‘Believe it or not, it all started from a simple tweet’

The Luxury Student sits down with Austyn Close, Senior PR Executive. We find out what it's really like behind the scenes of the PR world.

It is so wonderful to be able to hear your side of the story, PR sounds glamorous but tough to work in, so tell us how you reached your position in your career? 

You’ve hit the nail on the head. Counselling clients and working on some pretty significant projects all sounds wonderful – especially when you work in high-end residential property like myself – but in reality it’s a tough gig at times. There’s a common misconception that the industry, on a day-to-day level, clinks glasses of champagne or has long, drawn out lunches with clients and journalists.  

I was extremely fortunate to come into my role and believe it or not, it all started from a simple tweet. I followed someone who had the ‘poster boy’ job title I was striving for – I felt it was important to analyse what others were doing and the sort of companies / jobs that were out there. I was applying for positions since second year of university and tried to have as many conversations as possible but nothing was coming my way, and when it did, it never went any further than an initial interview. 

One day I let my frustrations of getting nowhere spill out onto Twitter, and then said person with the ‘poster boy’ job title reached out to me after seeing my tweet, asking to meet for a coffee. After he introduced me to a number of his friends who worked across different agencies, I landed myself a job at Newgate Communications. From that first coffee in March until the June of that year when I graduated, I had bagged a role and it was 10x more effective than the hours I spent on applications. Getting in front of people, speaking your case, asking questions and just showing your drive was my ticket into the industry. It all started from a simple, frustrated tweet. 
Since then, I’ve worked in both London and Shanghai because I’ve been relentless in what I want to get out of work. 

What is your day to day work like?

I would be lying if I said it was a breeze. It’s tough and involves a lot more than just spinning a story, putting some fluffy words together and being a ‘people person’. It’s managing different client expectations, working as a single team for a common goal and getting as much mileage out of a project as possible. Sure there are occasions when you get to go to swanky events and mingle with powerful people, but the satisfaction comes from being the one behind the scenes making it all happen in the first place. 

What are the skills you need to work in PR? Something that education does not necessarily teach you? 

Time management is a big one. You’re juggling so many different clients that you have to know how long you’re spending on certain tasks and projects to ensure you’re being as productive as possible. The other two skills I would say are an ability to write engagingly and thinking proactively. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What do people tend to do after having a number of years in PR? 

That’s a tough question. I think everyone likes to have an idea of what they’ll be doing and where they’ll be in the next decade but I’m not sure I can give you an affirmative answer on that one. What I will say however is that I want to be in a position where I have a specialist set of experiences and expertise that allow me to continue advising companies. I want to acquire a level of knowledge on a particular area and have that as my niche so to speak. PR as an industry offers quite a transferable skillset – many consultants move into journalism, government, private companies etc. It offers a wide berth of opportunities. 

As someone who works to support the business, the brand and their growth, for anyone starting a business or working on their personal brand what advice would you give them?

Think commercially but think authentically. I’ve watched as friends tried to shoehorn themselves into business ventures they weren’t sure about to begin with and that shows in their approach to managing it. It’s been said before but stay true to yourself. Never let go of what your end goal is and even if what you’re doing now isn’t it, make sure that it’s helping you reach it in some shape or form. 
Going back to the authenticity point, a lot of people seem to think they have to leave their personal interests and passions at home and get the job done at work. When you work in PR, bringing your own individual flair and interests to work is exactly how you stand out and bring value. The value you create as a result of this ends up being commercially worth it. 

Do all businesses need PR? 

Absolutely. It’s one of those departments or areas of a business that often is the first to have its budgets cut. What businesses don’t tend to realise is that without an effective communications strategy, you’re not talking to anyone outside of your office walls. You want to shout about securing some funding? Then you need someone to handle external communications. Businesses without an arsenal of PR tools are talking to no one and no one is talking to them. On the flip side, I could tell you about countless cases where valuations of companies have been wiped out because of poorly managed crises. I’m sure both you and I know of tweets by executives that have caused great reputational damage. 

On a personal note, what books, TV-series, podcasts are you currently interested in? 

I’m a big politico and tend to watch and read things that are non-fiction or related to current affairs. A book I’m reading at the moment is Divided by Tim Marshall which is all about how we’re living in an age of walls and borders. On a lighter note, I’ve just finished the final season of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix which I absolutely loved. On podcasts, I have to admit I’m not as adventurous with these, but I love Monocle 24’s host of shows and briefings on culture, business and travel. 

Do you check your emails on your days off? And how do you switch off from work-mode? 

I think everyone in my industry checks emails even on the weekend and in the evenings. I’m making more of a conscious effort to disable the notifications or move the app to a place in my phone that I won’t be tempted to check. I like to read non-work related content, listen to music, have a bath, make myself a gin and tonic – simple pleasures really. 

What trends do you foresee in the future with luxury? 

I love this question. I think it’s really important and very topical. How do people interpret the meaning of ‘luxury’ for themselves? It’s a really intriguing concept because you can’t dictate what is luxurious to someone – what you value may not be valued in the same way by another. 
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I believe the future of luxury will take on a whole new meaning. It was already on a course to take on an entirely different shape and form but the pandemic, like most things, has sped up the process. Luxury will be tailored to the individual and respond to their idea of happiness, whether that’s a new car or having an excuse to spend more time with those you love. 

What are your favourite brands right now? 

I think my favourite brand (one which I aspire to own a few items of some day) is a French menswear label, De Fursac. Their way of envisioning how a man should dress is reflective of the way I strive to present myself. In terms of other brands I attach great admiration to, travel connoisseurs such as Belmond, EDITION Hotels and Aman are on my list. If I’m looking to treat myself, a Floris or Creed fragrance doesn’t go amiss. Condé Nast and Monocle magazine I admire from a media perspective while in the interior design world, my eyes are drawn to Martin Brudnizki’s work. I’m inspired by eclectic and bespoke designs that have been considered intelligently. 

Follow Austyn on @austynclose and connect with him on LinkedIn

Cover photo: @ifrah_doodles Accepting personalised commissions with 50% of profits donated to Black Lives Matter.

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