We caught up with Diana Whitehead, Public Relations and Communications Manager here at Omnibus Theatre. From her experiences on both sides of the fence – as a journalist and PR manager – to what advice she has for young ‘uns hoping to pursue a similar career. Plus the wild chance encounter that got her involved with Omnibus Theatre.
OMNIBUS THEATRE: What does a Public Relations and Communications Manager do?
DIANA WHITEHEAD: In Public Relations, I am responsible for talking to the press. I build relationships with both print and online journalists, social media influencers such as bloggers, and editorial writers. The goal is to give the press a reason to write about Omnibus Theatre. As a Communications Manager, it is slightly different. I look at the theatre through a holistic lens and try to manage how we are perceived by the public. I make sure that the messages that the theatre is putting out are on brand with our organisation. For strategic communications, it is important to be aware of the brand profile to build these relationships to have the theatre reach its full potential.
OT: Talk us through a typical day in the life of a PR and Communications Manager?
DW: Right now, I am working on several timelines. I could be working anywhere up to three months ahead for planning a festival or long-run performance. In preparation for this, I draft press releases, plan strategies for a campaign, sell stories and press releases to short lead titles like newspapers, online publications, and broadcast media. Closer to events going live I am organizing press nights, looking at production photography, ensuring that all the press assets are available and of good quality, planning rich content to be put on various platforms such as print and social media. PR has changed in many ways over the years: it has become very integrated with the digital world.
OT: What advice can you give young people who are perusing a career in PR and the Communications field?
DW: I think one of the best things you can do is to get an internship working within a publication. The best way to gain insight into how to get stories published is to learn as an insider on the other side of the fence as a writer. As a writer, you can really envision what a story will look like on the page. I interned at a magazine and then got a job as a journalist for six years both as a news writer, features editor, and a business features editor. This gave me the knowledge and tools to hop on to the other side of the fence into PR, now I know how to sell stories to my peers with confidence because I can pitch stories to them with tailored angles. Journalists do not have much time these days to speak to PRs: what used to be done over the phone has been replaced with email, so you need be able to summarise your pitch in less than a few paragraphs.
OT: What has been your favourite moment of working at Omnibus Theatre?
DW: My favourite memory is how I first got involved. I was walking the dog outside the theatre and got stopped by George Owen, MBE, the Chairman of Omnibus Theatre. It was actually a case of mistaken identity. He asked me what I did and I replied that I was on a dog walk. “Now what do you really do?” He asked, and I told him that in between the school runs, I was involved with PR, marketing, and journalism. He told me that Omnibus Theatre could use one of those and that is how I got involved. It was honestly a chance encounter on a day I was just on a dog walk.
OT: What makes Omnibus Theatre unique?
DW: I think it is the people who all have a strong passion for working in the arts and working in this particular building. Omnibus Theatre has a nurturing, welcoming atmosphere that oozes from its core. In addition to this, the programming and artists involved are quite unique and creative.