PR Students and Deadlines: a battle with yourself

Students. From freshers brimming with enthusiasm to third years slowly comfort-eating themselves into oblivion – every student knows the pain and stress of university deadlines.

I’d like to argue that most freshers by now, as we have reached December and lots of presentations, project deadlines and essay hand-ins are now on the horizon, have had most of that enthusiasm knocked out of them, and are well on their way to reaching the mindset of us third-years: please, just let it be over.

Of course, I only speak from my personal experiences and I only refer to 95% of students, there are those who astound me as they hand work in over a week early – oh to be that enthusiastic would be marvellous.

This isn’t to say I’m unenthusiastic about my education – quite the contrary – I attend lectures, engage in discussion (when I’ve had enough sleep the previous night) and my work is always on time. The state of mind I’m referring to is that which all students face when deadline week looms, when there are simply too many papers and too many books and any small ounce of enthusiasm is quite quickly drowned.

Flickr – Hartwig HKD

I’m not entirely sure about other universities, but here at Sunderland it seems as though deadlines group together like a mob, waiting just around the corner to beat that enthusiasm out of you, and you have to battle desperately to avoid falling into the blackhole of a mental breakdown.

Before I receive any hate mail from those studying astrophysics or something of the like – I do not believe this is any harder for PR students than anyone else – what I do believe is that this battle is a different story for those of us studying PR.

Arts vs Science

As PR revolves around language, communications and ideas and interpretation, we PR students face the same challenge as all ‘arts’ students do – we are never quite right. 

Flickr – Steven S

I almost envy my friends who study sciences and maths, who walk away from exams with 98% in the bag or even the full 100%. But for those of us who study the arts, where every point you make is down to interpretation, we aim for the 70%s and even the occasional 80% – but 90% and above? That’s a fantasy land.

In our essays, exams, presentations and everything we do there is always something more we could have done, or a different route we could have taken. But there’s only so much you can say in a 2,500 word limit or a 10 minute presentation.

Why we struggle with ourselves more than the science students is because we don’t have a right or wrong answer. We have to figure out a solution and justify our butts off with every single point we make. I’ve always been a person who can find an answer for everything (although I rather dislike people who can do this, it’s incredibly annoying), so I don’t struggle to justify my points, it’s the fact it takes twice as long to figure out a founded solution than to use a formula. There’s no formula for the arts. 

But that’s what makes the arts such a wonderful thing. There is no right or wrong and everything is down to interpretation. Maybe I will appreciate this more when I’m not being scrutinised for an extra few percent of a grade…

Time management

With any deadlines there is no doubt that being organised and having time planned in to tackle the workload is invaluable. And as I’m sure most public relations practitioners will tell you, being planned and organised is vital to success.

But for us PR students it’s a different story. We’re still finding our feet with our future profession. We’re stuck in the middle between the skills of the real working world and the naivety and inexperience of student life. 

We are organised when push comes to shove, but as far as university deadlines go, a lot of students will leave things to the last minute, and that’s something most of us haven’t outgrown yet.

We sit from 5pm the day before the deadline until 2am the next morning making sure we hit the deadline and all the while regretting we left it until last minute, and promising ourselves we will never do it again (never happens). Our thought process is similar to the stages of grief:

Denialit’s not happening, I can’t do it, it’s too late, I’ll never get it done
Angerthis is stupid, there’s no point in this, I don’t need to know this when I’m working
Bargainingmaybe I can get an extension because I’ve been working all week…
Depression I’m going to fail this year and work in McDonald’s for the rest of my life
AcceptanceIt’s only one essay, only one grade… McDonald’s isn’t so bad.

I like to tell myself I work better under pressure. Or at least that’s a lie I tell myself at 2am on deadline day. There’s a certain camaraderie that happens between those of us still left working from 1am, we share words of encouragement and help when each of us have questions. But more often we share inspirational and funny memes to keep each other going (some of my favourites are included in this post).

Dealing with deadlines is a battle for most, but PR students are stuck between student life and our professional life and we’re facing the uphill battle of being a student of the arts. We don’t have it easy but it feels so good when we finish at 4am and get those precious few hours sleep before the 9am lecture the next day.

quickmeme.com

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What a PR degree won’t teach you…

Flickr – tanakawho

My Tuesday started in the bleakest of ways yesterday, after a late night emergency visit to the vets for my beloved little kitty and a hefty price tag to go along with, I have been feeling more than a little sorry for myself.

And then look what comes along to brighten my day:

Official proof I’m a charmer!

My lovely mum always told me that manners cost nothing, and she also told me a smile can travel lightyears.

I’ve never personally met Richard, and it never crossed my mind that I HAD to thank him for his kind words – that’s just something that should come naturally, no?

Flickr – viZZZual.com

Being friendly, polite, positive and personable is something so incredibly important in any career. Nowadays (thankfully) it’s rare to find a boss who continually cusses, is ungrateful for your contributions and couldn’t care less about you as a person – no one gets terribly far with a bad attitude or bad people skills.

Unfortunately, being a nice person isn’t something that university will ever teach you, it’s something that comes with life experience. While I’m only 20 years young I do feel as though I’ve seen a lot of working life, especially so in the last four months here at Creo.

Working in the real world has made me realise that there’s so much that a university degree can’t give you…

Manners

Flickr – Sharyn Morrow

Being polite, remembering to say please and thank you, removing cuss-words from your vocabulary and respecting others (either above or below you in seniority) is either something you’re born with or something you can master. Looking down your nose at anyone isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you’re not getting jobs you apply for, maybe check your attitude, are you overly-confident? That can come across as arrogant and rude – both a big no-no!

Remembering where you’ve come from…

I personally find humility a really lovely trait in a person – although some people take it too far and only fish for compliments – always remember where you’ve come from, even when you’re at the top one day. The people who are your juniors are in the position you were in once, so remember to treat them with respect. Be a normal human being, don’t let power get to your head when you’re trusted with new tasks – you’re trusted, so don’t blow it with overconfidence.

Client care

Flickr – Jason Theodor

University will never teach you how to deal with someone aggressive, someone rude or someone who’s quite frankly a *cuss-word*. Unfortunately, the world is full of these people and you’ll inevitably meet them when you start dealing with clients and suppliers – just remember to remain calm!

I’ve personally dealt with situations that have become heated and legal action has arisen as a result, the best thing to do is be professional – what you do and say in situations like these will stick with you for the rest of your career.

Dealing with difficult people is a real part of the job, you need to be confident and diplomatic in confrontational situations. Just think before you speak, ask yourself:

Are you within your legal rights to say what you’re about to? 
Will saying it affect your reputation as a PR practitioner?
Will saying it lose you business, either now or in the future, with valued clients?

Another customer care issue you will come across: those who ask too much.

Flickr – Vic

Sometimes deadlines creep up on you from nowhere, but sometimes it’s from a panicked client who’d forgotten a deadline and requests your help with a few hours to spare. And, with a charming and ‘happy to help’ attitude, you, of course, accept. 

I’ve found that sometimes clients ask for more than is specified on their agreed timeline of work, but you should always be happy to go above and beyond with extra tasks. After all, busy means business! 

It can be difficult to hold your tongue when someone is being rude to you, and understanding how to be diplomatic only comes with time.

Flickr – quietlyurban.com

The most important this to take away from this is try to be charming! Positivity, humility, manners and consideration of others – it will all help you cement yourself in people’s minds that you’re a lovely person, and that’s something to be really proud of.

You can read Richard’s post about the importance of being charming here.

PR Day to Day: Changing from a student to a professional

Again I find myself apologising for my online absence, it’s been a whirlwind of a summer working full-time at Creo, and now that the final year of university is looming into view, I’m actually excited by the prospect of getting back behind some books *nerd alert*.

fickr – Klaus M

I have to say thanks again to Richard Bailey at Behind the Spin, for reminding me about my blog via Twitter this morning. With a mountain of scrawls on my to-do list for work I rarely get the chance to scroll down far enough to catch a glimpse of the note: “Must blog this week!” – oops.

flickr – banspy

While one mustn’t complain about being busy, because busy means business, it’s been a summer where I’ve perhaps forgotten the obligations I have to myself while the world of work takes over. I’d like to be able to preach to all students that living and breathing nothing but PR is the way to go – but let’s all remember (myself especially) that there’s an important balancing act of work vs. life, in order to stay sane!

Moving into the world of work…

Well, it’s certainly a daunting prospect, it even was for me and I was desperate to get away from the university libraries and endless essays. There’s always the worry of the fact you won’t impress or you won’t fit in, or simply that it’ll be so different from uni you won’t have a clue what you’re doing.

The important thing is to breathe. Just take a second to think – “these people liked my CV and interview enough to hire me in the first place”. As far as impressing with your skills, nobody expects miraculous eureka moments from graduates, just ease yourself in until you’re comfortable, and then start being brave with those nut-case ideas – remember, someone initially thought of meerkats to sell insurance, nut-case sometimes works!

flickr – JD Hancock

As a junior account executive or PR assistant, whatever your first title, you won’t be given mass responsibility, so there’s no need to worry all that much just yet, find your feet first. 

Perhaps that’s why I’m excited to go back to university. As a final year project I’m expected to find two clients and produce two campaigns to meet their real-life needs – and the creative juices are flowing. Hallelujah, there’s no creative barriers before I’ve even got out of the starting blocks!

When moving into the world of work remember to make time for yourself. I’ve been over-excited and keen to impress so I’ve taken work home with me in order to open up work hours for bigger and more creative projects. Bringing work home shows dedication, but for me, it’s become a habit, perhaps a bit of an addiction – I feel like a spare part just sitting at home doing nothing.

flickr – Giulia Geraci

It’s important to remember that you’re a person too, not just an employee. Remember to make time for family and friends – and from personal experience, some TLC for your car. Being a person is why you’re good at PR in the first place, so don’t lose yourself among all the media reports and press releases of the working world.

Remember to keep time aside for what you love, for me that’s reading, baking and blogging. Sadly, my current Game of Thrones book has been acting as a paper weight, my waistline has notably shrunk (although I should be pleased), and I’ve replaced my time to blog with time to catch up on extra work. This will all be changing!

Congratulate yourself on getting a job – it’s not easy! – make an effort to shine, but remember you’re a person, and your life is what feeds your personality, and that’s what makes you so great at what you do.

flickr – Arielle Nadel

PR Students – Stepping out into the ‘big, bad world’

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog you will have noticed my absence for a few weeks now – why? I’ve joined the work-clan.

Sunderland Software Centre – the office! Flickr – ndl642m

It’s been a busy four weeks with my internship at Creo Communications, but four great weeks. While I’m not too fond of this whole ‘commuting’ malarkey, I’ve not once dreaded coming in to work. I’ve never had that Sunday night sunken heart at the realisation of work 9am the following day – in actual fact, I quite looked forward to it.

I was delighted that in my last week of my internship I was asked to stay with the company for the rest of the summer full-time and negotiate a part-time arrangement for when I return to university at the end of September – as you can imagine, I struggled to keep a Cheshire grin from my face.

I never thought for a second before I started my internship that I was ready to be a fully fledged PR, but as it turns out I’ve been trusted and tasked with so much more than I anticipated. So, as I sit in the office now, blogging on my lunch break, I’m thinking about what the past four weeks have taught me. Maybe I am ready for the real world?

Walking the walk…

Flickr – the Italian voice

It’s always tempting to get a bit hyperbolic on your own CV, but you’ve got to live up to those expectations. I’ve known a few friends fall foul to over-promising and thus disappointing. The first thing is getting the job so make sure you can truthfully do the job you’re pitching yourself for.

Compromising on the commute…

Flickr – thrill kills sunday pills

I used the Metro rail service to get to and from the office over the past four weeks, and while it did provide me with 40 minutes where I could do little but hunker down and enjoy my current Game of Thrones book, I didn’t enjoy having to leave the house at 7am or the less than pleasant fragrances of some of my fellow metro-goers. Public transport is generally cheaper versus petrol and parking, but now I’ve passed my test and insured my Beetle I know you can’t really beat the convenience of your own transport.

Whichever method of travel you choose, plan it. Turning up overly early is annoying, but looks far better than turning up late.

Be your own harshest critic…

Flickr – Nic McPhee

Submitting your drafts to your boss for review is nerve-racking when you start out – you don’t want to look like the novice you actually are. Highlight, scribble, re-read, tear up, read again and scribble some more – always, always, always proof-read your work, it avoids silly mistakes. It’s best to take a step away once you first draft – go make a cuppa or take a trip to the loo – come back with fresher eyes and consider it someone else’s work, you’ll pick up mistakes you’ve missed 20 times over.

Put your personality into it…

I can’t imagine anything worse than a silent office – I’m always either jibbering on about something in the news or quietly singing along to the radio while drafting releases or other copy (it’s a multi-tasking talent I’m so glad I have). Forge relationships with your colleagues, get over the awkward introduction stage and chat, they’re invaluable as resources of experience and knowledge that you simply don’t have.

Flickr – Capture queen

Always remember to never over-step the line – these are colleagues not brothers or lovers, they don’t need to know about your drunken weekend. Intimate relationships will always compromise either the relationships or your professionalism – even if they’re a model, just don’t do it.

Try put yourself into your writing – that sounds like the strangest concept but if you can get your personality into it (as long as you’re not a miserable recluse) then nine times out of ten it makes for more enjoyable reading. It’s a difficult art to master, especially when writing copy for big national papers, but give it a try, you’ll enjoy writing a whole lot more.

Going from the student lifestyle of waking up midday for 2pm lectures to working 9-5 and beyond is probably the biggest struggle you’ll face, trust me.

As long as you make the effort and think about what you’re doing, you’ll be fine. By the end of 2nd year I’ve managed to get a job as a PR assistant, and if I can do it with my constant radio sing-alongs then I’m sure you can!

PR Internships: The first week – excitement, nerves, expectations

Flickr – Freddie Pena

It’s no secret that I’ve been chomping at the bit to start doing some real PR work – thankfully I have the summer off and a break from essays – so, as you can imagine, I was so excited to start an internship this week.

Creo

I’m working with Louise Robinson at Creo Communications Limited for the next four weeks and I’m in love with it already and it’s day 3. Getting to grips with real clients and getting my head around tenders and proposals has been a bit of a blur, but a brilliant blur.

Don’t get me wrong though, Monday morning heading to the office my stomach was doing somersaults. I’ve known Louise for a good while now and I’ve worked with her while previously on placement, but there’s always expectations to live up to.

Flickr – Linus Bohman

Then getting my own work email and keys for the building, which was definitely an ‘oh my god I’m a grown up‘ moment, didn’t really help the nerves either!

I’m so glad I’m comfortable and cracking on with work so quickly, so for anyone going into their first internship or placement here’s my top tips:

1. It’s okay to be nervous

First off nerves show that you care – and that’s always good. If you care how you perform and how the team is going to view your work then you’re going to put a good amount of effort in, so give yourself some credit: at minimum your commitment is impressive.

2. Ask, ask, ask and smile

Flickr – Ethan Lofton

I’m sure Louise may be borderline sick of my questions by now but it’s always better to ask than to guess and get things wrong. Asking questions and having a smile shows your enthusiasm and that you’re happy to be there – no one is going to want a sour face in their office.

3. Use your initiative

If it seems like a good idea to suggest doing something extra, making a change to something or completely re-angling a release then suggest it. Of course, be polite about it (see point 4), but you’re the newest blood the team has got and while you don’t have the most experience or knowledge you do have the freshest eyes and new perspectives are always welcomed in the creative process.

4. It takes nothing to remember manners

Flickr – mrsexsmith

Always be polite – even if you’re asked to proofread someone else’s work and it needs a good tweaking session. It’s so easy to be polite and nice to other members of the team and to clients – even if they’re really awkward or rude. Unfortunately someone rude often sticks in the memory and this industry is all about reputation, so don’t spoil yours in the starting blocks.

5. There are no stupid ideas

It’s intimidating to contribute to a group of industry professionals who’ve been in the game 100 times longer than you have – but speak up. There’s no point in sitting in meetings completely silent, you have a voice, and no doubt you have ideas, so tell them. The team will appreciate your contributions more often than not, and even if not they’ll appreciate your efforts – show people you’re trying.

Again I must remind anyone reading this that I am by no means an expert, but these are my tips from my experience. 

Flickr – JD Hancock

Good luck to anyone who is off to start an internship or placement – I hope it goes well! And I hope you enjoy it as much as I’m enjoying mine!

A Bit Of Online Etiquette: A thank you to the PR industry

I have a confession… I never wanted to start this blog.

Flickr – Frank Gruber

It happened because of a module I chose at uni and I wasn’t terrible enthused by the idea of blogging about a course I wasn’t even sure I particularly enjoyed.

But now I’m so glad I did!

I’ve always been a keen writer, even if it was just daft short stories, I find something therapeutic in typing out the voice in my head.

Not only has this blog helped me to keep sane with regards to my course, but it’s got me noticed – and that’s a really bizarre thing for a bog-standard, average 20-year-old.

Flickr – John Sutton

It’s lovely to think my rantings, ravings, complainings and whinings have been appreciated by some out there, and even better that people have told me they can relate! Maybe I’m not crazy…

So, I owe a very big thank you to those who have shown support, those who have appreciated my work and those who have helped me along the way.

Firstly thanks to my lecturers at the University of Sunderland – Chris Rushton and Diane Green have put up with my, let’s say, “ambitious” and “keen” attitude. I’ve learned a lot in the past two years and this blog wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Thank you to the wonderful Louise Robinson, there for me when my faith was feigning and a mentor who is an inspiration. I start an internship with Louise on Monday at her new consultancy Creo Communications and I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck in to some great projects with the guidance from a true pro!

Next, a thank you to Ross Wigham, getting to guest blog on his blog was such an honor as well as a confidence boost – the first time I thought this blog wasn’t all for nothing.

Thank you to Anne-Marie Bailey, her guest lectures were so helpful and inspirational. She blogged her way into great jobs and her tips are (hopefully!) helping me do the same.

A gigantic thank you to Richard Bailey, editor of Behind The Spin magazine – choosing me for the top PR blogs of the week 3 times was honor enough but winning the #bestPRblogs was incredible. 

Yes it’s all helped with my confidence, but it’s all helped with my networking too – there’s a few people out there who know my name now and I couldn’t be more thankful for the support I’ve received.

I’m so glad I’ve stepped into an industry that seems genuinely supportive and everyone seems so happy to see others succeed.

The End Of Second Year: My new views on PR

Now the rush of deadlines has finished for my second year, the idea that my final year is just around the corner is rather a scary one.

Flickr – Chris Ford

While I’m eager to sit and dream of what the future holds for my ‘career’ I always find it helpful to reflect on the year just gone.

At the end of my first year I was skeptical as to whether doing a degree was worth my time (not to mention copious amounts of money). I didn’t see the relevance of my journalism studies and I definitely didn’t have a clue as to what the real world of PR entails.

So, am I older and wiser?

Is a PR degree worth it? I’ve spoken (or perhaps ranted) about this in a previous post which you can read -here- but now I’ve finished my second year I’m probably more likely to say that yes, yes it is.

PR is such a strange profession, one day spent behind a desk typing lots of copy for various clients and the next you’re dealing with a crisis and liaising with the media to get your story out. One day could be a simple scheduled event and the next you’re overseeing photo-shoots and filming.

Flickr – Johnathan Cohen

With a degree you cover all bases, whereas stepping straight into the job there could be one particular day you find you’re totally out of your depth. It may not prepare me fully, but I’m a lot more confident in the knowledge that I at least ‘kind of’ know what I’m talking about when I get out into the real world.

I’ve read many practicing PR’s complain that graduates don’t know how to write for newspapers, but thanks to my many lectures and workshops on journalism I feel I’m maybe a step ahead other candidates because I do. I really do know how to write (perhaps ignore this blog as evidence of that though).

Second year was a massive step up. I spent a lot of lectures in my first year wondering how someone couldn’t know what a noun is or the grammatical structures of a sentence (I mean, c’mon really? You’re at uni and you don’t know that?). Second year focused on the nitty-gritty – planning events, writing proper copy, dealing with crisis’, ethical dilemmas and how to really achieve results.

Flickr – stuartpilbrow

I feel a lot more prepared after this year than I did last – and maybe some of that is to do with work experience, but a lot of it was to do with my education.

This blog has helped me reach out to a wider community that I wasn’t sure would accept me – here’s yet another undergrad overenthusiastic and under-educated – but I seem to have found a profession where people are really eager to see success. So to anyone who has supported me this year in any way – thanks!

My final word:

I still think PR is a juggling job and a complex one at that, but I feel more prepared and more aware. First year practically bored me to tears, but this year having a real taste of it, I feel as though I’ve fallen back in love with PR.