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!

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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.

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.

 

In Need Of Inspiration: Live It – PR: Stepping out from behind a desk

Like most university students, I’ve had many times when I’ve lacked motivation to get out of bed and write yet another essay on my industry. It can seem all worthless without the inspiration to move forward. So where do you find inspiration?

Flickr – zsrlibrary

Throughout my first year I found myself contemplating whether I had made the right decision with choosing PR as my future. While I decided to stick out first year, initially it was only to see it through and possibly switch courses the year after.

Getting into second year I had hoped something would begin to light the fire underneath me again, but a few months in and I just couldn’t seem to find a big enough match to restart that metaphorical fire – I’ve written a million essays in my lifetime, media and ethics were nothing new to me and I had quite frankly given up on quite a few classmates on them ever pulling their weight in group projects.

There were many phone calls home to my mother umming and awwing whether I should switch courses. Then I was being asked to find a placement week for my course… not the best thing when I was pretty sure I couldn’t entertain the idea of PR for much longer. So I asked a former guest lecturer (remember how I said they’d be invaluable to you – always stay in contact if you can!) if I could shadow her for a week to try to make my mind up.

I owe my new-found inspiration and motivation to this lady, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Not only has she saved me another £8,500 worth of student debt, but she re-instilled my faith that PR is the exact fit for me. I’d become so wrapped up in essays and time constrained assessments that I had lost sight of what I was working towards.

Dominoes day in the office was an especial highlight of my week

This lady is Louise Robinson, at the time working as PR Director at Press Ahead Media and Communications in Sunderland. Louise had been a guest lecturer on social media in my first year and volunteered to help with an internal communications project with our year.

Louise is such an inspiration to me because she was in my exact position not that long ago. And to see the success she has made of herself so far is the exact motivation I needed – that could be me one dayShe continues to inspire me as she has set up her own business and I hope to work with her again one day soon.

My great thanks to the rest of the staff at Press Ahead too, what was meant to be a simple shadowing week was an amazing work experience week. They planned their diaries so that I was involved in as many different aspects of the job as possible – meeting news clients, working with photographers and overseeing photo shoots and filming. Even the days I spent in the office working on news releases and reports were really interesting – sorry uni, but far more interesting than essays.

I’m now more certain than ever that PR is right for me. And while I may not enjoy the essays and hours spent in the library, I now have a vision of what I’m working so hard for.

So if you’re finding it difficult to get out of bed and attend lectures or bother to do essays before the night-before, then I highly recommend finding a placement. If you’re having similar doubts to the ones I had – whether PR is really for you – then try out the real deal rather than what you’re taught from books.

The real world is far different from sitting behind a desk in the library. And it’s amazing.