THURSDAY 10 FEB 2022 2:38 PM


To celebrate national apprenticeship week, Communicate magazine sat down with Dylan Brown, PR & communications apprentice at purpose-driven creative agency, 23red. He talks about the opportunities, challenges, and misconceptions around the road less travelled into public relations.

Can you explain how you ended up in your role at 23red? What does your apprenticeship entail?

I started my apprenticeship at 23red last June. As a PR and communications assistant, I work four days a week from Monday to Thursday, and then on Friday I study for a Level 4 diploma in PR, which is accredited by the PRCA. My day-to-day duties are completely varied and usually depend on the news agenda. This could include pitching to journalists, writing materials, or listening in on interviews. Working in purpose-driven PR is great because I get to share some incredible stories, and I really feel like a fully-fledged member of the team. I’ve had client calls by myself and I never thought that would be a possibility.

When I was at school it was considered the norm that you go on to college and then university. I started work at 16 and my parents always said that if I enjoyed working, then I should explore the apprenticeship route. I realised that university wasn’t for me, so I started looking at my options to work in journalism or marketing. I'd never really heard of PR before, and while there were some apprenticeships available in marketing, I knew I wanted that news agenda element of journalism. Then I found the PR apprenticeship at 23red, which perfectly combined the two. I get to learn via webinars and assessments, while also gaining experience and applying my knowledge in a working environment.

What have been the benefits or challenges for you taking this route into the PR industry?

The biggest challenge is definitely imposter syndrome. I am often working with some of the most intellectual senior leaders, so when I first joined that was really daunting. In one case, we were working with the Open University and trying to reach a younger demographic. There was so much I wanted to say, but I was held back by the fear of not knowing enough when everyone else in the room had a degree. Many organisations that offer apprenticeships still require job applicants to have a degree, which really discredits the value of an apprenticeship role. I am very lucky that the team at 23red really encourage me to speak up and use my voice.

The main benefit is how much I have been able to learn, even down to anecdotes and pieces of advice from senior people around me. It’s the tiniest things like what to put in the first line of an email. Our team has a really diverse skillset, so it’s been really great to learn from them. As part of my course, I had to do some work on crisis management, so I spoke one of my team members who I knew was a crisis expert. He went through my module specs, gave me lots of advice and created a whole workshop to help me. 

Why are apprenticeships important for the wider PR industry and how can organisations support entry level employees?

There is a massive talent crisis and I think apprenticeships are a really great way to bridge this skills gap. Younger people have more expertise in certain areas like social media, so they can really add value to a PR team. The best way to support apprentices in my experience is to really encourage and champion them to become the best they can possibly be. Very soon after joining 23red, we had a pitch for a new business, and I assumed I would not be involved as such a junior team member. But, they did ask for my input and I truly felt like they listened and valued what I had to say.

Which project that you've worked on have you been most proud so far?

I worked with GamCare on a case study led piece that was published in The Sun on Christmas day. This time of year can be really difficult for problem gamblers, with social events, time off work, and the early pay. Having spoken to the helpline advisors, I was passionate about getting coverage for this issue. It was very stressful and we worked up until the last minute, so to see that coverage on Christmas day was a great feeling.

What advice would you give to people considering apprenticeships as a route into the industry?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a degree is the only way you are going to be successful in life, because that is so far from the case. For anyone choosing their A Levels, I think the best advice is to just pick what is right for you. I studied history purely because I was told I would need a more academic subject to get into a Russell Group university. I want to break this stigma that people who take the apprenticeship route are just not clever enough to go to university. Apprentices are often thought of as the ‘tea maker’ or someone who just works behind the scenes. But it is so much more than that, I get to work with a lot of senior members in my organisation and I am often doing the same work as them. Everyone is different and some people are better suited to working and learning at the same time. Look into your options and remember that some incredibly successful people never went to university.