Creative Careers 2022 Interview: Sarah Jayne-Taylorson and Sophie Smith (NORTH)

I sat down with Sarah-Jayne Taylorson and Sophie Smith of North-East PR company, NORTH, to find out all things digital PR and SEO, as well as how you can try it out yourself.

Leanna Thomson
28th February 2022
Creative Careers is one of my personal highlights of the Career Service's annual calendar. However, this year's programme struck me as being particularly exciting and interactive. Something that caught my eye was 'Have a go at optimising your digital PR campaign with SEO.' So, I of course jumped at the opportunity of interviewing the women behind it - Sarah Jayne-Taylorson and Sophie Smith of Newcastle-based firm, NORTH.
How would you describe your role?

Sarah-Jayne: I'm a digital PR executive at North. My day-to-day is working with a range of mainly lifestyle clients and coming up with campaign ideas, working with the content team to bring those ideas to life through blog posts and press releases, putting together media lists and then outreaching it to various journalists and target media outlets. We also do a lot of reactive stuff, so a lot of my job is keeping an eye on what's going on in the news and coming up with ideas for clients based off things that might be trending on Tiktok, Netflix, etc.

Sophie: I'm content and digital PR. It's a mixture between content marketing, which is optimising on-site content so that we can rank on Google and when people search for certain key terms, our clients can be the first result. I also write the content for the campaigns that we do for the digital PR.

How did you get into the industry?

Sarah-Jayne: I did my undergraduate in English Literature but always had an interest in Media and Journalism. I did a lot of Journalism modules, some magazine and PR placements, then went back to university and did my masters in Media & PR at Newcastle. Following on from that, I worked in hospitality and leisure as a marketing and PR assistant, then went into jewellery commerce where I was a marketing executive. PR was something I always had in terms of university training, but digital PR was still a fairly new discipline, it only popped up in the last few years, and that was when I decided it was the specific branch of PR I wanted to go down.

Sophie: My undergrad at Newcastle was in Maths with Management. During my Media & PR Master's, I did an internship for visiting professor, Stephen Waddington, and through him I met the head of NORTH. Like SJ said, digital PR is very new - I didn't learn it through my degree, I learnt it through networking on Twitter.

What advice would you give students looking to get into PR?

Sarah-Jayne: Be pro-active. If there's anything you're interested in or any skills you need to hone, do it as much as you can. Things like working on the student paper can be so beneficial when you come to find a job as you're already honing writing and networking skills, which are directly linked to what we do in PR. Practice where you can: write a blog, start a Tiktok account, anything that shows off who you are and what you're interested in.

Sophie: Network. I did all of my networking, which was my way into the industry, during lockdown, but I honestly think networking on Twitter is more beneficial than paying to go to events - especially in this industry, as everyone who's in PR is on there! Put yourself out there; neither of us got our jobs through a job application, we just got in touch with the person in charge. People will be more willing to talk to you that way than through a bog-standard CV.

Sarah Jayne and Sophie's event will focus on the fundamentals of content optimisation and digital PR. They'll be going through a real blog campaign that NORTH produced for a client in the past, highlighting what the key elements of on-page content optimisation are in order to rank the blog as high as possible on Google. They'll then talk about what makes an engaging press release for digital PR. The event will take place on the 9th March 11-12 at the Students' Union, and you can sign up here.

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