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

 

 

 

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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.

Should Students Do Work Experience in the Holidays?

I’m about to make a bold statement.

Students who spend all of the summer holidays hanging out with friends and having fun are not making the most of their degree.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a killjoy.  I don’t think that students should be locked in a dark room full of books when they’re not at university, but so many don’t realise that they might be damaging their future by taking 4 months off.

Whether you want to be a teacher, chemist or Public Relations practitioner, every employer will expect you to have some level of industry experience outside of your classes.

As with most subjects, practical experience is vital for any PR student.  This doesn’t just mean placements, it could be anything from blogging to networking, attending industry talks, or even just keeping up to date with industry news.

Even though you might have had to complete a placement or keep a blog as part of your course, so did the other people in your class. What is it that sets you apart? What makes you the best candidate for the all important first job?

For me, that’s what the summer holidays are for.  You don’t have the stress of lectures and assignments, and any reading you do is for yourself.  So that’s why I’m making it count.  As well as placements and my own writing, I’ve been networking and checking out the webinars on the CIPR website. Hopefully when I go to my first interview I’ll be able to hold my own and show any prospective employer that I’m genuinely interested in the industry and my future.

It would be great to find out what other students or even prospective employers think about the summer holidays? Is it a time for relaxation, or for extra-curriculars?

P.S. We’ve also been eating lots of ice cream.

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