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.

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.

 

The PR Degree – is it worth it?

If you tell someone you have a degree then suddenly you’ve achieved a new level of respect. At least, that was the case 10 or so years ago.

Flickr – SalFalko

Thousands of different degrees exist now, and among students there’s always the quiet competitiveness of ‘my degree is better than yours’. While this might be childish it’s the way things work – those with journalism degrees receive a lot more respect than those with a degree in event management. And definitely more respect than anyone doing a degree in golf management (yes, that actually exists).

But what about a PR degree?

Most of my peers have little idea about what ‘PR’ even stands for, never mind what my career will entail. Even a lot of people considering taking a PR degree are unaware of what the career is. One friend who is currently on my PR course said: “It’s a lot different to what I expected but it’s interesting.”

Another friend who studies a science said: “It’s something to do with managing celebrities and covering up their mistakes.”

Flickr – Howard Lake

Doing a degree in PR is frustrating because, to my peers, they don’t understand it. To them it’s not complex enough to need a degree – something I would definitely argue against.

But do PR practitioners think a degree, now costing up to £55,000, is necessary for beginner account executives?

It’s a big debate within the PR world – a lot of practitioners don’t have a degree in PR, or have a degree at all. Those with experience or degrees in adjacent fields, such as marketing/advertising or media based studies are also getting jobs as PRs. Even someone with a politics degree has a chance to get a public affairs PR position – so what’s the point in doing a PR degree?

My personal opinion is that having a PR degree is the best way to hit the ground running when students land their first job. And that’s exactly what employers want.

Flickr – jjpacres

Some people think that degrees don’t teach the writing skills you need to be successful as a PR – my degree at Sunderland is all about writing styles and techniques within the first year – it’s the basic foundations that any practitioner needs.

But a degree could never teach the personality I think you need to do PR. You need to be a good communicator, in any situation. There may be people you don’t want to work with, or clients who really grind your gears, but having the confidence and personality to deal with tricky people seems essential. That can’t be taught through anything but getting experience.

A PR degree provides the foundations of writing skills, organisation and planning skills, but it’s the real understanding of the industry that will always place us head and shoulders above those with other degrees or no degree at all.

Flickr – Zach Frailey

I’d definitely say you have to be the right kind of person to do PR – and that may mean you’ll be successful without a degree, but without one you’re open to situations you’ve never experienced and that’s a steep learning curve.

So, PR degrees – not widely understood or respected, but, at least in my opinion, help with getting on the first rung of the ladder to a successful PR career.