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!

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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.

PR Students: Why you should get blogging

Blogging. Nowadays it seems like everyone has a blog.

For me it was a way to get my creative side out when I was stuck behind a barrage of critical theory essays, and simply for the love of writing.

But why would I recommend PR students have their own blogs?

I’m not talking about setting up a platform to chronicle your dinner everyday or the movements of your pets (personally I keep that on my Instagram). Blogging is a realm to create debate, discuss issues with like-minded people and to find your voice.

For those of you wanting to set up your own blog but haven’t a clue, this short video below is really helpful for the initial steps:

Truth is, us PR students are constantly writing – whether it’s those dull theoretical essays, creative online content or structured news releases. A blog gives you the chance to start finding your own way of writing, to start figuring out a writing style that you can fit into any format to have your unique voice in every piece you do.

Having a blog can be a mini portfolio for employers to look at – see your writing skills, your knowledge and interests, and get to know you beyond your CV.

Most importantly a blog can help you get noticed. 

While it may be very commonplace now that everyone has a blog you can always try your best to stand out. When I first started this blog I wasn’t sure which way I’d attack it but it turns out giving student advice is something people want – so that’s the way it’s gone. It may not be earth-shatteringly original but for the moment I’m enjoying my time finding my voice.

I’ve now been featured in the #bestprblogs by @behindthespin twice and I’ll be honest, it felt really good to have someone recognise my work. But you’ve got to get out there in the first place!

Recently we had a guest lecturer at Sunderland – Anne-Marie Bailey. She came to speak to us about how to make our blogs stand out, after all, she is rather an expert.

Anne-Marie studied her masters here at Sunderland and she also set up a blog during her time here. Maybe a bit more courageous than most, she interviewed practicing professionals in the industry to have their tips and knowledge on her blog. Using #raisingtheprofile Anne-Marie continued the discussion with professionals across Twitter and was quickly noticed as a ‘rising star’. She was offered a job before she’d even graduated. Read Anne-Marie’s blog here: http://raisingtheprofile.wordpress.com/

It’s always nice having guest lecturers – a different face and a fresher knowledge base as most are still working in the industry. But knowing it was only a few short years ago that Anne-Marie was sitting in the same lecture hall I was and has already had such a successful career, well it’s inspiring stuff!

So PR students take heed – blogging can help your career. Just remember to leave the cats and selfies for something a little more private!

Is PR Right For Me? The big decision

It’s now towards the end of the academic year. And with these last few weeks the deadlines are getting closer, concentration levels are dwindling and the stress is piling. 

Flickr – Collegedegrees360

Currently my motivation levels seem to enjoy rising towards the more ungodly hours of the morning – my brain seems to find inspiration at 3am or 4am nowadays.

With essays, presentations, exam revision and evaluations taking up more and more of my time I got thinking: what kind of person do you need to be to do PR?

Organised – Especially at these deadlines points of the degree it pays to be organised with your time and to-do lists. But in a day-to-day PR job I think organisation is key because there’s so little time to do so many things. Because PR is so complex you have to plan your hours well in advance so that you’re covering everything.

Flexible – Any PR is going to face a crisis at some point and often they pop up with very little warning, you need to be able to bend your plans around solving the crisis (because unfortunately we can’t add more hours to the day).

Flickr – Collin Key

Dedicated – Practitioners that I’ve spoken with have warned me of the hours after working hours – often it’s office 9am-5pm then on until 8pm or 9pm doing tasks at home or continually responding to clients while you’re ‘off-duty’. Generally, if you’re looking for a job you can leave at the office once the clock hits 5pm then PR is not for you.

Honest – There’s various approaches to ethical dilemmas – who is your loyalty to: employer or society? It’s difficult to always be 100% honest to every involved party when a story or situation arises. But you need to be able to be honest with yourself. If something doesn’t sit right then you need to have the guts to approach the problem. Don’t convince yourself something is alright when it really just eats away at you.

I’m not a full-time PR practitioner yet (although I’m incredibly excited for this to happen) so my views aren’t necessarily founded on the greatest of foundations. I’m intrigued to look back on this blog after a few years in the industry to see if my views change. But these are the four things I hope I still am, even after 30 or 40 years on the job.

PR: Who You Know and What You Know – Finding the balance

Whatever industry you’re in you’ll always have a little toe ahead of the competition if you have contacts.

I’ve been told on various occasions by lecturers that networking is the most important thing in PR – get to know journalists, keep in contact with other PRs – it’s good to have people as friends who can possibly help you out of a situation later in your career.

Flickr – Out.of.focus

But how does a student start making contacts in an industry when they’re barely even fledglings? 

Placements are a good place to start. I’ve already learned the benefits of keeping in touch and making friends with the people who employ you – that’s someone to say you’re a good worker or tout your skills to another employer when you’re applying for jobs.

I’d like to stress at this point that there might be a heavy leaning towards making contacts in whichever PR degree you do wherever – but there’s a lot to be said about what you know too.

Flickr – The Open University

It’s all very well and good having emails and numbers for 20 industry practitioners, but what if your skills and knowledge aren’t up to scratch? Those contacts you use as a reference can just as easily highlight your faults as much as your strengths.

PR is a people industry first and foremost, but don’t forget that it’s the knowledge behind it and the skills you need to master that will further you the most. You need to make a good impression before somebody vouches for you – and that is through being good at what you do.

An Event To Help

Throughout my degree so far the CIPR has been mentioned in 90%, if not all, of my lectures. So I’m used to hearing the names of those who head the North East division – the thought of applying for a job with these practitioners is more than a little daunting.

Then there was an event created by the CIPR in the North East with various working members of the CIPR in one room, ranging from large in-house organisations to individual freelancers. And students were given 10 minutes to speak with each – scary right?

Flickr – SalFalko

Actually, it wasn’t scary at all. Much to my relief everyone was there to help. Any questions we had about the industry or about applying for jobs and getting experience were all answered by people who really know what they’re talking about.

Not to mention, it was an excellent opportunity to make an impression.

Thanks to the event I was offered to do a guest blog post for Northumberland County Council’s head of PR, Ross Wigham. You can read it here on his blog adaywithoutoj.com. It’s my honest view of the industry and it’s nice to get my voice out to a wider audience too. And so far no one has called me crazy – so far so good!

Networking is so important to be successful in the industry, but never forget you have to make a good impression first.

For this, the ‘who you know’ vs. ‘what you know’, I’d say, has to be on a perfect balance to achieve success.