By Simon Coughlin, Senior Account Director
- What’s your career background, in brief?
After graduating from university I moved into local newspaper journalism and spent a few years covering everything from local council meetings to major court cases. I loved my time as a journalist and still use my short-hand today. I then moved into the world of PR, starting with insurer Allianz in Guildford before spending the next decade at in-house PR roles in FTSE 100 organisations. I joined Whiteoaks in 2017 and now enjoy a (usually) pleasant drive to our Hampshire office rather than the often-delayed train journey into London.
- What’s the most challenging job you’ve ever had?
I had a number of jobs during holiday periods while at university, from picking strawberries to making pizzas. But the most challenging job was trying to sell windows; hours on end cold calling householders only to have the phone slammed down within seconds. I admire anyone with the tenacity to succeed in sales!
- What apps, technology items and gadgets can’t you live without?
I’m a bit of a social media addict —Twitter recently alerted me to the fact that I have been on the platform for 10 years!
It’s great for keeping track of tech journos — what they are writing about and any requests for information and quotes. And as an avid football fan I like to keep up to date on anything to do with my team; Southampton. I’ve also recently started using Garmin watches — one for use during the day to keep track of steps, heart rate, etc., and one for when I (too infrequently) run to keep a record of distance, pace and routes.
- What’s the best advice you’ve been given? (life or career advice)
The nature of the roles I have had means that I have been involved with a large amount of crisis communications. When you first get a call from a journalist there is often a sense of panic, but I enjoyed the ‘war room’ mentality, ensuring all relevant stakeholders were involved in gathering the information to help us craft a response. The best advice I had when first starting in PR is that the key to crisis comms is preparedness — both in scenario planning and spokespeople training — and keeping calm. It’s PR, not ER!
- Name one thing about your job that gives you a sense of satisfaction or makes you leave the office smiling…
The biggest kick I still get from PR is getting national coverage for clients. There is nothing better than seeing the hard efforts of your team result in coverage that surpasses expectations. At Whiteoaks we are particularly strong in helping our clients make their voices heard in breaking news stories, such as a major cyber attack. Preparation and speed are key; being ready to contact the right journalists, at the right time with original, compelling commentary.
- Do you personalise your workspace?
We like to keep our desks fairly clear at Whiteoaks, but I do have a picture of my kids and a mug coaster of my football team.
- What’s the first thing you do in the office in the morning?
Make a strong black coffee before checking emails that have come in overnight, mainly from clients and partner agencies we work with in the US.
- What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment?
My big passion at the moment is the BBC series Line of Duty, the drama about a police anti-corruption unit. For me, it’s the best BBC thriller of recent years and creator Jed Mercurio – who also wrote the excellent Bodyguard – is one of the nation’s finest TV writers.