Why the condition is not a barrier to a media career
Did you hear from the dyslexic journalist? Founder of a public relations and dyslexic agency, Rachel O’Conner explains why this learning disability is not a barrier to a successful career in media.
Win the Made By Dyslexia account gave a name to something my team has been supporting for 20 years or so, maybe not fully understanding what it was, and that was my dyslexia.
From the late AA Gill to Anderson Cooper, many prominent names in the media industry suffer from dyslexia, which has traditionally been thought to affect written communication.
However, in her new book, This Is Dyslexia, Kate Griggs argues that it should be seen as a strength. The book gives Dyslexic Minds credit for bringing creative analysis and big picture vision to the way we tell our stories about the world in newspapers and magazines.
As a child, I never received an official diagnosis of dyslexia.
My report cards looked a lot like “Rachel is a bright spark but struggles with spelling, basic math and could always do better academically”. As I progressed through A-Levels and applied to college and graduate programs, disappointment stung me.
There was an almost polarizing experience of the person I met and interviewed, who was informed and up to date with the news and the world, and then with my performance on paper.
The reversals received around this time from the BBC, IPC Media and the civil service did little for the confidence of an ambitious, motivated and knowledgeable young woman desperate to hit the media world in London .
What the reversals did was make it clear that I was monumentally average, and if I wanted to work in the media world, I had to get creative, think bigger, and use the power of disappointment and disappointment. frustration to fuel my approach in a more positive way. .
So began an assault on all the media that influenced my world at that time and the people who had vague connections to it.
This included BBC’s Northeast and Cumbria, Cosmo, BBC Radio 1 and even NME. I wrote to everyone I could find asking how I might get into the media; many responded encouragingly – thank you – but none offered me work.
But eventually the knocking on doors paid off and through a family friend who worked in publishing I was incredibly lucky – after graduating from a high school in London – to find myself see an internship at ABC Travel Publications, owners of Travel Weekly, Executive Travel Magazine and others. great assets like The Globes, Hotel of the Year and Airline of the Year.
From this first internship, I was offered a permanent position in a marketing department, publishing newsletters and hotel rate guides (with number dyslexia, it was difficult), then in a more formal public relations role in a multinational insurance company.
Finding a way to work close to the media, rather than within them, gave me the confidence and courage to apply for other roles within PR, via PR agencies Weber, WPP, Hill. and Knowlton where I led large multinational clients and thrived on the support, talent and genius around me, until about 20 years ago when I started on my own.
In the years that followed, as my agency, Siren, grew and developed, my dyslexia became a constant friend and enemy. It annoyed me when I worked at the pace and without the constant support of more precise and methodical colleagues ready to check my often colorful spelling.
My dyslexia has caused, and still can, cause tension with those unshakably precise, detail-oriented thinkers who do not appreciate or “understand” my seemingly “chaotic” overall and lateral thinking – a thought that either by the way, usually nails root problem rather than ruffles at the edges.
Since working with Kate and her team at Made by Dyslexia, I have reflected on my own dyslexic career. I now appreciate that I often look at an issue very differently from others, I can quickly assess a client’s situation, and I can almost always see what communication needs are missing.
I am able to guide clients well on how to tell the story the right way, embrace all audiences and see their point of view more clearly. I can join the dots and spot trends in a client’s business and almost always be right – I finally found the thing that I was really good at.
The truth is, without my dyslexia, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to promote and protect many of the clients I have worked with and, most importantly, to work with the media that I so craved after joining there. has all these years.
The team around me who have often struggled to understand this skill now has a name for them. They know I am dyslexic and we are working together to harness the strengths this brings to the agency. What communication agency doesn’t need more creativity, problem solving and empathy?
Kudos to Kate for releasing her new book, and of course I urge anyone reading this book to buy it and read it. It will help you support and understand dyslexia and the many positive attributes that dyslexic thinking can bring to work today.
Opening the doors for young, passionate, ambitious and passionate people who want to join this crazy media world, they can help you shape your storytelling and perhaps find new solutions to old problems the industry is currently facing.
Thanks to the incredible work Kate and her charity do every day to advocate, design and create new and better ways to support other people with dyslexia, we are now able to ‘get out’ and not be embarrassed, awkward or misunderstood. and especially not to be struck off as just appalling to spelling.
I’m Made By Dyslexia and proudly wear my badge in October for World Dyslexia Awareness Month.