Final Year: So How Did I End Up Here?

Final Year: So How Did I End Up Here?

As I start into the second semester of my final year at university, it’s interesting to reflect on just what lead me to study communication, management and public relations. Just over four years ago, I had a very different plan.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a primary school teacher. I had performed well all throughout school, I wanted to work in a job where I was helping people and, to be completely honest, I really did quite like the idea of summers off. I carefully chose my GCSE and A level subjects around a potential career in teaching and even progressed further throughout my grades in vocals and piano, knowing that it would serve me well as a teacher. But now, those skills simply serve me well at karaoke nights.

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In January 2015, I went for my entrance interview for Stranmillis University. With the predicted grades I needed for admission, the interview was a key aspect of gaining a place on the course and I was determined not to fall at this hurdle. Following the advice from my parents, I went into the interview calm and collected and let my personality shine through.I nervously waited for weeks for the letter that would urge me on to achieve the grades that I needed. But when that letter arrived and I learnt that my application wouldn’t be taken any further, I didn’t know what to do.

All of my life, I had planned to be a teacher. I never thought I would even need to consider a plan B. Devastated and desperate for clarity, I got in touch with the university. I needed to know why I wasn’t considered good enough. The answer I got was simply; “We don’t think that you’re teacher material”. I started to re-evaluate everything; who I was, what I wanted to do and what type of person exactly did I come across as during a 20 minute interview?

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In a discussion with one of my teachers, he mentioned jokingly that my personality really was ‘more fitting for a PR executive for a vodka company’. Whilst it was said in humour, I couldn’t deny that he was probably right. This was nothing to do with my love for every single flavour in the Absolut range, but I knew myself well enough to know that I was outgoing, organised, creative and thrived off deadlines and goals. Surely all of the skills and qualities that would serve me well working in public relations?

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But at this point, I didn’t even know exactly what PR was, never mind whether it would be the correct career path for me. My knowledge of PR stemmed from Samantha Jones from Sex and the City and thankfully I was smart enough to know that a career in PR wasn’t all about organising glamorous launch parties, going to power lunches and barely ever spending any time in the office.

But now, as I edge closer to graduation and prepare to throw myself into the big bad world of public relations, I know exactly why a career in public relations interests me.

Ask any of my friends and family and they would probably tell you that I never have a free moment. I am constantly doing something, making plans, working on projects, planning my next trip. I tend to thrive when I have more going on- I don’t like being bored! A recent study revealed that PR is one of the most stressful jobs being listed alongside careers such paramedics and advertising executives (Krietsch, 2011). It isn’t the apparent stress that is attracting me to the career, but instead the fast-paced environment. I believe that when you have a passion for what you do alongside an understanding of what is required from you, the stress of your job is minimised and stressful moments become moments that add a little bit of excitement to the day. As someone who has previously worked in jobs where the only excitement would be if somebody brought a dog into work, this is definitely an important factor that I look for in my career.

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Another personal attribute of mine that I believe has encouraged my interest in a career within public relations is my ability to ‘spin’ and persuade. Despite the negative connotations that spin within PR receives, I simply mean that I have the skill to communicate in such a way that has the ability to change how people perceive  what I am saying. By no means am I claiming to be a professional liar, but I naturally try to see the good in every situation and focus on that. As for my persuasion techniques, I’ve managed to persuade my boyfriend to make me lunches for  work nearly every day for the last two years- so if that isn’t skillful persuasion, I don’t know what is….

During my time at university, my course has provided me with the opportunity to study a wide range of modules that cover topics such as; marketing, political communication and media and society. The combination of media related topics that I have been able to learn about is one of the main reasons why I recommend my course to other people. I believe that it has been a great foundation in preparing me for a career within public relations as public relations can consist of a combination of many media related jobs. When coming up with ways to promote a client via a multitude of channels, you use skills relevant to advertising. In maintaining a strong brand image for a client, you are practicing brand management. I even believe that the skills taken to write an effective and informative press release are those that would be required from a journalist. When pursuing a career in PR, you really are pursuing a blend of many media related jobs- all of which I believe to have gained experience in through my varied university course.

As a career in public relations involves many different media related roles, it can provide you with the chance to work more specifically within an area that interests you. According to Johnston and Zawawi (2004), there are more than twenty roles and areas within the PR industry that you can specialise in. I believe that as work takes up such a large part of your life, it is important to be doing something that interests you and matches your motivation. Although I have a great interest in politics, which would suit me well to work within public affairs and lobbying, my one true skill that I believe will serve me in my future career is planning and organising. I am quite lucky to come from a family who are very laid back and even more lucky to have found friends who are happy to let me take control of most of our plans we make together. They all know that it brings me happiness to organise events, make travel plans for holidays and to have control over situations. My personality would definitely be best suited to event management. But the best thing about a career in public relations? No matter your personality, you would be able to find an area within it to suit you.

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From press releases to blogging, writing is a major element of a career within public relations. I have always enjoyed writing from a very young age. I remember our old family computer when I was in primary school; it didn’t even have the internet, but I spent most weekdays after school on this computer, writing short stories and daily diary style entries (I was basically way ahead of my time with the whole blogging craze). Whilst I never thought that I would be pursuing a career in which I would get the opportunity to use my creative writing skills, I have to say that it is one of my biggest motivations now for my growing interest in a career in public relations.

As I write this essay, it is a little over 4 months before I will be graduating from my communications and public relations degree. Given the opportunities and experiences that I have gained through studying my course, I have never been more thankful for that rejection letter I received in 2015.

Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sempey-482ab9130/

The Real Housewives of Kensington

The Real Housewives of Kensington

When the recent news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be moving out of Kensington Palace to live at Frogmore Cottage broke, speculation around the move also broke with it. Was this really such a shocking announcement for someone who (with every royal baby birth) has moved further and further down the line of succession? Was this really out of nature for a couple who have been known to break royal protocol? Was this unreasonable given that Harry and Meghan are about to start their own family? Or was there trouble brewing between the brothers?

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Unsurprisingly, the first point of call for the media was to point fingers at Prince Harry’s new wife Meghan as the reason behind the move. Anonymous sources from within Kensington Palace claimed that there ‘had been some tension’ between Meghan and her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, claiming that there was a clashing between the ladies at a dress fitting prior to the royal wedding, in which Meghan reduced Kate to tears. Another source also claimed that Kate was said to have complained about Meghan being needlessly nasty to a royal member of staff, which had left both Meghan and Harry less than pleased.

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Whether these allegations are true or not, they were the golden nuggets of information that the press have been waiting for for months. Despite the Daily Mail reporting back in July that the Duchesses were ‘best friends’ as they enjoyed a day at Wimbledon together, as the narrative surrounding Meghan began to change it seemed only fitting that they throw in a classic girl on girl cat-fight. It’s almost as if these two beautiful, intelligent and stylish women couldn’t possibly be friends – they must be in competition with each other?! With magazines and newspapers running features that ask us ‘who wore it best?’ the desire to create a competition between the two Duchesses has always been there. The Sun have even recently reported on this rumoured conflict between the two with the headline: “Why it’s no surprise sexual Meghan Markle and introvert Kate Middleton are having a royal rift”.

Whilst I am under no illusion that these two spend evenings in Kensington braiding each other’s hair and watching chick-flicks, I do take issue in the way in which the media can only accept women being the best of friends or mortal enemies. There is apparently no room for the in-between. Ask yourself- how many times have you read a news story that depicts a potential feud between two men? Or a feature that asks you whether Prince Charles or Prince Andrew ‘wore it better’?

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It seems that seeing two women go head to head has been one of society’s oldest and most voyeuristic past-times, which has become even more popular in the modern world, with reports of spats between The Spice Girls (the very ones who coined the phrase ‘girl power’), shade being thrown between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B and the entire Real Housewives franchise running on the occurrence of female feuds.

But these aren’t two popstars throwing shoes at an awards show. These are women from two very different backgrounds who have both found themselves center-stage in one of the most famous families in the world. Most people struggle to get through Christmas with their in-laws, yet the slightest hint of tension between sister-in-laws who live and work together seems out of the ordinary?

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Understandably, stories like these sell. I for one, have probably generated most of the clicks on each website’s version of events regarding Kate and Meghan. But the underlying issue remains that reporting on alleged feuds between women breeds a culture of resentment and competition rather than what women today everywhere actually need from eachother; empowerment and support.  As readers, we can do better than falling for the same, tired-out trap of assuming that women are nothing but evil, jealous individuals who all want to be Queen Bee and are willing to tear each other down in the process. We can do so much better.

Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sempey-482ab9130/

Strictly Curse or PR Blessing?

Strictly Curse or PR Blessing?

It started with a kiss. Last weekend, Seann Walsh and his Strictly Come Dancing dance partner Katya Jones were photographed kissing after, what they later described as, ‘a few too many’.

A standard work-place faux pas, that a lot of the nation can unfortunately relate to, made all that more severe by the fact that Katya is married to Neil, another professional dancer on the same show and comedian Seann has (or be that now had*) a girlfriend, Rebecca, of 6 years.

The photographs, taken on 8th October made the front page of The Sun on Sunday which was subsequently followed by various other front-page appearances throughout the week in The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Mirror.

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Both guilty parties immediately posted short and standard apologies on each of their Twitter accounts in an obvious attempt at some damage control. However, it was the statement from Seann’s scorned lover, Rebecca Humphries, that really got people talking.

In a statement co-written by Public Eye, a PR agency who boasts big names such as Jamie Dornan and Suki Waterhouse as their clients, Humphries addressed the incident (which took place on her birthday- I mean, come on Seann?!) and reinforced that she ‘wasn’t a victim’ despite revealing that Walsh had been controlling, verbally abusive and called her a psycho for voicing her concerns over his fidelity.

Rebecca’s brilliantly written statement was retweeted over 12,800 times and saw her Twitter followers increase by over 16,500. Her statement also prompted support from celebrities including Myleene Class, Stacey Solomon, Carol Vorderman and Marian Keyes, many of whom gushed about an all too familiar situation and how she handled herself with such dignity and grace. The Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, even praised Rebecca for speaking out publicly about her experience and helping other women in similar situations.

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This perfect example of crisis communications catapulted Rebecca into the spotlight, not as a woman scorned but instead as a voice for a new generation of strong, resilient and capable women.

However, a source from Strictly Come Dancing has said that, “It was written to bring him down, plain and simple, to chime in with the whole #MeToo moment and make it seem far, far worse than it was.” They then went on to say that “He’s a total a***hole but that doesn’t make him a monster.” – A view that surprisingly was shared by a lot of viewers.

Unfortunately for Seann and Katya, their joint appearance on midweek show “It Takes Two” didn’t do them any favours though. Through watching their appearance on the aptly named show, I can only imagine that the severity of what Seann had sacrificed (other than his relationship) was only starting to sink in. His uncomfortable, uptight presence throughout the interview portrayed a mind that was now counting his potential post-show opportunities slipping away alongside his inevitable sell-out comedy tour.

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Whilst addressing his version of events, he made no reference to his (ex) girlfriend and came across as arrogant and overly defensive. Katya showed even less remorse than Seann by selfishly stating that her relationship was ‘absolutely fine and that’s what matters the most’.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, why hadn’t Neil weighed in on these terrible attempts to handle the situation? Was he indeed absolutely fine with his wife’s indiscretions? Was he going to drag Seann across the dancefloor by the throat whilst the band plays Copacabana? Neil’s response was something I’d never read before in any crisis communications text book- he completely ignored his wife’s indiscretions and instead posted this photo below on his Instagram page.

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Whilst Rebecca addressed her public humiliation head on and inspired a nation of women, Neil simply taught us that if all goes wrong, you can always post a poorly photoshopped photo of your butt on Instagram that will be sure to distract from anything else going on in your life…

But Neil’s Kardashian strategy wasn’t enough to distract me.

Having never watched Strictly before in my life, I settled down on Saturday evening waiting to watch the shamed partners take to the floor to perform the Charleston (which I have to believe was picked deliberately by the Strictly producers as it is perhaps the most un-sexy dance they could have been assigned).

After sitting through the first 10 acts (another obvious ploy by the BBC to keep viewers watching the whole way through) they were on. Much to my disappointment, the ghost of Bruce Forsythe didn’t appear to cast shame on them both, but clearly I wasn’t alone in my anticipation to see these two face the music and dance. Twitter was on fire with both of their names trending the entire way through the show and viewing ratings even increased by 1.4 million compared to the previous week.

So were there any real losers at the end of this scandal?

Rebecca, although going through obvious personal trauma has had her profile heightened and gained the respect of a nation of women – all beneficial factors for an actress who, let’s face it, wasn’t a household name before. As for the pair in question, despite their horrendous handling of the situation, they have come out of this pretty well. According to Katya, her relationship is ‘absolutely fine’ and this is seconded by the silent support (and seaside selfies) of her husband. Seann even managed survived the first week of evictions post-scandal and the show is, as a result, boasting huge ratings figures.

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Thanks to the ‘Strictly Curse’, which has claimed victims including Rachel Riley, Natasha Kaplinsky and Kristina Rihanoff, the nation is watching, talking  and tweeting about Strictly Come Dancing 2018. A blessing in disguise.

 

*I personally think the most traumatic thing about this whole scenario has to have been the over-use of the word ‘snog’ in the press.

 

Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sempey-482ab9130/