Property insider view: Rachel Colgan who – with her best friend, Kathryn Reucroft – heads up Building Relations PR
How did you get started? While studying for my business and languages degree at Strathclyde University, I had work experience placements at PR agencies in Glasgow which sparked my interest.
I was offered my first job in an agency in London, in the property team, and have been working with new homes now for nearly 20 years.
I worked with Barratt before leaving to set up Building Relations, and they became my first client.
A former colleague, and one of my best friends, Kathryn Reucroft, bought into the business a little while after – so we run it together. We have complimentary qualities and make a good team – I’m ideas and she’s dots and crosses.
What is your typical day like? No day is the same – and it’s one of the best parts of the job. As the agency has grown my time is more about running the business and overseeing account teams but I still try to be involved as much as possible.
My day starts before my children get up, to get some work out of the way, especially any jobs that require a really focused mind. Some of my best ideas come to me at this time.
I usually start the working day with a catch up with Kathryn. Then it’s reviewing work, drafting press releases and signing off anything urgent. I could be organising case study photography, meeting clients or taking journalist requests.
Sometimes I visit a new homes development, trying to work out the best way to pitch a feature idea. And I travel to London frequently.
I leave admin until the evening, after the kids are in bed, as I can get the work done in an hour, rather than three.
What is the best part of the job? Getting results – front page coverage or national news, commenting on a relevant issue. I also love working within local communities. We have worked on some amazing community campaigns this year.
What’s been the biggest challenge? The start of lockdown last year was hard, as clients were rightly nervous and so paused retainers. It forced us to take a close look at the business and make some difficult decisions. Then, as the property market opened up, so too did our business. Clients realised that communications were more important than ever and now was not a time to keep quiet.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the industry. Work experience is an amazing way to get into PR. I did several unpaid placements, it’s why I now try and offer work experience places – but I pay. We work with universities and employ students a couple of days a week – those studying English degrees are typically good at PR because of their excellent writing skills. We have three account managers working for us full-time who started off as student placements.
PR is a demanding job and so you have to have a strong work ethic and a pretty thick skin. It is nothing like the stereotype of Ab Fab. It’s important to keep positive and don’t take anything personally. But it’s the successes that make the job worth it.
What innovations do you see for the future? PR and comms is changing all the time. So much is online now which involves new skills. Often by the time a client has got their head around a concept, there is another available to think about. We have invested heavily in a digital team to complement our traditional PR and press offering, covering anything from standard social media to Tiktok. It’s fast moving and requires us to get trained up quickly.
Born and raised Born in Dundee. My dad is a retired Church of Scotland minister so we moved around, mainly in Angus. We lived on the Isle of Coll for three years.
Education University of Strathclyde to study international business and modern languages. Spent my fourth year living in Bordeaux, France.
Family Husband Matt, and children Amelia, nine, Lucy, seven, and three-year-old Rory, plus a cocker spaniel called Kez.
First job I spent summers weeding Christmas tree fields near Brechin, and picking strawberries around Dundee.
First home In Englefield Green in Surrey. We saved for five years for the deposit.
Plans for retirement Somewhere with a sea view.
Personal motto JFDI, if I am allowed to say that! It’s the Nike motto with a little embellishment, and useful if I’m finding it hard to get stuck into something.