marketing and PR. They are Beckie Turnbull, Senior Social Media Manager at Pretty Little Thing, Rose Jackson, Communications Manager for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, and Eve Rodway, PR Executive at THG. Here they share insights of their career journeys so far, their most influential female role models, and what it means to them to be a female manager in 2021…
Tell us about your experiences studying at LJMU…
Beckie: I studied Business and Public relations, graduating in 2013. I was actually in line to work in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, as I was part of the Sea Cadet Corp for over 10 years, and was looking to work in that area. I always had a love of PR and events as a hobby but never saw it as a viable career or degree choice. I was set to join LJMU to do Marine Navigation and then switched last minute to my course, and haven’t looked back since!
Rose: Living away from home for the first time taught me more than I could imagine. It was a shock to the system at first – and it didn’t help that I started my first term on crutches! Things got much better in my second year. I joined the LJMU Dance Society, which was the best decision I made. Dance has always been my passion and hobby, so it was amazing to spend my evenings doing that and making friends at the same time. It was a real confidence boost and gave me something to focus on other than studying.
Eve: I really enjoyed my learning experience at LJMU, I am a practical person and the course was well suited to that. The fact that one of our assignments was to hold a press conference in a TV studio was amazing and a real highlight for me. The content was also really current and the lecturers were so helpful. Discussion workshops in particular felt like a real safe space to run with your ideas which aided my understanding a lot, and I’m grateful for that. During the years I felt myself growing in confidence alongside my classmates, and I definitely learnt a lot more than just the course content at LJMU.
Did you have the opportunity to take on any work experience during your time at university that helped you along the way?
Beckie: I personally took every break and bit of time off that I had to look for and take on work experience. I spent as much time as possible in the library or on work placements to gain more experience, and I truly believe that is what has made me so driven and determined. It helped me to focus on the sector that I wanted to pursue as a career, which was social media.
Rose: I secured a 12-month placement as a PR and Communications intern at Kellogg’s, which was incredibly valuable. From writing press releases to drafting reactive statements, I soon got a feel for how fast-paced the PR industry is. I also organised an event at the Houses of Parliament, supported on launches of the latest cereal products, and even worked with Sir Steve Redgrave when Kellogg’s sponsored Team GB at Rio 2016. I was definitely thrown in at the deep end, but it just helped me to learn even quicker.
Eve: I studied and graduated in the midst of the COVID pandemic, so things weren’t exactly always easy! But I did still get the opportunity to do a placement as soon as the vacancies opened. I put my all into the application process and was lucky enough to get offered a PR role in the Communications Department at Airbus UK. I worked as a Community Engagement Assistant, it really was a dream job, and it was my first time working in an office so I felt very lucky. Ultimately it reaffirmed my desire to pursue this type of career in the future.
Can you tell us a bit about your job role is now and where you work?
Beckie: I’m currently the Senior Social Media Manager at online fashion retailer Prettylittlething.com, part of the Boohoo Group. I’ve been here for four years now and I’m responsible for 11 team members who create the organic content across our channels and work on the performance of these channels, focusing on growth and engagement. The Boohoo Group is a world-leading fashion company renowned for our massive social media following and forward-thinking approach to marketing and interacting with customers online. My job is a big part of our whole online process.
Rose: I’m the Communications Manager for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which truly feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Birmingham 2022 will be the biggest event that’s ever been staged in the West Midlands, and the biggest sporting event in the UK since the London 2012 Olympics, so I feel really lucky to be directly involved. I’ve launched a national competition for the design of the Birmingham 2022 mascot, interviewed world-class athletes, and made milestone announcements on the progress of the Games. I can’t wait to see it come to life in the summer of 2022!
Eve: I am delighted to have gained a role in the PR space after University and I am a PR Executive at THG in their Corporate Communications department. I’m currently on their Graduate Programme, which involves technical training in different areas of THG to learn more about how the business works, and professional training too alongside your day-to-day role in your team. It’s a real mix, and I’ve been able to build on my placement experience, which I love. Every day brings new opportunities to learn and grow.
Tell us a bit about the journey from graduating from LJMU to securing your dream role?
Beckie: I jumped into the first role I could get my hands on when I left LJMU, although the field wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be (in the automotive sector). Despite this, I saw it as experience and made the most of the aspects of the role that most appealed to me. I then moved to THG, and after working hard and developing there for three years, I was able to land my current role as Social Media Manager at Pretty Little Thing. However there were still difficulties along the way. One major thing with a career in social media is the fact it’s a 24/7 job that can be so time consuming. But luckily I’ve found this easy to overcome, because I honestly have so much love for what I do, so it really doesn’t always feel like ‘work’.
Rose: After my final exam at LJMU, I moved back home to Birmingham in May 2017. I spent a few months applying for Account Executive roles at PR agencies in Birmingham and was offered my first job by August. Already having a year of experience under my belt made so much difference. I took my portfolio to my interview to showcase the breadth of work I’d done to date, proving that I was up to the job. I was promoted to Senior Account Executive and later to Account Manager in the three years I was at the agency.
Eve: I was offered my current role while finishing off my degree, which was a real weight off my shoulders and meant I could focus on my dissertation and final year modules. Although trying to finish them off when we just went into lockdown wasn’t easy, adjusting to virtual calls with lecturers and trying to grasp course content remotely was a challenge, but it definitely taught me to adapt to my surroundings. Trying to form strong relationships with colleagues and master my day-to-day role from home was different to my placement experience, but I was grateful to my newly-formed network of fellow graduates who were in the same situation!
How do you find the PR working world from the perspective of being a young professional woman? And how would you like to see the workplace improve in terms of equality in the future?
Beckie: I love how the sector has adapted to change over the last decade, and I think it’s great that social media has so greatly impacted how we work today. My workplace is very supportive – the Pretty Little Thing family is amazing to work with and I always feel seen as an employee. In terms of the future, I’d like to see more and more women in senior board positions. This is normal for my work, but I would like to see this more for other companies to encourage more women to strive higher and to not limit themselves to outdated social norms.
Rose: I worked in a predominantly female team at my previous job. It was empowering to be surrounded by so many successful and determined women, many of whom were working mums. Some had been awake most of the night looking after their little ones, and would then come into the office to smash a full day of work – and I thought I was tired! When I think about the future, the recent necessity to work from home will have changed the rulebook in a positive way. More employers will now offer flexible working when they were previously restrictive. This will hopefully lead to more women applying for that job or that leadership position in the confidence that they’ll be able to thrive in both the workplace and in their personal lives.
Eve: I can definitely say that my first six months in the PR world have been extremely positive, even despite the pandemic backdrop. Having inspiring team members and a manager who I learn from every day is a great help, and I really do feel that my ideas are heard – even ran with! This is massively encouraging for myself and all females in the business, and it gives me high hopes for the future of my career here.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in the PR industry in 2021?
Beckie: I think it’s very empowering to be working in the industry I’m in at this moment in time. I’m really proud to be a woman working in such a competitive, challenging and rewarding field. Agility and adaptability are essential to my job, which is something that I really love about it. I enjoy working with every single one of my colleagues to make sure we can work together to tackle everything thrown our way. I find that there is a particular emphasis on inclusion in the fashion industry, which is great, as it means I feel totally supported and valued as a woman within a diverse company.
Rose: It’s really exciting to be working in the PR industry right now. It’s an evolving industry and there’s so much to learn and explore. So much has changed even in the short time since I started my career – I don’t think anybody had even heard of TikTok when I started. With this in mind, it’s important for me, as a woman, to always have confidence to suggest new ideas.
Are there any women who particularly inspire you?
Beckie: Female CEO’s such as Huda Beauty, Sedge Beswick and Charlotte Tilbury always inspire me as they have mastered their craft and become gurus in their own areas. They are strong women with great ambition and that is what I love to see.
Rose: If you were to look at my Instagram feed, Beyoncé and Serena Williams are the first to pop up - I’m always inspired by their strong work ethic. But I get far more inspiration from the hard-working women I surround myself with. There’s my cousin who works for the NHS on COVID wards, my friend who started side-businesses during lockdown whilst being promoted at work, and my colleagues who are juggling home-schooling their kids while working from home. All these women are at different stages in their lives and have completely different careers, but each show strength and resilience in everything they do.
Eve: It might be cliché answer, but I would say my mum. To hear about some of her achievements at work and how she got there from where she started, having not gone to university herself, inspires me greatly. Another inspiration would be Karen Brady CBE, who against all of the odds at the age of 23 became the Managing Director of Birmingham City F.C. She received many rejections after studying journalism at university, but didn’t let anything phase her or hold her back from going on to do great things.
How will you be marking International Women’s Day this year?
Beckie: I will choose to mark it by appreciating not only the powerful and inspiring women in my life, but also the men that equally support these women the same as their male counterparts. Equality should be celebrated on this day.
Eve: I’m looking forward to seeing the variety of virtual events taking place online, as well as taking in many other pieces of content to mark the day. I am interested to see what other brands, publications, and organisations do to mark the day as well, and will be keeping an eye on what my favourite brands put out there.
Rose: I’ll be dropping a message to all the women in my life and reminding them that they are absolutely smashing it!
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Liverpool Business School will be holding an event that explores this year’s theme of equality for women in leadership in the post COVID-19 world. Our event ‘Celebrating Women’s Success: What are your breaks and brakes?’ will be an open conversation held on Zoom, with one morning and one afternoon session*. These conversations will be hosted by Dr Hazel Andrews and facilitated by Dr Jan Brown and will be informal in nature, with as many participants as possible encouraged to join.
Also on Monday, Liverpool Business School will be celebrating our growing collaboration with the Northern Power Women. LJMU have recently built their programme into ours, allowing us to link up with a network of 60,000 likeminded business people. They too will be hosting their own event on International Women’s Day, focusing on the theme of #ChooseToChallenge. You can book you place through Eventbrite.
We’d love to see you at one of our International Women’s Day events. So if you get some spare time let’s grab a coffee, share your highlights and start celebrating women in leadership together!
If you’ve also been inspired by Beckie, Rose and Eve’s career stories, then why not check out LJMU’s Business and Public Relations degree? Our CIPR accredited course is ideal preparation for an amazing career in public relations, and offers exciting placement opportunities as far flung as China and the USA. Visit Liverpool Business School to find out more about the courses we offer.
*Our 'Celebrating Women’s Success: What are your breaks and brakes? ' Zoom event can be accessed with the following details:
The 11am-12pm session:
Meeting ID: 884 6977 8503
The 1pm-2pm session:
Meeting ID: 814 3242 3788