Communications and PR continues to play a big part in the music industry with the promotion of releases and tours still one of the most important ways to grow as a musician or brand. We spoke to Stephen Oakes, a Communications Director at Break Communications to see what his job at the PR and Communications company involves from day to day and top tips for others to make it in communications.
What does your role entail on a day to day?
As a director of the actual company, it’s two-fold really. Our work has a heavy emphasis on using various forms of culture to engage youth audiences for our clients. We might be working on strategy for new campaigns, meeting clients, speaking to media and securing coverage. We can also be working with influencers to help add value to connect with our audiences, delivering focus groups, or managing events – it can involve pretty much anything. On the flipside, the agency needs running, our own branding and messaging needs to be on point, the campaigns we work on need to be the right fit, and there are always new business pitches to deliver, and our own marketing and social management – there’s a lot to be done but I have a hand in pretty much everything.
How did you land your current role?
I’d worked in communications for about 9 years, initially in a few intern roles whilst I was at university in Leeds, then when I moved to London I got into music PR. I worked my way up at a company, working on campaigns for everyone from David Guetta and Fergie from the BEPs to Jill Scott, Carl Cox, Armand van Helden. I then went freelance for a while and worked on projects for BBC Radio 1, MTV, Mates, and at Ogilvy. I eventually took the leap and set up Break Communications shortly after, which is just over 5 years ago now.
What is the best thing about your job?
The type of work we do and seeing the results in action. It’s exciting, it makes an impact, and we are constantly learning. I genuinely get a buzz from it. We are also lucky to work within a lot of different environments, we might be in at a radio station or theatre, down at a club night or exhibition or seminar, in meetings with brands and clients developing new ideas, or in a classroom delivering marketing and PR sessions for aspiring creatives. There’s a lot of variety.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Both the most challenging but also the most exciting is the fact that we are in an age when there aren’t really any rules. When I got my first job, the internet was only just a thing, PR and communications was very traditional, and digital PR was something tacked onto the end of a campaign – now we are in an almost unrecognisable landscape in comparison. Operating within such an agile world is a constant challenge but it is an age when pretty much anything is possible.
What other job roles do you work closely with?
Journalists, broadcasters, brand managers, musicians, artists, influencers, film-makers, event managers, other agencies, communications directors and PR teams.
What are the main skills needed to do your job?
Communication, both written and spoken. It helps if you have a keen eye for the written word – know the difference between there, their and they’re, how to write succinctly to suit tone and messaging.
Story-telling – it’s what it all boils down to, it’s why we do what we do, what are we saying, who to, and how.
Tenacity – don’t give up – if one way of doing something doesn’t work, what else can you try to achieve success?
A genuine thirst for youth culture is essential. What’s happening, what are people talking about and how does it impact on the world and your work?
What is your career highlight so far?
Reaching our fifth birthday earlier this year was a special moment. And I also ran into Jay-Z, literally, on a stairwell once, which I think was probably more exciting for me than him.
What do you wish you knew about the industry before you secured your job?
How much social media would turn it all on its head.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone that wants to work in PR and Communications?
Be prepared to challenge people, whether it’s your boss, client or co-workers – if you disagree, say so and say why, your input is valid and valuable. Aside from that, don’t expect it to be glamorous, but do expect to work above and beyond the call of duty.