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!

Studying Public Relations – The biggest challenges

I began my first year of university in September 2012, and it’s scary to think that’s already two years ago.

Flickr – Matt Cornock

Although I’m only half way through, it’s true to say your university years fly by. I can imagine my third year is going to be a blur – filled with library books and endless journals to complete projects and essays no doubt.

While I enjoy PR it wasn’t always the case. Since speaking to Chris Rushton at a talk at my sixth form I’d never faltered in knowing this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. But after my first week I was ringing home in floods of tears thinking I’d made a terrible decision – this isn’t for me, I’ve made a mistake.

I owe thanks to my mother for forcing me to pull myself together –  I’d never given up on something I was so passionate about before and I’d invested too much to walk away now. I am within the first year of victims of the raised fees – I shall always be bitter about this.

So why did I freak out? Journalism.

Flickr – Jon S

Like many other PR degrees, my degree has a heavy focus on journalism in the first year to get writing skills up to scratch and to understand what a journalist wants – after all they’re arguably the most important contacts we as PRs can make.

But as a naive first year I immediately whined and moaned – this isn’t what I’m paying for, if I wanted to do journalism I would’ve chosen it as a course, yadayadayada.

And I wasn’t alone in my complaints. At the beginning of the year my class was quite a healthy size; before Christmas it had lost well more than a handful to other courses like broadcast journalism or marketing.

I’m thankful I could see the larger picture, the skills they were teaching us have already proved invaluable to me when it comes to writing press releases or online content. My original writing style was quite flowery and expressive – I was a creative writer, not a news writer. But now I feel like I can achieve both ends of the scale and that’s something I’m quite proud of.

Something else that made my first year quite challenging was completing modules that were taught by academics who weren’t involved in the PR industry – they spoke of PR like it was the devil. 

Flickr – punainenkala

In some of my lectures and seminars I was also with journalism students and various other media discipline student; I always felt like PR was somewhat forgotten. Any issue was discussed with regard to anyone else’s industry, never PR. Unless, of course, we were discussing how PR is all to do with covering up lies, propaganda and spin-doctoring – thanks for the vote of confidence.

Because I know what is really involved in PR this angers me to no end. Like I’ve said before, anyone not involved only sees the bad PR that goes wrong. I suppose it doesn’t matter too much other than it being incredibly disheartening and frustrating to hear. The people who need PR understand we’re not the devil incarnate and that’s what matters.

Of course I faced the other challenges of learning to fend for myself away from home, waking up at reasonable times without a mother to drag me out of bed and making it into 9am lectures after a student night – most first year will know these pains.

What advice would I give?

  • Take on board what people say about the industry, but you always have the right to fight your corner. If you’re passionate enough and clever about it maybe you can change some critics’ minds.
  • Enjoy your first year but don’t mess it up. While it may not count to your final degree it’s the foundations for the next years that do.
  • Don’t become a book recluse. You may want the best grades but this industry is about networking – it’s a fine balance between social and study. Some of the journalism or broadcast students you befriend now may become valuable contacts to you in the future.

Some of the best friends you’ll make and the best nights you’ll have

If I could have done my first year differently? I’d have put more effort into everything. I definitely took advantage of not having my mother around to nag me to clean up, do work or just get my arse off the sofa.

It’s hard, but make the most of it. And enjoy freshers – you start feeling really old in second year!