The Beginning of My Journey – Why does PR have such a bad reputation?

At the age of 16 it’s difficult to decide what you want to be – it was certainly a lot easier when I was 5 to imagine myself as a vet or an astronaut.

Flickr – ECU Digital Collections

Choosing A-levels was simply a choice of what I enjoyed, and that was writing and debates so English literature and English language were clear choices, but I also chose music so I would be nurturing my creative side too. My 2 years of A-levels were some of the most taxing years I’ve had – the constant nag of teachers claiming I’ll end up having to write 5 essays a week at university and so must get in the habit of it quickly. So I did, but I can put potential university students’ minds at ease, it’s more likely to be 5 a year. 

So it came to the final year of sixth form, and I still hadn’t a clue of what I wanted to be. I knew one thing – I’m a good writer (she says). But where do I go from there? I toyed with the idea of a becoming a screenwriter, perhaps a book editor. None of these seemed to fit.

Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to simply do an English degree. I felt like that was putting off my life decision for another 3 or 4 years. And in the current climate, what was I then supposed to do with an English degree? Teach in schools? That thought is enough to make my hair curl.

I was still at a loss until my sixth form ran a ‘Futures and Careers Day’ which invited guest speakers from various industries to come talk to us all about our futures. I so happened to end up in a ‘Journalism & PR’ talk by Chris Rushton – Head of Journalism & PR at the University of Sunderland. I hadn’t a clue what PR was, I only went because journalism is writing, maybe I’d be good at that…

Flickr – Josh Mazgelis

It may have only been 40 minutes, but I came out inspired. I’d finally found something that fit my skills and my personality – PR. From that moment I believe I was hooked. And while it might have something to do with Chris Rushton’s contagious enthusiasm, I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head.

I began my own research into university degrees on PR, checking for accredited courses, locations and of course the university itself. Sunderland, for me, seemed perfect. A brilliant on-the-up university with an established PR degree and experienced lecturers, and of course, close enough for me to bring my washing home to my mother.

Next to do was fill out the UCAS application, and it is here that I hit a roadblock. 

It may have been that my Head of Year at sixth form was also my literature teacher, but I was always encouraged against PRYou’re too clever for that. You should do English you’d be wasting yourself otherwise. Nevertheless I stuck to my decision. It’s what I wanted to do and I wasn’t budging. I even only applied to Sunderland despite knowing of other good degrees elsewhere – I knew exactly what I wanted now. Plus it saved me £11 only applying to one university – bargain. 

When it came to finally sending off my application I found myself in a bit of a kerfuffle. My HoY was so ‘disappointed’ of my choice that she contacted my mother before she would agree to send off my application. Thankfully my mother was on my side – whether that was because she believed in my choice or she knew I was too stubborn to change my mind is a different story.

And so I was on my way. I received my offer from Sunderland in the spring and got incredibly excited buying bedding for my room in the halls. It’s the little things in life.

But it did get me thinking – why does PR have such a bad reputation?

As I’m now 18 months through my degree I have come to my own conclusions:

As Morris and Goldsworthy have said, PR practitioners are paid to present the best possible image of a client. Truth is just a matter of perspective – maybe outsiders find this a little disconcerting.

It’s true to say that good PR remains unseen – so does that therefore mean that badly managed PR is all that others see?

No one other than those involved see the amount of work which goes into planning, creating and managing campaigns – so do outsiders see it as a simple marketing strategy?

I now perceive myself as an insider of the profession, and despite the poo-poo’s of the outsiders, I’m rather proud of being a future PR. Even if my efforts are unseen by the masses, people think my industry is based around lies or is pointless, I rather enjoy working in this industry and the good it can do.