Q & A: Jem Bahaijoub

Following on from the How to get a job in PR series, I was very grateful for the feedback from former colleague Jem Bahaijoub, who provided some compelling insights into the way that PR differs in the US and UK. I was delighted when Jem agreed to answer a few questions about the ways in which our industry varies on both sides of the pond.

Jem is a British music publicist based in the USA. She will shortly be launching her new company imaginePR in Washington DC. You can also follow Jem on Twitter.

What is the perception of PR in the US – are the media/general public more cynical than in the UK?

PR is still regarded as an integral part of any successful marketing campaign here in the US, regardless of the area (or “beat” as they call it). However, there is still the same love-hate relationship between PRs and journalists in the US as there is in the UK.

There are definitely more resources and associations available for PR professionals in the US, such as the Council of Public Relations, Public Relations Society of America (www.prsa.org), and PRNews (PRNewsoline.com). In most major cities there are local PR groups too. For example I’ve just joined the Washington Women in PR group which is great for networking and exchanging ideas and tips.

How do the UK/US philosophies of making PR work differ?

The philosophies are the same but there are differences in jargon and buzz words. Public Relations is most often referred to as Publicity (especially in the music industry) and titles vary.

Do UK PRs have less influence over the media and their clients than their American counterparts?

I would say it is about the same although the UK have an advantage in that most national media is based in London so building up personal contacts is easier. Due to the sheer geographical size of the US, it’s impossible for an American PR professional to have personal contacts within every state. Covering the whole of the US is the equivalent of covering the whole of Europe.

Also you have to remember that there is no national newspapers here other than USA Today, so everything is much more localized. Newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post are however distributed across all major cities but still take a local stance on certain subjects. Also there is no national radio, just nationally syndicated radio programmes. The difference in media set-up makes infiltration much more difficult.

The good news is that Cision released the results of survey recently which revealed that submissions from PR professionals in the US are used by more than 94% of journalists. You can view the complete article here.

Is there a greater awareness of social media use by PRs in the US, and are the media embracing it?

Yes I think there is a greater awareness of social media in the US. A lot of major social networking sites originated here and blogging and micro-blogging seems to be more of a norm. There is also a plethora of social media specialists and “gurus”.

Are American clients more receptive to using social media as a form of communication?

Everyone is receptive but they have varying degrees of understanding. I’ve met some musicians who are very proactive with facebook, twitter etc and others who don’t really get it yet. There is a real emphasis on integrated marketing communications here.

Is it easier to find a PR job in the US because of the need for a degree in the subject, as opposed to the UK where it is not a prerequisite?

This depends on the industry – PR and marketing BA and MAs are highly regarded here and are often a pre-requisite for some jobs. However internships are still the best route into the PR industry. Therefore starting from the bottom and working up is still very much the norm, like it is in the UK. The difference here is that internships are more structured, formalized and often approved via a university.


One thought on “Q & A: Jem Bahaijoub

  1. This was such a great interview! I felt it was really relevant to me as I am an American wanting to do PR in London- especially entertainment PR like @jembelly does!

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