Why I Won’t Do Well In PR: character assassination

After 6 months working in the industry, I feel like I’m finally starting to map out the stepping stones of progression I’ll need to conquer to get where I want to be in my career.

Flickr – Mike and Annabel Beales

As I’ve addressed what a good PR needs and what difficulties there are to overcome in the industry, I thought it’d be a good idea to look at the other side of the coin – the qualities about me that mean I might just struggle. This goes on the premiss that knowing your downfalls means you can grow as a person – I’ll try to anyway!

As a personal therapy, and in an effort to help others who suffer from my afflictions, I’ve documented my downfalls and my plans to improve.

So, here goes, the assassination of Jessica.

Stresshead

Flickr – bottled_void

Or as my mother likes to call me, “mardy cow”. In truth, I only earn that nickname when I’m driving, something about someone cutting me off just really grinds my gears (terrible pun intended). It takes very little to put me in a tiz, although I normally tiz-away in silence. I’d like to think I’m like a duck – all calm on the surface but paddling like heck underneath. Perhaps this is a good way to be, and to an extent I’d agree, but I most certainly need to take a chill pill.

I find I wind myself up about deadlines and quality of work more than any sane human should – I lose sleep because I’m constantly thinking of what to write for a project that isn’t due for another two weeks, I rarely take time to just relax because of all those deadlines (that are months away) that are on my mind, and I lose concentration on one project because I’m too busy stressing about the other one.

Not only this, but I’ve found grey hairs already – and as a 20-year-old woman you can probably guess that this sent me into an even bigger tiz.

TO DO: Plan in ‘me-time’ during the week and at weekends away from anything resembling work, but make sure this time is mentally stimulating – go see a film, read a non-academic book, maybe even just dye out the grey hairs… I’m going to commit to putting my phone and laptop away for 2 hour slots so I physically cannot look at work or respond to emails – catching up on sleeping time and having time to personally relax shall no doubt help my concentration and even more importantly, reduce the rate of grey hairs appearing.

Worrier

Flickr – Smilla4

Whether I’m writing for a newspaper supplement, for a client’s web page or even just an email, I am constantly over-thinking the way I write. Is that too formal? Perhaps add in some humour to be more personable? No, wait, is that too informal now? It’s a bit of a merry-go-round.

I’m pleased I care so much to worry over such trivial things like emails, but worrying is time-consuming and adds to the grey hair issue I’ve developed. It’s almost as though I’m stepping on egg shells with myself, trying my utmost to avoid looking like a fool.

TO DO: Accept little things like a typo in an email are inevitable. Finding the right level of formality with a client is going to take time, just take it easy. Mistakes happen, and unfortunately I’ve felt the burning red face of messing up, but I’ve learned from those times. While I will still devote the necessary time to avoid mishaps, I’m determined to learn from bad situations rather than simply worry about them happening and how to move on from them.

Most of my readers will be PR students, so if there’s one thing you take from this post, I hope that it’s to remember – you’re only human.

Flickr – John K

From listening to lecturers, guest speakers and working in a few different environments I’ve learned that the professional world tends to ask for more than you’re capable of. But instead of stressing and worrying (like I tend to), learn from mistakes, take all of the stress in your stride – remember you have a life beyond work that keeps you sane and keeps you good at what you do – don’t lose yourself in fighting to get to the top.

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!

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!

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.