"It is generally much more shameful to lose a good reputation than never to have acquired it."

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Lucy McGill, currently a PR manager at Cancer Research UK. She graduated from Bournemouth University in 2004 after completing her placement year at Arsenal FC. Since then, she has worked with Comic Relief, including Sport Relief, London Film Festival, and Cancer Research UK. In her seven years since graduation Lucy has already worked her way up to senior positions.


Expertise: Broadcast PR
I started as a Media Assistant at Comic Relief for
Sport Relief '06 on a six month contract, and 3 Red Nose Day campaigns and 3 Sport Relief campaigns later, I am still with Comic Relief, having worked my way up to the position of Senior Media Officer. Because of the nature of Comic Relief's campaigns, they need a huge press team during campaigns and a tiny press team during the summer, so I while I have spent some summers working on projects at Comic Relief, other years I have gone off to freelance elsewhere; doing 2 years in a row as a Senior Publicist on the London Film Festival, and this year I am covering maternity leave as a PR manager at Cancer Research UK. I absolutely love the variety of experience working on this basis has given me - enabling me to continue doing a job I adore at Comic Relief while broadening my horizons and enhancing my CV at other organisations. Once I've finished at Cancer Research I will be heading back to Comic Relief for Sport Relief 2012!

My key role at Comic Relief for over 3 years was to manage their broadcast PR strategy. This role involved managing where Comic Relief appeared across TV and radio during our campaigns - managing partnerships with the likes of Radio 1 (working with the Chris Moyles Breakfast team on ideas for just how he will beat whatever he raised for us last time), Radio 5 Live, The One Show and BBC Breakfast. The role involved a lot of talking to producers and guest bookers on TV and radio shows, getting them excited about the campaign and making sure that we keep shows talking about Comic Relief for the whole length of the campaign - not just on the day itself!

Why PR?
I'd always wanted to work in the media in some way and wasn't sure what. Part of me thought I might like to be a journalist but then while I was doing my A Levels I read about the course at Bournemouth and realised that in PR you can work with the media, but in any industry you choose - if you're into film, you can go into film PR, beauty, politics, travel - the list is endless! 

So why Bournemouth?
The placement was by far the best thing about the course for me. You leave uni 100 times more employable than graduates without it. 

Where did you complete your placement?
Arsenal FC                                                      4 out of 5
I absolutely loved it. I can't think of another placement the uni offered at that time which offered as much exposure to national journalists dealing with front and back page news on a daily basis. It was the perfect introduction to a fast paced media environment - even just being there soaking in everything that was going on was valuable enough - but they really got me involved from the beginning, working at press conferences, matches - I even travelled to a Champions League game in Germany with the team which I never expected to do as a placement student!

You’ve moved on to not for profit PR now, what’s that like?
I'd never set out to get into not for profit PR but now I really can't imagine doing anything else. I've been lucky enough to visit several projects in Africa with Comic Relief, and have met cancer survivors at CRUK who have been cured by drugs the charity helped to develop. When you meet people that your organisation has helped it's the greatest motivator to go into work do a great job because what you're doing is important to so many people. 

Comic Relief is quite different from other charities because it's so driven by entertainment - so while the PR that you're doing does promote where the money is spent and why it's an important cause, the campaign is built around the big TV show, the single, the celebrity challenges and all the other exciting stuff that happens as part of Comic Relief - so you find you're talking to entertainment and feature journalists more than anything - other aid charities might try and engage international development journalists or hard news journalists - but at Comic Relief the power of entertainment is the key!

At Cancer Research I'm working on a range of projects, which mostly have a human interest/ health angle - like their SunSmart campaign - a health awareness campaign encouraging people to take care in the sun, and The Bobby Moore Fund, which is raising funds and awareness for bowel cancer. So this involves lots of selling in case studies as real life features and thinking of creative ways to get journalists to write about the health messaging. 

In-house or Agency?
I have to say I've never worked for an agency and it doesn't really appeal to me. I enjoy working within the organisation that I'm PRing and think I've got to the stage of my career now where I'll always be an in-house girl. I definitely want to stay within charity PR and hopefully work my way up to a senior level - although I'm not sure I'd want to get to such a senior position where you never speak to journalists or negotiate coverage because that's what I love most about the job.

What’s your favourite campaign?
My favourite campaign has to be the Red Nose Day just gone (RND'11). I was managing all of the TV publicity with an excellent assistant (which is key to enjoying a campaign!). There was so much great TV during that campaign - Take That shot a spoof video with a bunch of comedians which I got to go on with them (my dream since the age of 12!), and we got double pages in The Sun, The Mirror, The Star and loads of online. James Corden did another Smithy sketch which we got on the front page of the Radio Times and all over the papers. I spent three days on the road with the four boys from The Inbetweeners doing a 'Rude Road Trip' which was all over The Sun, Heat magazine and Radio 1. And the icing on the cake was spending a few days with David Tennant in Uganda making an appeal film and a report for The Radio Times and Radio 1. I never would have hoped of doing even one of these things in my career when I started out but to do them all in the space of four months was the most incredible experience.

Advice for students
·         An obvious one - but get as much experience as you can possibly get.
·         Be as keen as you can possibly muster - interns / assistants that wait to be asked to do something aren't the ones that will end up with job offers at the end of contracts- it's all about being proactive.
·         Don't be scared to ask questions and find out why a publicist made a decision. An intern once really grilled me about why I chose to put someone on Daybreak over BBC Breakfast when Breakfast had double the viewers and it shows that you're keen to learn and thinking strategically if you question things (although pick your moments - if it's obviously a moment of stress, perhaps save your grilling for a quieter moment!). 
So why has Lucy made it to the list? In seven years of graduating, she has worked with huge charities on a mixture of projects and clearly knows her sector well. She is one of the few people I’ve seen who is keeping her options open and on short-term contracts adding a variety to her CV.
You can follow Lucy on Twitter at @lucymcgill

Jessica North

Author & Editor

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