My Life in PR – This Much I Know, is an interview series that talks to PR professionals about their career journey and what they’ve learned along the way. From the innovation that they wish they had invented, to their favourite books and mentors who have left a lasting impact. This series covers more than just career advice and takes a look at the person behind the title. Hilary Collins is the Founder of Big Wave PR, an award-winning PR company based in Essex which was created to offer creative marketing solutions. Hilary began her career in PR in 1996 after finishing her degree in geography, by working as a PR Manager for Vail and Associates. From there, Hilary moved to Quay West Communications, and in 2007, took the plunge and set up her own communications firm, Big Wave PR. In her time leading the company, Big Wave PR have won nine Gold CIPR Pride Awards and have won the best consumer relations title seven years in a row.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without
My laptop, it goes everywhere with me, I couldn't operate without it.
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
The worldwide web! I used to step into libraries as a child and wish there was a place I could go to find out things that didn't necessarily live in an encyclopaedia. I used to bombard my mum with questions, she was my Alexa!
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
I love live music and I came upon this really interesting book, 'London Gig Venues' by Carl Allen. It's like the A-Z of music venues. It's fascinating to find out who played where and what happened to the buildings before and after rock stars took to the stage.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
My first passion was geography, but there weren't many outlets post degree. Town planning and teaching were the options and neither appealed to me. Fortunately, I was saved by an ad in the window of Campus Travel in Cambridge. They were looking for a student PR/events organiser. They gave me free travel to Mexico in return for me promoting their tours to students on campus. I had a great time and picked up invaluable work experience.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
Confidence! Believe in yourself. Sometimes it's only a skill learnt over time and experience.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
Make sure you're really passionate about PR. If you're not really passionate, there's probably a better career out there for you.
What are the three biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
Whatever level you are, whoever you are, just roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.
Bite off more than you can chew, then keep chewing.
Never settle for second best. Place creativity, hard work and fun at the centre of everything you do.
Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work
Never compromise on creativity.
Never settle for mediocre, be a challenger.
Be tenacious. If you're on the right path and you have the right ideas, it will be a success.
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
To raise awareness of what PR really is, not spin, not fake news, not something you do when something has gone wrong etc. And no, not all news is good publicity.
What are your top three media relations tips?
Read the media outlet before you contact them.
Create an original idea that would work well with the media outlet.
Ensure your media relations relate to your brand, not there just to get your name in the paper.
What do you love most about working in PR?
I get to make things happen.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Growing up I was a big fan of Kate Adie, she was a woman in what was a man's world. Later on in my career I got to work with her on a campaign and she didn't disappoint.
Who was your first boss in a media related job and what did you learn from them?
My first boss was the lovely Rita Vail at Vail & Associates. It was a small agency and I learnt directly from the boss. She completely took me under her wing and taught me everything from how to write a press release to event management. Her wisest words were 'attention to detail' and she wasn't wrong. We all need to check and double check to ensure all activity is bang on.
What has been the best campaign that you’ve worked on?
It's really hard to decide but working with the Royal British Legion to commemorate D-Day 75 and taking veterans of WWII back to where they once served to lay old ghosts to rest. It was amazing and very emotional. Also running a campaign for Visit Essex to challenge the Essex stereotype, as someone brought up and living in the county. That was a dream job.
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