‘I jumped off the plane at LAX with a dream in my cardigan. Welcome to the land of fame excess (woah). Am I gonna fit in?’
Cheesy, I know, but what else was I going to play as I landed for my week working in Los Angeles?
I will admit that I dragged myself off the plane, rather than jumped. And the dreams were in a worn-out travel hoodie rather than a cardigan. But it was a fitting theme tune for my PROI exchange nonetheless.
For those of you wondering, PROI stands for Public Relations Organisation International and is a network of PR agencies spread across the globe of which Wildfire is a member.
Every year Wildfire runs a scheme where you can pitch to visit another agency anywhere in the world for work experience. The best pitch wins the trip.
Ben Musgrove won last year and visited the Philippines. This year it was me with my pitch to work at LA-based film and television PR agency MPRM.
The City of Angels
I chose MPRM for a number of reasons, one of which being that I have always dreamed of working in Hollywood.
Before I started my career in PR, I worked as a copywriter at a film and TV design agency. I wrote tag lines for movie posters, copy for marketing materials, scripted trailers and even got to attend a premiere or two. And while I love my career in tech PR, a small part of me has always wondered what it would be like to return to entertainment. And so MPRM felt like the perfect fit.
Working with everyone from massive studios to start-ups, MPRM has a fantastic client base that satisfied my want to understand film and TV PR, while also having enough crossover with Wildfire’s own clients (many of whom create technology used in film and TV) to ensure my week abroad would leave me with knowledge to share with the team back home.
LA was also appealing to me not just because of the glitz and glam of Hollywood but because I feel comfortable in America. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to the USA many times in my life. I studied for six months at Alfred University in New York State; I have visited NYC twice, Las Vegas, Dallas, Texas; and have also seen some of Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Boston.
The US has become a home away from home for me and so going into this experience, I felt like I had some idea of what I was getting myself into…famous last words.
An unexpected culture shock
LA is like no American city I’ve visited before. Firstly, it’s huge. So big in fact that nobody walks anywhere; really, the only people you will see on the streets are those who call them home and those walking their dogs.
On my first night, I went to find some food, completely naïve to how dangerous the decision to go walking alone at night was. Thankfully, nothing happened, and my local friend filled me in on the best ways to stay safe when she took me out the next day. The safety lecture was given while we were trying our hand at axe throwing and the irony was not lost on me.
Now, this is not to say that I felt unsafe in LA or that everyone was scary. On the contrary, I found everyone I met to be absolutely lovely, especially the team at MPRM.
Ahead of my arrival, MPRM had set me up with a full agenda that included client calls, planning meetings, and brainstorms. They’d also included a bunch of recommendations for things to do during my stay as I had tacked a week’s holiday onto the end of my trip.
Media relations across the pond
Throughout the week I got to try my hand at media relations the American way. Because while the US and the UK share a language — meaning they share a number of top-tier media outlets — the approach to media is worlds apart.
In the UK, short and punchy pitches are often king. I spend a lot of my time ensuring that my pitches are as short as possible, while still intriguing the journalist and getting the salient points across. In the US, however, there is more scope to work with longer-form copy.
It was a welcome change to allow myself the wordcount to really sell whatever it was I was pitching. I found this to be especially important when pitching films or television series because an entire plot can’t be cut down to 100 words while doing the story justice.
At Wildfire we often pitch to the US titles and although I expand my pitches a little, I had definitely underestimated how much freedom to write I could give myself and still achieve success. In fact, a colleague of mine tried the longer-form approach I shared and secured a top tier US interview for a client.
I also learned about more specific film and television PR efforts such as the intricacies of pitching for a competition in which a contestant leaves each week — AKA pitching an always evolving story. One of the team also works the Cannes Film Festival every year, so I was able to pick her brain about the inner workings of this prestigious event.
Overall, I learned very quickly that I was going to get out of this experience what I put in. So ‘picking people’s brains’ is the mindset I adopted throughout my week working at MPRM. I was the — potentially — annoying questioner; I booked one-on-one meetings with people to talk about their experiences; and I went in with a view to acquire as much knowledge as possible.
In amongst all the pitching, meetings, and brainstorms, I also got to experience some of the true glitz and glam of Hollywood.
One moment that stands out in particular was a lunch with the senior team during which I was introduced to film directors and sat in the same restaurant as A-listers Sebastian Stan and Andy Serkis. How I didn’t go full fangirl I will never know.
Truly, I fell in love with LA in that moment. Not just because I was sat two metres from my ultimate celebrity crush (Sebastian Stan not Golem – no offence to Andy Surkis) but because I really understood why people flock to LA with the hope of fulfilling their dreams. Cheesy though it may sound, it is a place where you feel like anything is possible.
In case you couldn’t already tell, my PROI exchange was a roaring success and I’m so happy that I was given the opportunity to fulfil a dream of mine thanks to Wildfire and the PROI.