Our Alumnus of the Month for June is Leigh Greenwood, an English and Media Studies graduate who has spent 18 years working in public relations. He recently established his own firm specialising in the healthcare sector, Evergreen PR. He spoke to us about his work in the industry, contributing to the COVID response and his advice for the graduates of 2020.
"When I first came to look at universities, there was still a lot of uncertainty for me. I was still deciding what I wanted to do for a future career and what I wanted to learn. One thing that stood out with DMU is that it was really flexible in terms of what degree programmes you could combine. DMU had a brilliant set up for media studies and great equipment for a range of media production styles, but I felt a joint honours degree would help broaden my prospects.
"In terms of my career since graduating, this balance of skills has been really helpful. It's absolutely vital when planning a public relations campaign to be thorough with your research and really dig into the subject you're working on, which is something I definitely improved at over the course of my degree.
"PR is absolutely about creating a compelling narrative and over the last decade campaigns have become a lot more visual with social media and digital presence. Video content and films are a great way to get your point across. Even though I don’t actually produce them myself, I find it really important understand what is required and what is feasible to accomplish, so my media training has been a great foundation for my professional development.
"Straight after graduating from DMU I went to work as a journalist for a local paper, The Coalville Times. I worked there for 18 months before making the transition to my first role in PR, as a Press Officer for the Oral Health Foundation (OHF). From there I worked my way up to the position of Head of Media at the OHF. I credit my time there for first sparking my interest in the healthcare sector generally.
"Following my time with the OHF, I decided to make the transition to work for Slimming World. This was at a time when social media, particularly in a corporate sense, was really starting to take off and I was tasked with establishing the company's social media channels and forming a team to maintain our online presence.
"I really enjoyed my nine years with the company and I had the chance to work alongside healthcare bodies, government agencies and the in-house science team to help improve peoples' health outcomes.
"My last job before founding my own firm was with a leading marketing agency, Jaywing, where I managed a team of eight in looking after a number of major clients. This gave me some fantastic experience dealing with large brands and helped develop my confidence before setting out on my own. My time at Jaywing did make me realise that I missed working in the healthcare sector and so eight months ago I made the decision to found Evergreen PR.
"Based at the Sheffield Technology Parks, Evergreen PR is a public relations firm specialising in healthcare, with clients including Ascenti, Vtuls and the British Tinnitus Association. The way we work with our clients is very outcomes focused rather than just numbers based.
"We like to think and plan with a view to long term success, focussing on what the business wants to ultimately achieve. We work with third party developers and experts to provide a comprehensive service of everything a client needs to launch and maintain a successful campaign.
"I'm incredibly proud of the work we've done with our current clients, especially during these difficult times. For example, leading physiotherapy providers Ascenti have developed an app through which they offered free therapy sessions to older people and NHS staff who were working long, physically demanding shifts during lockdown. Likewise, Swiss health-tech company Vtuls are currently providing their vital sign monitoring technology to care homes free of charge to help combat the effects of COVID-19.
"We have won numerous national and regional awards for our campaigns from bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Public Relations Consultancy Association (PRCA) and the International Association for the Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). We were also delighted to have a client named as a superhero company in the Guardian for their work on COVID-19.
"I recognise that these are exceptional and difficult times for graduates looking to move into the professional world, my advice to them would be: don’t be put off by job descriptions that seem intimidating. Be willing to take a chance even if you don’t necessarily tick all of the boxes for a job, show how your skills can add value to a position.
"For me, attitude and communication skills are two of the biggest two factors I look for in employees. I want to hire someone driven to achieve their goals, who will work hard and not let things drift.
"Be curious and open to learning new things, there is no shame in not knowing how to do something. Demonstrating that you're willing to adapt and overcome professional challenges will set you apart from the crowd."
Posted on Tuesday 30th June 2020