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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
After months of research and planning, it’s almost time for the implementation of the ‘Christmas Strategy’.
Planning for Christmas with a toddler is like a military operation, it takes careful planning and timing to execute a successful day. So I thought I’d share with you my list of reasons why planning for Christmas is like planning a Public Relations campaign.
1. Research is key
This includes speaking to other stakeholders (parents), desktop research (flicking through the Argos catalogue) and speaking to your target publics (asking your child what they would like off Santa). It also consists of assessing your current situation and asking yourself important questions, such as:
How much space do we have in the toy cupboard?
Will Penny actually use this, or just play with the box?
Creating a situational analysis is essential for any parent wanting to get through the holidays in peace.
2. Planning is essential
Organising a timetable is a requirement for Christmas in our house to run smoothly. Our family is huge and we have to co-ordinate visits to and from parents, grandparents and extended family. I usually start planning an itinerary after Halloween so that people know where they stand and I have a clear idea of what I need to achieve and by when.
3. Stick to your budget
I often make the mistake of buying on impulse, especially so close to Christmas. Don’t be drawn in by additional extras. The reason that campaigns have budgets is to make them realistic and within the organisation’s means. There is no point splurging extra on presents if you can’t afford the wrapping paper.
4. Crisis management
Your long lost auntie has just turned up on your doorstep, you don’t have a gift for her, what do you do? I tend to keep an emergency stash of generic presents and spare Christmas cards just in case.
Whether it’s a forgotten gift or burnt turkey, always have a contingency plan.
5. Sit back and evaluate your hard work
Now it’s time to relax, sit back and enjoy the event that you helped to create. If anything goes wrong, then you’ll know exactly what to do for next year….
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
As second year coming to a close there’s been a massive buzz around campus about work experience and placements. With having a two year old, I’ve been really worried about re-entering the workplace after my degree is finished, even the thought of a placement is making me nervous.
In order to put my mind to rest I thought it would be a good idea to speak to some people in the industry, to talk about their own experiences and hopefully get some good advice when it comes to working in PR when you have kids.
I have been lucky enough this week to be able to talk to not one, but two PR professionals about life, kids and communication.
Jonathan Ward co-founded the North East PR agency Publicity Seekers, but took a step back after having his youngest daughter (now six). He now teaches Public Relations at the University of Sunderland and completes his own freelance PR work.
What was the hardest part of having kids and working in PR?
There were lots of challenges having a young family. When we were setting up Publicity Seekers it was very tricky to develop a new business and juggle family life, but it was a case of priorities. Family has always come first to me so it wasn’t hard to make the right choices, it was just a case of finding a good balance.
Were there any other aspects you found difficult?
There were days when the nature of the job and long hours meant there was some friction at home, especially while we were still getting into a routine. There was also a lot of pressure, having a background in journalism meant that it’s engrained in me to meet deadlines. Sometimes these could be unrealistic and at times Sam (Lee) had harsh expectations, but it was just because she didn’t understand what it was like at the time and we were both under a lot of pressure trying to get the agency off the ground.
Do you think it is the same for both men and women?
It depends on their individual drives and priorities. Family has always been the most important thing to me and ultimately why I quit the business.
So why did you take a step back?
I found myself checking emails and social media on my phone when I was meant to be with my family. There was one time we were having a walk in Castle Eden Dene (a local beauty spot) and I caught myself checking my phone, and it made me think about what I was doing. I’m fortunate that I was able to get a teaching position and complete my own freelance work, it gives me loads more flexibility and means I have a decent balance between my home and work life.
Sam has worked in PR for over 10 years after a successful career in Sports Journalism. She co-founded Publicity Seekers and continues to work full time running the agency following the birth of her 14 month old son – Billy.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since coming back to work?
I only took 4 weeks off after Billy was born, with running my own business I didn’t have the luxury of being able to take a lot of time off. If anything, having Billy has made me work smarter. I’ll say to myself, “Do I need to be doing this?”, and it’s become a case of managing my time effectively and being more productive when I’m at work. I make a lot of to-do lists now and have started meditating on a morning to clear my mind and focus on my priorities for the day. I only get to see Billy for 2 hours on a morning and 2 hours on a night, and I don’t want that time to be interrupted by work, checking my email or social media.
So, would you say that you value your time at home more now?
Definitely, work can wait. It’s all about being present in the moment. I had to learn that if there’s a choice between picking up toys that he’ll just pull out again tomorrow, or spending time with Billy, that the toys can stay on the floor. I even get up and do work between 5 and 7am now, so that I can spend extra time with him on a morning. Jonathan (Ward) would laugh because I used to be such a night owl, my routine has completely changed.
What would you say your biggest sacrifice has been when it comes to work?
I have to think hard about the benefits of attending evening events, because now I have to get a babysitter. It means that I’ve missed out on a lot of networking events, but to be honest I didn’t always capitalise on these as much as I could have. Now, I have to make it worth my time and make sure that it’s worthwhile.
What benefits have you seen from working in PR and having a baby?
I don’t think I’ve seen any yet. It helps that having my own agency makes my day quite flexible, sometimes I haven’t been getting to the office until 9 or 10am. It’s definitely made me work smarter and in the right frame of mind. I’ve been reading a lot of motivational books, such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, to help me get into the right mindset.
After speaking to both Jonathan and Sam it has put my mind to rest. I’m facing the same challenges as they were, as you can tell from my previous posts on time management. It’s reassuring to know that a career in PR with young kids can be possible, and that it’s just a case of working smarter and finding the right balance.
One of the main issues I continuously encounter with being a parent and studying is time management. As you can see in one of my previous posts I don’t have a lot of spare time in my everyday life. With having a toddler, starting to do my own agency work and studying full time, my life can get pretty hectic. As exams and deadlines just around the corner I’ve decided to put together a list (because my life is ruled by lists) of my Top 5 Ultimate Awesome PR Related Time Saving Tools (the title is a work in progress).
So Google Drive isn’t specifically a PR tool, but it’s so versatile that it needs to be included. Not only can you store your own word documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, photos, videos, PDFs, etc. You can create separate folders for each of your projects, share individual documents of folders with collaborators and edit them online in real time. I find Google Drive ideal for group projects, at university and in my agency work.
Although this next tool isn’t free, it’s similar to Google Drive but streamlined specifically for project management. You can add members of your team, start an open message thread and share files. Instead of using email the message thread is particularly useful for making sure everyone has access to the same information and is on the same page.
Mention is a program that allows you to track social media mentions, even when your client hasn’t been tagged. You can set up alerts directly to your email to receive updates in real time. From a PR perspective this program is great for monitoring reputation and responses to campaigns as well as crisis management.
Hootsuite has been around for years, and for good reason. I might be a bit biased here, but for me it’s the best choice for managing social media accounts. You can schedule posts and tweets, create analytic reports for evaluation and give co-workers permission to access and post without divulging the company’s passwords.
PR Stack is a crowd – sourced project that allows you to find the right tool for your needs. Say you were working on a project and needed a tool to analyse website clicks. All you need to do is select the options from a drop down list and the site will generate a list of all of the available options so that you can pick the tool that best suits your needs. Let’s face it, a time saving tool to help you find the best time saving tool is always going to be a winner in my book.
Although not all of these programs are free, most of them include a free trial period and different price packages to suit your needs. Personally, I don’t see an issue with paying for help when you need it.