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

 

 

 

#TBT – 2015 Douglas Smith Award

As today is throwback Thursday, I thought I’d indulge in a little reminiscing.

This week the 2016 Douglas Smith Student Award was launched by CIPR International.  Although I’ve already written a post about winning last year’s award, and one on the entry itself, I haven’t really written about what I learned from the award.  So for this week, I thought I would write a brief post with advice to help out anyone considering entering this year:

  1. Trust your instincts – last year I entered as a team with Hannah and Arianne. We decided straight away to enter together and didn’t have any doubts that it wouldn’t work, but if someone wants to work with you and you’d rather go it alone then go for it.
  2. Do your research – we must have spent the equivalent of around 200 hours conducting primary and secondary research for our campaign, and still managed to miss pieces out.  Make sure that solid research forms the base of your tactics.
  3. Remember that this is an international campaign – we were used to planning local level campaigns and thinking strategically on an international level took some getting used to.
  4. Presentation is everything – think carefully about how you want to present your campaign, last year we had a limit of 1500 words which was really hard to stick to.  That’s why we chose a brochure format, so that we could make use of lots of pictures (and make it look pretty).
  5. Pace yourself – April seems like a long time away, but it will roll around faster than you think.  We found it helpful to schedule our meetings into our timetables so that we could keep on top of the extra workload.  This also helped us to set manageable goals and timelines.

So there you have it, my top 5 tips for any students who want to enter for this year. However, I would also issue a friendly warning.  It is a lot of work, so make sure that you have time to do it and aren’t overstretching yourself.  I have a tendency to take on too much and even though I would love to enter this year, I don’t think I would be able to do so without having a breakdown.

That being said it looks excellent in your portfolio and is definitely worthwhile for improving your strategic planning skills.

Good luck!

What To Put On Your Graduate CV

It’s getting to be that time.  The panic of rejoining the workforce as a qualified PR practitioner is starting to set in, and the casual job hunting has begun.

Last year I organised a workshop with Sunderland Futures, to get advice on what we should actually be putting on our graduate CVs.

As I’m in a particularly generous mood today, I thought I’d share the top 5 tips I picked up from the session.

1. Don’t mention the term ‘CV’

If you’re applying for a job the person reading your CV is going to know what the document is, especially as you will have CV in the file name. Titling the document with CV is stating the obvious and also taking up valuable space on the page.  Which leads me to…

2. Keep it short

Your CV should be 1 side of A4 paper, 2 sides at an absolute maximum. You should be able to include your relevant experience concisely to leave the reader wanting to ask you questions about it and thus invite you to an interview. Of course it’s all about balance, you also need to make sure that you include enough to let the company know that your qualified for the role.

3. Don’t include your personal details

The organisation doesn’t need to know your address. They’re probably not going to write to you to invite you for an interview, it’s outdated. Similarly, ‘references available upon request’ is an adequate substitute for the names and contact details of your references. If the time comes that the company needs them, they’ll ask for your most up to date ones anyway.

4. Tailor your CV to the role you’re applying for

If you’re applying for a job in PR the company doesn’t need to know that you’ve got your 25m swimming badge (unless they’re based on a boat, in which case it’s a good skill to have). Make sure the information you include is directly relevant to the job that you’re applying for, you can even mirror the language and the terminology in the job specification so there’s no doubt in the reader’s mind that you’re perfect for the role.

And finally….

5. Always include a covering letter/email

If you’re sending out your CV the person receiving it should probably be told why.  As well as telling the company which job you’re applying for, it gives you a chance to tell them what’s in it for them. Organisations that receive a lot of CVs won’t even read them if the covering letter isn’t relevant. It’s your chance to show the company that your serious about the job by researching them and putting yourself forward as the best candidate.

There were so many other things I could’ve included, such as checking the spelling and grammar, or making sure your email is addressed to the right person. However, these 5 things  have helped me the most when writing my CV and I hope they’ll help you too.

Please feel free to comment or tweet me with your own CV writing tips.

 

 

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?

 

 

Why studying PR is Like Raising a Toddler

This week I’ve been feeling reflective. With everyone in my house being stricken with the dreaded ‘tummy bug’ I’ve had lots of down time and not a lot of motivation.  After spending so long in bed that I tuned out the TV, I started to think about my PR experience so far, and how having kids while studying isn’t always a bad thing.

I ended up coming up with this list of reasons that I think having a toddler has helped my in my studies so far.

1. Think long term

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It might not be nice to deal with tantrums and tears, but by looking at the end result instead of focussing on the current situation you will get better results.  Some PR campaigns aren’t just about an instant ‘wow’ factor, some take months or years to see the results fully. If you’ve done your job right then the finished product will pay off.

2. Prioritise

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Sometimes you have to leave the hoovering til tomorrow, or grab a quick shower instead of the nice, long bath that you need. The same goes with PR. Make a list of the things you need to do in order of importance and stick to it. If you don’t get a chance to reach the bottom of the list, don’t sweat it.

3. Enjoy the little things

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This morning my little girl climbed into bed with me and we had a lovely cuddle for 10 minutes before we had to get up. It might not seem like much but having the 10 minutes set me up for the rest of the day.  Don’t underestimate the power of the little things, or personal touches in your PR campaigns.  People are more likely to respond positively if you show that you’ve thought about them.

4. Be prepared

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Sometimes you have to be a mind reader. The amount of things you need to bring with you when you have a child is unreal. Just when you think you have everything you need you’ll get to your destination to be met with, “where’s my teddy mammy?” The same goes for PR, if you do your best to prepare for every eventuality then you’re less likely to be met with objections or surprises, and if you are then you’re ready to handle them.

5. Be creative

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Sometimes you have to think outside the box, and sometimes it’s the simplest things that work. We can spend hours in our house playing with crafts, clothes pegs, boxes and our imaginations.  In PR you can’t be afraid to be creative and try different things.

As you can see, having kids isn’t always a drawback when it comes to PR. The skills you get from being a parent, such as, creativity, organisation and creative thinking can be an asset in the Public Relations industry. While it’s not always easy I’m hoping that as my learning continues I can apply more of the skills I already have to Public Relations.

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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.