Katrina Podlewska - Westonbirt Arboretum

Katrina PodlewskaName: Katrina Podlewska

Job title: Communications Manager

Employer: Westonbirt Arboretum

Find Kat on Twitter @KatPodders.

How did I get started in Public Relations?

I studied media and journalism at university and decided then that a career in PR or journalism was for me. To help decide I undertook as much work experience as I could – at BBC local radio and TV, local newspapers, media ethics charity MediaWise and PR agencies. Through work experience after university an opportunity came up in PR and I haven't looked back.

What do I do?

I am currently a Communications Manager working for the Forestry Commission at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire. My role covers traditional press and broadcast media relations through to online, internal communications and social media. I also support the arboretum's charity, the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, with their fundraising and stakeholder communications.

The role offers many wide and varied experiences. I could start a week introducing a journalist to Westonbirt's latest area of work and finish it by writing a treatment for some filming - with a bit of market research and strategy thrown in between. I also sit on the West of England CIPR committee and edit the regional members' newsletter.

What motivates me about this job?

There are so many opportunities on both a local and national level. I work with local and national media, tourism networks and associations, charities (including the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum) and NGOs. The Forestry Commission manages Westonbirt Arboretum, so there are also many environmental angles to cover and support.

What skills do I need to do my job?

Understanding the motivations of different groups of stakeholders – from visitors and members to staff or concession holders – is important. So are the basic communications skills of knowing the strengths of a story and how to convey something of interest to media contacts.

We are a small communications and marketing team working onsite to service several interests and areas. Learning to prioritise and manage internal expectations is also important. So many stories, angles and requests sing out, we need to assess what the communications needs are in everything.

Why did I choose to enrol in CPD?

I chose to enrol in the CPD scheme to strengthen my skills and keep up-to-date with industry knowledge. PR is just like any other competitive profession – if you don't keep your knowledge up to date, you will fall behind in your field. The range of materials in the CIPR CPD scheme is really good and most importantly for me (and probably for many others) they vary in length and price. You can spend 20 minutes reading a blog for a quick, free update or attend a seminar for more in-depth learning.

What do I want to do next?

I have enrolled on the CIPR diploma to widen my strategic communications skills, so am very much looking forward to that over the next year.

What advice do I have for someone starting out in Public Relations?

Get as much work experience as possible to figure out what area suits your skills and keep in touch with contacts you make. Join the CIPR. Even if it's just as a student membership, the opportunity to network or gain a mentor will be hugely beneficial. Lastly, contribute to your regional CIPR committee as this will give an additional boost to your CV and get you in front of the different faces of your potential future employers and colleagues!