Alison Haywood on building a career in Content Management and the future of jobs post Covid19

In this interview, Alison, a Hamburg graduate (2012-2014) and Content Manager at a PR agency, talks about her career in Marketing and PR and how the pandemic has changed her line of work.

2020.08.10 | Sabeen Jamil

Alison Haywood works as a Content Manager for Faktor 3 AG in Hamburg.

Mundus Journalism: Marketing and Public Relations is not an obvious career choice for Mundus Journalism graduates. How did your career move in this direction? 

Alison: I transitioned from journalism to marketing and PR out of necessity. Before Mundus, I did some journalism internships and student reporting jobs in my home country United States.  During my Mundus journey too, I built my journalistic portfolio by working with the Jutland Station, and by keeping a travel blog.  But when I came to Hamburg, I needed to earn money to support myself so I did a lot of student jobs which were mostly non-journalism related.  At one of these jobs, I learned content management, social media management, and a bit of SEO. After graduation, the first job offer that I got was of Content Manager at an agency for cruise lines. I got a lot more into content marketing, content management, email newsletter marketing, and social media marketing at work. Last year, I moved jobs because my position was being eliminated at the travel agency. I joined my current company which is a PR agency. My work here involves storytelling, arranging PR events, and using different online and offline channels to spread the message. I am also learning about PR consultation, product management, and event management.

MJ: How was the transition from journalism to content management and PR? 

Alison: It was easy in terms of finding jobs, competition in the field, job security, and work benefits. Work shifts are also more comfortable. On a philosophical level, the transition from objective journalism to non-objective marketing was terrifying. As a journalism student, you are taught to do journalism for social justice, give voice to people, be objective. But marketing is very straightforward. Unlike in journalism where you have to be objective, in marketing, you are not using facts just giving people a feeling that the product that you are selling is good and they should buy it. 

Switching from Marketing to PR is definitely worse. In marketing, you pay a certain sum of money in exchange for the services of achieving defined marketing targets. PR is more subtle than that. You don’t offer money for services to journalists because it is not allowed. But you can invite journalists to your events. No strings attached but there is an expectation that they will write a nice report about your event and not publish the Press Release as it is. This is not always the case so you have to be very competitive and make the PR events more attractive.

MJ: What skills are important in your line of work?  

Alison: Writing skills and skills in research that you learn during the Mundus studies help a lot. Also, having good language skills - both German and English. Hard skills like working with Microsoft Office, being able to make nice presentations, tables, and graphs are also impressive at work. There are also soft skills that you learn during studies and can get you really far. Like public speaking, project management, working individually and in groups. It is important to emphasize these skills in your resume.

Mundus Journalism: Career research shows a downward trend in the PR and journalism jobs and a rise in content and social media related jobs over years. What is your take on that?

Journalism is necessary to have informed citizens and a strong democracy. But journalism doesn’t pay much, right? There are also more applicants for fewer jobs. Marketing and content management on the other hand have more jobs and the pay is good. This doesn’t mean that society doesn’t need good journalism.  I think we need to make journalism more sustainable and profitable and prepare journalism students to become entrepreneurs. Journalism Schools should teach students business aspects and funding models of journalism and prepare them to either go to the existing publications with new business ideas or to start their own publications that have unique funding ideas.

MJ: How has the Covid19 lockdown affected your work?

Alison: It was definitely a sudden change switching to remote work literally overnight, but I think it's going extremely well. In an agency, there's a lot of pressure to be fast-moving, agile, and the best in your field, so there was no resistance to changing workflows and adopting new technology - only encouragement, which I think helped. The most stressful thing that happened was right at the beginning of the lockdown when a major event that we'd put in lots of time to prepare for was canceled at the last minute. Overnight, and with lots of extra work, we were able to support our client and turn it into a digital event instead. In the end, it was actually much cheaper to do a digital event rather than a live event, and we did extremely well in terms of news coverage generated, so that has everyone questioning the value of certain types of large events in the future. Since then, we've successfully organized subsequent virtual events. So for me, the pandemic has presented exciting opportunities to learn new skills, and I'm optimistic about the future. Plus, moving into home office has been great for my work-life balance.

MJ: What will content management and PR jobs look like after Covid19 ? 

Alison: Content management lends itself extremely well to remote work - when I'm writing, I find I'm actually more productive at home, without the distractions of the office. Therefore, I don't see content management types of work changing much in the near future - we were already glued to our computers all the time anyway. With the lockdown restrictions easing up in Germany, my company has now moved to a hybrid working model, where we're encouraged to be in the office 50% of the time and to work from home the rest of the time. It's the best of both worlds.

In terms of the agency/client relationship, my team was already working "remotely" since the client is in a different city than us, and I feel the switch from phone calls to video conferences has actually improved our relationship. You have a better idea of how the other person is feeling if they're engaged in the conversation or not, and what their emotional reaction is when you can see their face. It's only working within travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings that's been challenging. As far as the PR industry goes, I think the coronavirus pandemic has definitely sped up digitalization. Sure, there were tools for remote work available before, but unless everybody was using them, you couldn't take advantage of them. Now, with travel bans restricting movement and digital content being the new norm, we're asking ourselves what the added value was of having live events when digital events are much cheaper, better for the environment, and perform the same.

I think for some types of live gatherings, the collective experience will never be able to be replaced in digital form. Watching a live-stream of a concert isn't the same as actually being there. But for events which are less emotional, more informative, or work-related - as most PR events are - you don't really lose much by not physically being there. So I think more digital content is the way of the future - and we journalism grads are pros at producing digital content.

Fancy a chat with Alison? You can contact her here.

Interested in joining our next cohort of Mundusians? Applications open again on the 1st of November.

Tags: Content Management, Marketing, PR, jobs in Content Marketing, Hamburg, jobs post Covid-19