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?

 

 

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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.

The Best Christmas Adverts 2015

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you’ll have noticed the barrage of Christmas adverts hitting our TV screens and social media.  If you’re a massive Christmas fan like me you’ve already watched all of the Christmas films that Sky have released on demand and are now getting your fix by singing carols in the car on your morning commute.

In case you have been living under a rock, here’s a run down of my favourite Christmas adverts so far this year.

5. Not On The High Street

I’m not usually a fan on obvious adverts, sometimes I feel a bit patronised by retailers who think I’ll buy their products if they show me them in a nice setting with a catchy jingle.  However, I think this year’s Not On The High Street Christmas advert is very true to brand.  I’m a big fan of the company as I like to make my gifts personal, and I think their unique service comes across well in their advert.  Also, their boo to consumerism and down with ‘the man’ edge speaks to the rebel in me.

4. Waitrose

Now the Waitrose advert for this year is exactly what I just said I didn’t like, commercialism at it’s finest.  However, when competing with the Christmas bigwigs, such as John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, I think the way they released their ad this year was quite clever.  As well as the obligatory grand unveiling, they released several teaser clips (including the one below) on their YouTube channel, to heighten the anticipation of seeing Heston dusting his pies.

3. Lidl

I love a funny advert, and Lidl’s Christmas campaign this year really spoke to me. Their clever use of Christmas struggles that every family faces really resonates with me, and it definitely stands out in a saturated marketplace.  The fact that they’ve backed up their advert with real tips and recipes on their website is a really clever touch (I can’t wait to make these Reindeer cupcakes with Penny).

2. John Lewis

I know, I know, how is John Lewis only my number 2? The retail giant is renowned for their clever use of advertising around Christmas and this year’s advert was highly anticipated.  It ticks all of the boxes for me: wide eyed little girl (check), stripped back vocal of an indie classic (check), moralising Christmas to make me feel like a bad person (check).

The reason it hasn’t made it to my number 1 is that the advert feels incomplete for me.  Why does the little girl give the man on the moon a telescope? Now he can only watch and not interact, which is way worse. Surely a walkie talkie or even a tin can on a piece of string would have been a better present?

My main gripe with the advert for this year is that it’s a partnership with Age UK, highlighting the loneliness some elderly people feel at Christmas time.  A worthy cause.  However, I found this out by reading the papers, not through the advert itself.  Where is Age UK’s logo? Or the information at the end of the advert informing people of how they can help/donate? If people have to go into the shop before they realise the partnership exists, then for me it’s not doing it’s job of promoting the charitable goods their selling as part of their campaign.

1. Burberry

I’m not usually one for high-end, everyone who knows me knows that I love a bargain and sometimes have to get creative with my Christmas gifts. That being said, I’m in love with this Christmas advert from Burberry.  Not just because it celebrates the 15 year anniversary of Billy Elliot (filmed in my area), or because it features some of my favourite celebrities (HRH Queen Walters), but because it’s so upbeat.  I don’t feel guilted into buying anything, or moralised, and it doesn’t feel like they’re pushing their products into my face.

It just makes me feel happy, and that’s all I can ask of a Christmas advert.

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?

North East Times Launch Party

We’ve all heard it so many times, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and I have to say that is very true for the PR industry.

Last night I attended the launch of the new-look North East Times magazine. I was drawn in by the offer of free Prosecco and canapés, but also really interested to meet the journalists behind the magazine and see the new format for myself.

The new North East Times
The new North East Times
I have to say the team has done a cracking job. The new magazine is stylish, well formatted and insightful, with current and interesting articles about the whole of the North East.

The North East Times Team
The North East Times Team
As a PR student I feel like I learned a lot from attending the launch and would encourage more students to seek out networking possibilities such as this.  As well as meeting journalists that I’ll no doubt be speaking to on a daily basis, it was a great opportunity to meet representatives from PR agencies and local industry. The conversations that you have at events like this could mean the difference between a job after your degree, your stories being published or even a potential client years down the line.

With that in mind here are my 5 to tips for networking as a student:

  1. Don’t be shy – chances are no one else knows anyone either. Don’t be afraid to make the first move.
  2. Don’t drink to much free fizz – yes we all love free things, but you don’t want to be remembered as a the slurring student  who falls over their own feet.
  3. Bring business cards – a launch party is a bit too informal for you to bring your whole portfolio, but most people will exchange cards and it’s a good way to get your name out there.
  4. Don’t be on your phone all night – it’s good to show your support by tweeting the businesses, but know when to stop. If you have someone trying to talk to you it’s a bit rude to whip out your phone to send a quick update.
  5. Eat before you leave – canapés are small.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the North East Times for hosting a very successful launch party, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the magazine.

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?

Blogging 101: How to Write a Blog Post

It’s been a little while since I posted anything. Partly because I’ve been on holiday, and partly because I’ve been busy with other projects (like PR Stack).

So,  to get back into the swing of things I thought I’d take it back to basics and remind myself of how to actually write a blog.

What’s Your Angle?

Although my blog is PR related, I mostly write about being a mature student and how my experiences as a parent help or hinder my studies.

There are lots of blogs about PR campaigns,  crisis management and PR issues,  so what is it that makes your writing stand out? What is your unique selling point and how are you going to position yourself to stand out against the white noise of PR blogs?

As you can probably tell by my earlier posts,  it took me a little time to figure out who I was as a blog writer. After a bit of experience,  and lots of abandoned drafts, I’ve found my niche.

Make It Personal 

Nobody wants to read a regurgitated textbook, we get enough of that in class. Make your posts personal, relevant to you and engaging to your readers by drawing on your own opinions and experiences.  After all, what’s the point in rewording someone else’s content? Create something original by being yourself, which brings me to my next point…

Hone Your Writing Style

Now I’m not going to say my spelling and grammar is perfect, but one thing that really turns me off reading is lots of errors.

As well as checking your work thoroughly, blogs should be written informally, almost like you’re telling a story to a friend.  This makes your writing more accessible and engaging to the reader. Personally, I think my blend of quasi-lists and self depricating humour reflects my personality and using this makes it easier to write my content.

Sharing Is Caring

Don’t forget about social media. After all, what’s the point in posting content if no one can find it? Use any and all social media sites to promote your writing and find new followers. I use Facebook for my friends, Twitter for my colleagues and blogging networks and LinkedIn to reach out to potential employers and clients.

Now that I’m back in the swing of things and getting settled into my final year of study, you can look forward to many a blog post about how stressed I am and find out about the progress of my McDonald’s job application. So until next time remember that sharing is caring and I’ll see you round the Twitterverse.