Name: Harika Chadha.
Job title: Senior Press and Social Media Officer.
Employer: General Social Care Council.
Find Harika on Twitter @HarikaC.
How did I start my career?
I started my career as a journalist for a national newspaper in India, and discovered I had a natural talent for story-telling. Using my skills and experience of the media I began to work with organisations to help them communicate better with their audiences. I then came to the UK to study a Masters degree in Public Relations and Communication. My first few jobs in London were in PR agencies, before I moved in-house to my current role.
What do I do?
I manage the press and social media functions of the organisation, reporting to the Head of Communications. The day-to-day activities in my job are quite varied: developing strategies, dealing with urgent media enquiries, handling internal issues around launching publications, and managing and briefing press at our social worker conduct hearings while simultaneously keeping an eye on our social media channels.
I also research ideas for press releases and discuss possible features on issues affecting social work regulation with relevant editors, for example collecting case studies and stats for a feature in the Guardian on professional boundaries.
What motivates me in this job?
I feel proud to work for an organisation whose purpose is to protect the public, especially children and vulnerable people, through professional regulation of social workers. I want to make sure that we communicate in the best possible way, not just with the 100,000 social workers we regulate but also the public at large. I am lucky to work with a team of people who are open to ideas and change, and with the support of colleagues across the organisation, our communications have been open, honest and transparent at every step.
What skills do I need?
Strong verbal and written communication skills are obviously important, as is the ability to quickly absorb complex issues and distil them into media friendly messages. I deal with a lot of sensitive and confidential information; strategic PR planning is the key to minimising mistakes or deviations from agreed messages, even when under pressure from the media.
The most important skills I've gained are good judgement, the ability to anticipate potential issues and plan in advance how to manage them, and remaining calm in a crisis, both online and offline.
What did I gain from my CIPR qualification?
The course was a good balance of theory and practice, with some very knowledgeable and experienced tutors. It has enriched my understanding of PR, and the professional accreditation allows me to demonstrate my dedication to the field.
For my personal research project I took on a topic that was particularly pertinent to my organisation and researched it comprehensively, using the methods learnt during the course. The findings were very interesting and I plan to share them with the College of Social Work, with the aim of improving the relationship between social workers and the media.
Where do I go next?
My organisation is due to close soon, and I'm therefore looking for my next big challenge. With my CIPR diploma in hand, I'm aiming to advance into a PR management role.
What advice do I have for someone starting out in Public Relations?
People who want a career in PR should make sure they know exactly what they're getting into.
It's not all glam and "let's do lunch" culture like in Ab Fab!
Successful PR involves a lot of hard work and perseverance, and requires always keeping your eye on the ball. Studying a degree or diploma in PR will give you a good grounding in the important principles of PR.
Consider spending time 'shadowing' an experienced PR professional while they're at work, to see exactly what they get up to.