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

 

 

 

Selling You – Personal Branding in PR

Personal branding was a term I originally associated with celebrities or people working in the design or music industry. However, with the expansion of social media there has been an increase in stories about employees being fired for their online content, or sometimes even failing to get an interview after a quick Google search.

Obviously this is an extreme example
Obviously this is an extreme example

Now more than ever, employers are using social media to research potential candidates.  Which is why in an industry like Public Relations that deals with reputation, your personal brand can be the difference between getting an interview or being passed over because of the content you choose to share.

Maria Elena Duron describes your personal brand as “your unique promise of value.” She points out that you need to work out what you want to promise your clients (and employer) and consistently represent this, both online and in person.

I must admit that prior to studying PR, my online presence was virtually non-existent.  I had a Twitter profile that I didn’t use and my Facebook newsfeed was full of cats playing the keyboard.  However, now that the second year is upon us and phrases like “placement” and “professional connections” are being thrown into the mix, I thought it was time to speak to the professionals to see what exactly we should be doing online.

Charlotte Nichols from Harvey & Hugo PR agency (@harveyandhugo) was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had about what PR agencies are looking for in their potential employees.

With more emphasis being placed on the importance of social media than ever before, how important do you think it is for PR practitioners to have their own personal brand online?

It’s vital. In today’s world it’s no longer optional to embrace the power of an online presence for any business. But it’s equally important for the leaders and team members of business to have the same level of excellence in their personal online brand. In many cases – they are the business.

When hiring a new employee do you look at their social media before you give them a job offer? 

Absolutely, we search in Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Blogging sites….everywhere and anywhere.

How important do you think it is for students to start establishing an online presence before they start job searching? And why?

Again, vital. Start a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, tweet. Firstly this demonstrates that you know what you’re doing on social media and can use these tools which is important for a job in PR, secondly it gives us an insight into your knowledge and how you conduct yourself which can be positive and negative.

Have you got any hints or tips for students looking to establish an online presence?

We post regular blogs on social media updates and guides to use various platforms, so reading them will help. Share work experience and blog.

After speaking to Charlotte, it’s clear that I need to take advantage of social media to promote my own brand (once I figure out what it is!) and make myself stand out from other applicants.

To help me do this I’ve compiled a list of top tips for promoting yourself through your personal branding.

5 Top Tips:

1. Play to your strengths – Think hard about the skills you already have and choose the one that will make you stand out the most to form the foundation of your brand.

2. Be yourself –  It’s too hard to maintain a façade and employers will find out when you’re with them for 8 hours a day.

3. Get yourself out there – stay active on all social media platforms, start conversations and make contacts.

4. Consistency is key – make sure you stay true to your brand, otherwise employers or clients may get confused messages.

5. Take it with you – remember to represent your brand in person as well as online.

*Special thanks go to Charlotte Nichols of Harvey & Hugo*

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I wanted to start my blog by officially introducing myself and telling any potential readers about the reasons behind my return to study. BUT, I imagine that would be really boring and predictable.

Instead, I’d like to tell you all about my shock at being the oldest student in my Public Relations class.

Initially, PR as a course appealed to me because of the transferable skills it could offer. Coming from a long stint of employment I like to think I know what potential employers are looking for and I’m sure PR skills such as presentation, organisation and communication are up there.

After already attending my English lectures and making friends with a delightful group of older students, each with their own families and other commitments, I was surprised when I walked into a PR class full of younger students.

At 26 I’m not exactly middle aged, however, I expected at least some older students to be there. Especially with the skills PR can offer towards career development and advancement.

After I’d recovered from my initial shock I began to wonder what is putting off mature students and why more aren’t applying to study Public Relations? Most of my older uni friends have a clear career path in mind, and I would say that 90% of them have returned to university to get into teaching positions. Is this the only reason that PR remains a young persons’ game?

I would say that a major contributing factor is general lack of awareness. Without insider knowledge it is difficult to define PR, especially against similar disciplines such as marketing or advertising. Without knowing what PR entails it is difficult for potential students to realise the benefits of studying it, even if a career in Public Relations isn’t their ultimate goal. This can be said for students of all ages.

There is a plus side though, with the development of communication technology comes a new era for the PR agent. A wider understanding of the role Public Relations plays is beginning to emerge, with a clearer message about its goals and objectives.  Gone are the days of the spin doctor. With this new definition of PR as the protector of reputation and gatekeeper of communication more people are realising the potential of a PR degree.

As these numbers grow I’m hoping to see more mature students enter into the field of PR. It’s not a course for young networkers wanting an easy ride. It’s an opportunity for creative, hard working people to carve out their own career path in one of the most rapidly expanding industries of our time.