My first introduction to the PR industry was reaping the benefits of free concert tickets and backstage passes to meet many artists thanks to my aunty working as the Sales and Promotions Manager in Cool FM and Downtown Radio for many years. As Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.13) highlighted a career in PR can be glamorous, it can “involve lunches, receptions, events and parties which include many different people at a range of different locations.” Without really knowing what the PR industry entailed I knew that it was a very social job and the idea of having a social and interactive job piqued my initial interest around the time of my A-Levels at school.
I pride myself on being a strong communicator, someone who isn’t afraid to speak out and I find it quite easy to chat to new people which I have realised is a vital characteristic needed to work in the PR industry. From my placement, especially, I have learned that PR practitioners must be confident when speaking to a range of people. For example, throughout my placement I had to present to clients, negotiate with journalists and liaise with third parties such as designers and videographers. Naturally, I am quite a bubbly and outgoing person and I felt that I thrived in these situations. I’ve learnt that having the ability to communicate effectively is paramount in the PR industry and luckily this is something that comes effortlessly to me.
Despite always being interested in public relations and enjoying my first two years of CMPR it wasn’t until I completed my placement at a PR agency in Belfast that concreted for me that a career in PR was the correct choice. The interest and time my bosses invested in me has definitely instilled my love for public relations and its many difference aspects, which brings me on to my next reason as to why a career in PR interests me – variety. According to Jane Johnston and Clara Zawawi, there are over 20 potential roles and areas that you can specialise within the PR industry (Johnston & Zawawi 2004, p. 8). From creating billboard campaigns, to writing manifestos and front-page newspaper press releases to help host All Party Group meetings in Stormont and delivering social media workshops, for me one of the most attractive aspects of working in PR is the variety of work you do each day. Every day of my placement was different, every client is paying for your expertise in a different area of PR and for me this kept me interested and motivated in the job. I am not the type of person who could do the same thing in an office, 9-5 Monday to Friday and that is most definitely not the case with PR. Although I have realised that working in PR can mean working long hours for example, working 9-5 in the office then attending an event at 7pm. Therefore, the ability to be flexible is also key in this industry.
The knowledge and experience I gained throughout my placement year has been invaluable and has cemented a solid foundation for the beginning of my career in PR. From my placement I have realised that the ability to social network is essential. Being an extremely sociable and chatty person anyway I took to this quite easily and have already made contacts in the industry through meeting different clients, journalists and reporters when emailing and calling them to sell in press releases and stories. I think my personality suits the sociable side of PR and thus is another accrediting factor in me wanting to pursue a career in PR.
One of the most appealing aspects of the industry for me, especially being 21 years old, is knowing that anywhere I travel to in the world I will be able to get a job in PR and use the knowledge I have gained at university. The idea of working in a different country, learning new skills and having endless opportunities to meet new people and experience different cultures excites me and in turn would definitely make me a more employable person. I believe that having a degree in PR can open many doors and offer many different areas to work in. Already through my placement I have worked with private sector, public sector and voluntary sector organisations. PR gives you the choice whether to work in a PR agency where you deal with many different clients and sectors or within the one company in the Communication, Marketing or PR department and I find this an appealing characteristic of the industry. PR is a combination of media related jobs and the versatility of the job deepens my love for the industry.
I believe in doing a job that has an impact on someone or something and throughout my placement I have learnt that PR professionals are highly sought after and respected, often having the last word on major decision makings. PR has become a necessity to any organisation now-a-days be it through crisis management, creating content or event management and it is ever-growing and adapting to keep up with current trends in today’s society. Companies rely on and trust in PR practitioners to improve their business or service to make them more creditable and successful.
Growing up I was always the leader, organiser and problem solver and little did I know that these attributes would stand by me when choosing my career. During my placement year when I met with clients, I instantly had to take control of the situation and act professionally and this is something that I found came quite naturally to me. Clients were paying for our company’s expertise and advice and thus it was key that we acted in a confident and professional manner. I enjoyed the professional side of the job and dressing appropriately.
Working in a busy and popular PR agency in Belfast meant that I had to multitask and manage many different clients and tasks at the same time and this allowed me to develop my time management skills and ability to know which tasks to prioritise to ensure deadlines were met. Luckily, I thrive on deadlines and knowing that I always had a target to meet by a certain date or time helped me stay focused, interested and engaged in the jobs I was working on. Although the industry, and in particular some clients, can be very demanding and fast paced I enjoy this pressured but exciting side of working in PR.
The ability to be creative and write captivating and engaging content is vital when it comes to working in PR. Throughout school writing was something that I enjoyed and has always been a strong point for me. During my placement my boss always talked me through the stages of writing press releases and the importance of attention to detail when doing so. Thus, I believe my writing ability has greatly developed and by the time my placement had finished I had written many press releases that ended up as front page stories in the Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter, as well as helping to script video campaigns and write manifestos.
An area of the industry that I grew to love during placement was seeing through a project from the very beginning to the end. For example, the initial meeting with a client to discuss ideas for a Christmas billboard campaign to working with designers to create the visuals for the billboard, the copious amount of update meetings with the client in between to the finished result of seeing the billboards across the country. This instilled a great sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in me each time and I think achieving that is important in a job to stay focused and motivated.
In today’s society I believe crisis management is inevitable and is becoming a much bigger part of PR. If an agency can provide good crisis management expertise it makes it much more attractive to clients. The ability to acknowledge and identify problems is something that I find comes quite naturally to me and thus I do not panic when the situation arises. I think this is important as well as acting professionally when working in PR, especially when a client comes to you with a problem. I quite enjoy the buzz of working out a strategy to overcome the problem when the situation occurs.
Public Relations is constantly evolving and changing along with trends in society. It is exciting and fresh and there is no end to the number of tools and platforms to help improve PR practitioners daily. They need to keep up to date with social media, new technologies and trends and this is something that I find myself doing personally everyday through what I wear, what I watch on TV and social media outlets that I use.
Finally, I believe that the pinnacle to why a career in Public Relations interests me ultimately is the idea of working in teams and with many different people. I am a people person and thrive on being around lots of people. I enjoy the ethos of working with different groups of people and seeing the different skills they bring that all come together to create the finished product and end result. I look forward to pursuing my career in Public Relations once I graduate.
Niamh Mac Manus is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter – @niamh_mac_manus and Linked In – @NiamhMacManus