A pasta face off in an Edinburgh agency results in PR career lessons

by Chris Fairbairn

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Why a pasta challenge can provide vital PR career lessons

PASTA has had its ups and downs.

Pasta has had a bit of a rough ride of late – vilified by the diet police for its starchy carbs and a source of hatred for the seemingly increasing numbers of those with a wheat intolerance. Yet it always keeps delivering – thanks to the likes of Jamie Oliver espousing its virtues, and its proven record of being part of a balanced diet that helps old Italians regularly outlive Lonesome George the Tortoise.

So we thought it quite appropriate to celebrate this year’s ‘World Pasta Day’ in the Holyrood PR office.

Being the young upstart that I am, I decided a head-to-head challenge with Holyrood PR’s own Italian kitchen king, Raymond Notarangelo, was an appropriate event to mark the occasion. After all, being English I had nothing to lose and all the pressure was on our Co-Director.

Ravioli (or shape variations of it) was chosen for the challenge, as it requires good flavouring and technique with the pasta machine.

As a passionate chef, I’m regularly cooking – and I am now renowned in the office for my use of a slow cooker. Yet when it comes to make pasta, it is fair to say I was a long way from my comfort zone.

The head to head

PR video story pasta ravioli With a great deal of help from my patient fiancé, (c’mon…Raymond has generations of instinctive Italian know-how!) I produced two flavours of Ravioli – ground spicy sausage with parmesan and oregano, alongside a milder ricotta, mint and lemon creation.

PR video story pasta ravioliNot that he was taking the event seriously; Raymond produced a slow cooked beef brisket option with carrot and pecorino cheese.
PR video story pasta ravioliAnd just for good measure, our slightly evil colleagues decided we’d also face a rogue contender – from Mr Heinz himself, with the prospect of being beaten by the tinned interloper the ultimate humiliation.

The results

It should have been a formality.

And it was. Unfortunately (for me), Raymond won.

Although thankfully Heinz came stone last with its gloopy, sickly staple, my two creations were second and third, due mostly to the thickness of the pasta and despite some surprisingly positive comment from my colleagues.

The Italian’s flavour won the day – and the relief on Raymond’s face was there for all to see. Fair play to him as well – I tried it and his delicious ravioli made him a worthy winner.

Career lessons

1 – Putting yourself outside your comfort zone is essential for a career in agency PR.

You’re only going to learn by putting yourself in new and often daunting situations. In fact it is essential – a PR agency is a fast moving world and you can’t sit still or feel too comfortable.

Having never made ravioli and barely touched a pasta machine I was certainly there in this challenge and I have come out of it with that bit more life experience.

2 – Learn from those more experienced – you’ll never know it all.

To be tempered with point 1. It is of course hugely important that a young PR is keen to take on responsibility but there is always a place to listen to those more experienced.

We have a young team here at Holyrood PR yet we also have the experienced Co-Directors on hand at all times, and our most junior members of the team know that they can speak to anyone if unsure.

Although I was proud of my efforts, Raymond’s years of Italian cooking showed – and discussing afterwards it was clear.

3 – Have fun!

If you’re looking to work in a PR agency you need to bring fun and creativity to your everyday. It doesn’t always have to be the type of that launches new campaigns, wacky ideas or the next big movement – it can be in the small details, a little change to a headline or a new thought for a photo call.

If you want a career in PR – or at least at Holyrood PR – don’t get too serious, a balance of hard work and fun is the key.

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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