What does a PR account executive really do?

Our account managers discuss how they have climbed the career ladder.

Movin’ on up

Whether leaving journalism behind, moving from an in-house role or launching a PR career fresh out of university, at Cartwright we pride ourselves on recognising potential and nurturing the development of our staff.

Rosie, Jemma, and Jo joined us as account executives and have since climbed the ladder to become three of our account managers. Here, they discuss the role of a PR account executive and why they choose to continue their career at Cartwright.

From in-house to agency

Rosie Needham-Smith joined us as a senior account executive in October 2017, before being promoted to account manager 12 months later.

“Having worked in-house at a design and interiors company doing PR, marketing, sales and everything in between, I really wanted to refine my PR skills.

“I quickly realised there was no better place to do this than at Cartwright.

“Working across many different sectors and industries, starting as a PR account executive means you jump right in at the deep end and it’s sink or swim.

“But with an incredibly supportive team of lovely people who are true experts in their field, most invariably swim!

“Before you become an account manager, it’s incredibly important to really understand every aspect of the account executive job and there’s no better way than by doing it yourself.

“It is arguably one of the most important roles within a PR agency – you are normally the one talking to journalists pitching stories and features and you quickly learn what is and isn’t going to work.

“Because you are the one hearing it from the horse’s mouth, your feedback to your account teams is invaluable.

“One of the most important skills I learned as an account executive is how to spin many, many different plates.

“AEs can work on anything from six to 12 different clients at one time, depending on the size of the accounts, so organisation and planning are key, as AEs are responsible for keeping on top of all admin.

“Your writing skills will step up as you are continually producing different kinds of content and writing for different platforms and publications.

“You will become an Excel wizard and Canva will become your best friend, but there’s also a lot of brilliant opportunities to be creative on the broader campaign ideas, too.”

Moving over to the ‘dark side’

Jemma Page joined Cartwright Communications as a PR account executive in May 2017. She was promoted to senior account executive in April 2018, before becoming an account manager in January 2019.

“My background is in journalism. It was a career I absolutely adored and was completely dedicated to. But I could sense it was beginning to take over my life so I started considering my next step.

“Many of my colleagues over the years had left the journalism industry and transitioned to the other side. So, the next natural step appeared to be a move to PR.

“I’d been working with Cartwright for a number of years – firstly as a blogger and then as a journalist – and, with journalism at its core, I knew the standard of writing, something that was very important to me, was high.

“I was lucky enough to secure a good job in journalism fresh out of university. It had consumed the first three years of my adult life and I’d spent years before that training. The notion of shifting careers and leaving behind everything I knew terrified me.

“Because of this, I made the decision to leave my senior reporter role and become a PR account executive so I could learn the industry from the ground up.

“From writing press releases to creating content to grow a client’s social media channels and then reporting on its success – the account executive role is vital in an agency. It gives you a good grounding and helps you to understand the PR industry as a whole.

“There’s no doubt I was thrown in at the deep end. I attended my first client meeting just one hour after stepping foot in the office and soon found myself juggling multiple accounts across several sectors.

“But the friendly, knowledgeable team we have here at Cartwright helped me along the way. I completed the company’s training programme for account executives and was given a line manager, who has helped me to progress.

“Not every journalist can hack it as a PR professional. While journalism can be very one-dimensional, PR is multi-faceted and the corporate culture is a major adjustment to make.

“Sometimes journalists see PR as an easy ride, which it’s certainly not. If you’re prepared to work hard and embrace the industry, you’re pretty much guaranteed a rewarding and successful career.

“I, for one, am extremely happy I took the leap almost two years ago.”

Graduating to a 9-5

Jo Aitchison started her career at Cartwright Communications, joining as a PR account executive in June 2015 after graduating from University of Nottingham. Almost four years later, she’s now an account manager.

“I actually had to take annual leave to go to my graduation ceremony – thankfully, it was only down the road!

“Although it was my first job, I’d interned at a few PR agencies throughout university so I did have some idea of what to expect. Experience counts for a lot and I would definitely recommend interning as a way of finding out if PR is the job for you.

“I still remember my first client meeting at Cartwright; I took about 12 pages of notes and said approximately three words. It’s daunting starting your first job, with no idea about meeting etiquette, office culture or how to even use the phones or structure emails. But Cartwright has been the best place to learn all of this – and more.

“Being a PR account executive at Cartwright means getting involved in all aspects of the business – networking, client meetings, creative brainstorms, new business pitches, writing features, creating social media calendars, producing video content, speaking to journalists – and that’s something I really enjoyed.

“I’d heard from friends who worked for big, global PR agencies that they weren’t even allowed to email their clients – everything had to be filtered through their account manager. It’s not like that at Cartwright.

“Experiencing every aspect of PR helps prepare you to become an account manager and you certainly learn a lot. At Cartwright, you’re trusted to behave professionally and given the freedom to attend events and client meetings, with the support of your team – rather than being hidden away behind a desk doing the admin.

“There’s no sense of ‘hierarchy’, we all chip in and help one another and are extremely collaborative – no question is too stupid, believe me.

“Starting my PR career at Cartwright has been great. You won’t find a more friendly, supportive, sociable or nurturing group of people who genuinely want one another to succeed. We celebrate each other’s successes as if they were our own and we genuinely want one another to do well.

“It’s been a great four years and, in a job that’s always evolving, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next four years will bring…”

By Cartwright Communications

Cartwright Communications is a team of PR and digital experts. Our roots are in journalism and our focus is on devising content-led integrated communications strategies for our clients. We work with consumer and business-focussed clients in Nottingham, the Midlands, across the UK and internationally across a variety of market sectors.