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How to bridge into the UK PR scene as an expat

Moving abroad is both an exhilarating and brave to thing to do. Especially when you are still at the beginning of your career. September marks six months since packing my bags and moving from Toronto to London.

Back in June, when I was first applying for jobs, I was stuck in a bit of a rut. I looked long and hard at what I was doing and where I wanted to go (basically soul-searching). Of course, as a typical millennial, my search began on Google. I began typing in ‘tips on how to work in your chosen industry abroad’. Nothing came up. It soon hit me that this was my journey and needed to trailblaze it for myself in search of personal growth.

From my six months here, I’ve compiled a list of tips for fellow expats trying to bridge into the UK PR scene at the entry-level.

Opportunities arise from networking

To this day, I swear by networking. In fact, several job opportunities have arisen from networking. The beauty of the London PR scene is that is there is a plethora of agencies to directly connect with. I spent hours on LinkedIn and Twitter connecting with PR professionals messaging them to ask for a quick chat over coffee. I recommend connecting with industry professionals through our industry body, PRCA events and speaking with great recruiters like wearelatte to help get your foot in the door.

Understanding the UK media landscape

It could be just me, but I struggled to grasp the UK media landscape in the early stages. When one of my colleagues mentioned the term ‘red tops’, I thought they were referring to pens… I took for granted how many media outlets I could list off the top of my head back home. Whereas here, I’m having to go back to basics and build relationships with journalists from scratch, study the UK national publications and know the ins and outs of the general media landscape. To keep up-to-date with news and insights, try dedicating your mornings to reading local trade titles like PRWeek, PRMoment and The Drum.

Difference in brand recognition

The brands I previously worked with as clients might not be recognisable abroad. This is where I really needed to figure out how to pitch myself. Before moving to London, I worked for a major Canadian polytechnic institute. After some time, I realised I couldn’t just say “I worked for Humber College”. There needed to be a strong selling descriptor for employers to see its significance. Hence, my descriptor has changed to ‘largest college in Canada’. I edited my CV to eliminate any confusion employers might have with brands or companies I’ve worked for.

Living and breathing start-up life

I am so proud to say I work for a start-up agency that is already being recognised for its amazing work. One that was awarded PRCA Dare’s 'New Consultancy of the Year' 2018, might I add! Next month I will be attending my first awards evening. Exciting! Keeping everything crossed that we win, but to even be shortlisted is an achievement in our second year.

The best way to find agency information is through PRWeek’s Top 150, an annual list of the biggest and brightest agencies in the country. Usefully filtered by location, sector specialism, income and number of employees. You can see which agencies are on the rise. Marrying this with the PRCA careers page and you have a short list. These sites also post relevant information regarding salary advise and live jobs. Don’t forget the hot shops causing a buzz in the industry, like I did with Milk & Honey. Or you might just miss your perfect new role.

I still get questioned, ‘sorry, what exactly do you do?’ and my parents still have no clue. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. PR suits me right down to a T. Good job I still have another 30 odd years to go!

Brittany started her digital communications career in Toronto, Canada and moved to London in spring 2018. Prior to relocating she worked in recruitment communications for the largest college in Canada. She worked on various marketing campaigns and assisted in the social media strategy and email marketing for the overarching brand. In her early career, she was part of a team at a bespoke digital and influencer agency. 

Brittany is a client executive at Milk & Honey PR and can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.