Back in the Swing of Things

HELLO!

It’s been 8 months since my last post (shock horror), where my brief blog hiatus has turned into an extended vacation.

A lot has been going on since my last post, so before I start getting back into writing “proper” posts, I thought I’d let everyone know what I’d been up to in the last year.

I stopped blogging earlier this year after I found the pressure of my final year and having a family and work obligations too much to contend with all at once. Third year was a lot more full on that I thought it would be, and I didn’t have the luxury of taking any enjoyable PR modules, which meant extensive reading around 20th Century English Literature for my dissertation.

Thankfully, I managed to graduate with an overall 2:1, and here is a lovely photo of me and fellow PR graduate Arianne Williams to prove it.

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One of us will need to go home and change.

In the lead up to graduation I also got my first proper PR job! I had been doing some freelance work for 2B Communications based in Newcastle, and they decided to offer me a position post-graduation.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first role. As well as being really nice people and understanding of my childcare needs, everyone is really knowledgeable about the industry and North East media and I feel like I am learning something new everyday.

Another major milestone that passed this year was Penny’s first day of school. A big step and one that wasn’t without some tears (mainly mine). I’m sure you’re already bored of seeing photos of everyone’s kids in their uniforms so I won’t post one here, but if you follow me on Instagram you can be nosy and check it out.*

With 6 hours a day free from mammy duties and a part time job to fill most of it, I decided that I wasn’t busy enough (anyone who has followed my blog previously will have probably gathered that I like to be on the go constantly). I therefore decided to become a fully fledged masochist and enroll on the MA in Public Relations at the University of Sunderland. Well, my need to keep out of trouble isn’t the only reason, but I feel my decision to continue my education in PR is another post entirely (so stay tuned).

So get ready to read a lot more about my journey deeper into the dark realms of PR theory, how my career is living up to the expectations I had when I began this blog, and why I should just give up on sleep entirely.

 

* I lied.

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#sorrynotsorry

 

 

 

How to Write an Academic Essay

With deadlines fast approaching and the stress of Christmas looming near, I thought I’d do a short post on essay writing. 

It’s been a while since I’ve written an essay and this week I’ve struggled to get back into the swing of things. So this post is to remind myself of what I’m meant to be doing, and if anyone else finds it useful then that’s a bonus (please let me know by commenting). 

So, in my usual listed format (why do I like lists so much?), here are my top 5 tips for writing an academic essay:

1. Don’t leave it until the last minute 

It’s easy to put off doing your work until the last minute, especially coming up to Christmas when there are so many other things going on. But don’t forget, there is a lot of work that goes into an essay, and if you’re anything like me then you’ve probably underestimated how long it’s going to take you. 

2. Do the research, then form your arguement 

The foundation for any good essay is solid research. Once you have a good understanding of your topic you’ll find it much easier to write. You should also remember that you’ll need a central argument or point to relate back to the question. The best essays are those that are founded in solid, relevant research, so read around your topic as much as you can.

3. Use academic language

Writing academically is much different from writing press releases or blog posts. There’s a tendency to write in more complex language, but just remember that you’re writing for your audience and in this case longer words and specific terminology are the most appropriate.

But, don’t make the mistake of using long words just for the sake of it, if you don’t understand what you’re writing then your lecturer won’t either. 

It goes without saying that text speak is an absolute no-no.

4. Reference

Plagiarism is a big deal. You wouldn’t like someone else trying to pass off your work as their own, would you? So make sure you reference any direct quotes or paraphrasing. This will also show your lecturer that you’ve done (or gone beyond) the recommended reading.

The most common type of referencing is Harvard, but different lecturers might prefer different styles of referencing. It’s always best to check with them.

My own experience has taught me that referencing tool kits aren’t always reliable and often lose people marks. It’s much quicker and easier just to write the references yourself, once you’ve done one it’s easy to do the rest.

I’d also recommend doing references as you go to save time and prevent you from missing any out.

5. Proofread

This should be obvious, but it’s surprising how many students don’t proofreading their essays, either through over confidence or bad planning.

It’s not just spelling mistakes you should be looking out for, you need to check and make sure that what you’re writing makes sense and flows in a logical order.

I find it best to come back to my essays a few days later and re-read them, the distance helps you look at them with fresh eyes and see which bits you need to re-word or re-structure.

I hope you’ve found my top tips helpful, it’s been a great reminder (and a bit of procrastination) for me before I get stuck into my next assignment.

I narrowed the list down to 5 but there’s so many more things I could’ve included, what would you put on your list?

How to De-Stress

This week has been a bit hectic to say the least.  With deadlines looming and the first semester coming to a close, third years are beginning to feel the pressure. So instead of writing a long and rambling post about PR I thought I’d keep it short and sweet with my top tips to de-stress this exam season.

1. Don’t leave everything until the last minute

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Cinderella knows the score
OK, so this one is more of a preventative measure.  If you leave everything until deadline day then you’re just creating more work and stress for yourself.  If you’re prepared and do a little at a time it’s much more manageable and will save you less sleepless nights in the long run.

2. Have a bath

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This isn’t my bath. My bathroom is nowhere near this clean.
Or do whatever works for you.  Schedule some ‘me’ time to relax, have a hot bath, meditate or just chill in front of the TV.  You’ll find that sometimes having a night off can do you the world of good to refocus and regroup.  Just make sure you get the balance right and don’t end up spending ever day relaxing (refer to point one).

3. Have a dance party

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Maybe shut the blinds first…
Put on your favourite song and dance and sing like no one’s watching.  It might seem daft but sometimes letting go and being silly is one of the best things you can do. It gets the blood pumping and takes your mind off things.  If you do it with friends…even better.. (currently jamming to ‘Wannabe by Spice Girls’ with Hannah and Morta).

4. Finding something that works for you

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My fridge looks like this
Whether you need to cover your house in post it notes, write a to do list in your diary, or focus on one task at a time, find a planning method that work for you and stick to it.

And if all else fails…..

5. Have a glass of wine and a deep breath

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This counts as one, right?

 

 

The Day I Was a 3 Year Old

Today I spent the day as a child.

After weeks of hard work and 20 hour days I finally got to spend a full, uninterrupted day in the house with Penny.  My phone was turned off, my books were shelved and we were going to spend some quality time together, just playing in our pjs.  Here are some of the things I learned about PR by being a 3 year old.

  1. Don’t be scared to try new things

So, it might not work out right first time, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop having new experiences.  Who knew that a chocolate button and cheese sandwich is actually quite nice (chips and gummy bears, not so much)? You won’t know until you try it.

2. Be creative

Of course that toilet roll tube is a rocket/aeroplane/car/horse, who’s to say it isn’t? Using your imagination is key in PR but some practitioners forget this in favour of old habits and routine.   It’s cliche, but remember to think outside the box, creative solutions are our thing.

3. Don’t limit youself

What’s the point of building a lego tower three blocks high? Personally, I want my tower to break through the ceiling. Go big or go home.

4. Try a different perspective

Things look different when you spend all day on the floor, aside from noticing that my skirting boards definitely need cleaning, I began to think about how scary that big bookcase looks and how far away my toys were.  It made me think a lot about public opinion and how important it is to put yourself in other people’s shoes.

5. Go for it

Penny is a fan of what we refer to as “crazy trust exercises”, meaning she flings herself from any high surface she can climb on screaming, “catch me!” If you’re not brave enough to go for the big campaigns, jobs or clients you might find that your PR world stays very small.

Why Isn’t PR a Vocational Degree?

It’s come to my attention that a lot of people don’t value Public Relations as an academic subject. One of my previous tutors even went so far as to say, “Well, it’s not exactly a difficult course, is it?”

With more conversations than ever on professionalism within the communications industry there has been a recent drive to have PR recognised within an academic context.

However, most students that I’ve spoken to have agreed that they’ve learned the most while on placement or work experience. Which raises the question in my mind, “why isn’t PR a vocational degree?”

I must say that I’m not discrediting the academia of PR.  I appreciate that there is a lot of strategy to be learned before us students can be unleashed upon the unwilling masses.  My point is that if PR agencies are looking for graduates with workplace experience, and students are learning more from working, then surely it makes sense to change the teaching practises to reflect the needs of the industry and young professionals?

Although university does teach us valuable lessons in critical thinking, and an understanding of the theory behind the practice, could this not be balanced with a semester or two or workplace learning?

I know that there is a lot more to this than simply changing the way that Public Relations is taught.  I mean where are the incentives for the established practitioners, or examples of a sustainable business model to support the training of these new employees?

Stephen Waddington is currently conducting an investigation on behalf of the CIPR in exploring the opportunity for a community of practice in public relations, focussing on fostering a relationship between PR academia and practioners.  He said:

A common refrain of practitioners is that graduates studying public relations aren’t ready for the workplace and need a period of conversion. This is consistent with other disciplines. Employers and practitioners need to have realistic expectations.

I am aware that each agency has their own specific way of doing things, and that when you get your first PR job it may feel like you know nothing.  But why should it?

Most of the students I know have completed at least 3 working weeks of work experience as part of their Public Relations course (worth a certain number of credits towards their degree), however, as a combined subjects student (English and PR) I don’t have to do this.  Obviously I have organised my own work experience outside of university, but on top of my heavy course load, which doesn’t allow me any work experience modules, home life and wanting to eat and sleep at some point, it has been difficult.

I don’t mean to suggest that learning solely through experience is the right course for the future of the PR industry, but merely start a discussion on the future teaching of Public Relations as a profession.

So, what do you think? Should PR be more vocational?

What Studying Public Relations Is Really Like

Perhaps I’ve said this before, but I’m not ashamed to say it again, when I chose to study PR I didn’t really know what it was.

I chose to go back to university on a spur of the moment decision, although it is something I’d been considering for some time. I chose PR as part of my combined degree without really looking into what it was, or what the course entailed.

(Even though it’s all worked out OK and I actually love studying Public Relations I recommend thorough research when making major life choices)

Perhaps going into third year has made me a bit nostalgic for the good old days of first year, so I thought I’d tell you all about my experiences getting to this point.

First Year

Ahh, the good old days. I miss first year. It feels so stressful at the time, with deadlines and mountains of reading, but oh how naive I was.  I would say that first year is designed as a foundation to make sure everyone has the same background knowledge before getting into the nitty gritty details on strategy and theory.  If you’ve already got some experience in PR, or have read some of the set texts before starting your degree then first year can be a breeze (I had done neither of those things).  I would also say that first year gives you time to figure out your scheduling and time management without many repercussions.  For anyone studying PR I would recommend using this time to get industry experience, put yourself forward for as many things as you can and speak to agencies about work experience. Getting in there early will really help when faced with the stark reality of…..

Second Year

I think everyone I know went through some level of breakdown during second year. Everyone says there is a massive learning curve between first and second year and I have to agree.  This is where the work really begins and starts to matter, as your top marks will go towards your overall degree classification.  To be quite honest, second year passed in a bit of a blur for me. I can’t seem to remember anything other than feeling very stressed and typing furiously on my laptop.  Speaking from my experiences at the University of Sunderland this is where the course got really in depth, covering aspects of PR such as Media Law and Ethics, which was quite challenging compared to first year.  My advice to any second years would be just to breathe and prioritise.  Use the Easter and Christmas holidays to get your work done and use the Summer holidays to get as much experience as you can before….

Third Year

I must admit that second year really did help to set my expectations for third year.  We’re four weeks in now and I’m not feeling stressed or worried about the work I need to do.  I’ve managed to get a placement at a local agency for one day a week and have already handed in my dissertation proposal.  I’ve got a clear plan of what I need to do and by when and to be honest I don’t think I’d be this calm without the second year blues.  I just hope that when the deadlines roll round I can maintain this zen-like state and don’t need to resort to energy drinks and all nighters to get things done.

As a side note, I would also suggest using your student loan to learn to drive if you don’t already know how.  I passed my test recently and it’s given me four hours of my day back that would otherwise be spent mingling with strangers on public transport.  I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to be a major asset when looking for jobs after graduation and getting to client meetings, especially in the rural North East where transport links aren’t the best.

I’d love to hear about other students’ experiences of studying a PR degree.  What did you think about your progression into final year? And do you have any pearls of wisdom to share?

Long Time, No Post

These last couple of months have been very hectic, and I’ve just realised that it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  I thought I’d write something briefly to let everyone know that I’m alive, well and very, very busy.

As my fellow students will know, April and May are some of the busiest months in the academic calendar.  After an intense period of essays, exams and assessments I decided to take some time off to spend with Penny and actually clean my house.

Side note – I’d had zero time to do the regular cleaning jobs during my exams and it actually got to the point where one day I asked Penny to sit down and put her shoes on and she said: “no mammy, the floor is too dirty”.  True story.

Penny cleaning the floor herself
Penny cleaning the floor herself

However, me being the workaholic type character I’ve turned out to be, this hasn’t been the case.  On the days when Penny is out of the house at nursery I’ve dedicated my time to gaining some industry experience by pitching in at some local PR agencies, taking driving lessons and working on a project at university for the incoming freshman.

Although I’m still prioritising my time with Penny, I haven’t been able to do all of the little jobs that I’ve been putting off for ages. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish my spring clean before third year starts in September and the real work begins.

(Don’t worry, I’ve found time to clean my floor)