Why does a career in PR interest me?

Why does a career in PR interest me?

Flashback to 2015, I had just finished school in upper six and had just applied for a Media studies degree. Patiently waiting to hear back from UCAS in the coming weeks. To be frankly honest, I knew in my heart it wasn’t the course I wanted to do, it was just something my teacher had encouraged you to apply for as it was the ‘known’ thing to do, and after all, one of my A levels was in Media Studies, it seemed the right thing to do.  Skip a short while later and I decided a year out was the best option for me, as I wasn’t quite sure what direction I wanted to go in, so I started applying for every job going.

Skip along another year and after a year working in Tesco, I knew I wanted to go back to studying but just had no idea what. An email had come through to me about an information open night in Ulster University about 3 courses that seemed interesting to me. These were, CAM, CMPR and Advertising. A representative from each course had stood up and talked about their experience from each course and by the end of it I knew in my heart CMPR was the one for me. The clue being in the name with ‘public relations’ on the end. After speaking to Kerry-Ann course director at the end of the presentation she had explained that with the grades I achieved in my A-Levels, being 3 Cs, that I would not be accepted for the course. As I was walking out with my head held low, she ran after me and explained about the part-time option and I would be able to complete the course over a longer period and achieve the same degree at the end. I felt this was a sign and knew this was the beginning of my PR journey.

Apart from imagining in my head what the PR industry was like, being luxurious and glamourous or as Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.13) describe as ‘involve lunches, receptions, events and parties which include many different people at a range of different locations.’ I knew it involved building relationships and meeting new people regularly and being a ‘social butterfly’ as my mum would call me, that this was the job for me.  Actually, it sounded too good to be true!  From learning the basics of PR in first and second year of my course, it was not until final year that I really started to dig deeper. My lecturer Conor has a massive role to play in this as his enthusiasm about the subject really inspires me and allows me to develop my own opinions on the subject and not just what you are taught through curriculum.

I would not say that I am an overly confident person when it comes to speaking in front of other people but to describe my personality I would say I am a bubbly person and love meeting new people and this is one of the reasons a PR career interests me. For example, in my workplace I am not afraid to say when I think a situation is being handled wrongly, however, when I’m in a classroom environment I do feel nervous quite easily and put a lot of pressure on myself.  This is where I need to adapt the skills of giving my opinion more freely when asked, just as I would in a one to one situation with a manager for example. However, learning from other PR practitioners has helped me develop some of these skills. For example, Ella Minty a well-recognised lecturer/leader/adviser runs sessions on Twitter weekly giving advice and the opportunity to give your opinion on a variety of topics. I think this is a great way to not only develop new skills but also take on board other PR practitioner’s opinions which I think is a very valuable asset for a career in PR.

Which brings me to my next point, I love how much variety there is to be offered within a PR career. No one day is the same, and constantly learning on the job. I do not have a lot experience in the PR area with doing part time in the course I did not have the opportunity to do a placement year, however, I run a social media account for a dance school I teach in which allows the parents to keep up with everything their kids are up to on a weekly basis. Whether this be a press release or a simple image it allows me to experiment with different styles and ideas that work and those that don’t so that I will keep my audience entertained and informed.

I personally believe that PR is at the heart of all things in communication sector and holds the key to the future to all things media related. By consuming the media and being social savvy is another great way to pursue your passion and career path around PR. I would say I have always been interested in all aspects of the media, growing up in an era of the smart phone revolution I had to quickly adapt to having the up to date social media platforms where information about anything and everything spreads like wildfire and as Sophie Chadwick, 2020 says ‘it’s important to note that social media has already changed the course of public relations, almost beyond recognition.’ With the mass media still playing a crucial role in society and around PR it is important to recognise the pros of social media and how it can be used effectively within a PR career as well as sometimes causing crises.

Practice makes perfect. Throughout the course of my PR module in final year, Conor has kept on at us to practice being in the midst of what we are learning. So, whether it be a press release or a blog, practice being in the moment as there is “no time like the present”. This is how I knew I also wanted a career in PR. Nothing satisfies me more than having a diary and being organised for months ahead, or having an idea in my head and grabbing my laptop to write it all down in the hope that it might be a useful idea to come in handy someday. And like any job you cannot know everything from day one so this creative mind mapping and thinking of ideas in my head that may be useful in the future is another asset that would be ideal for a career in PR.

Although there are many great opportunities within PR and how I would love a career in it the future, I know it could be an extremely pressurised environment to work in.  I think that even though there would be many rewarding parts of working in PR, there would also be times when there is a lot of pressure on staff to meet deadlines and work long hours to get a campaign finished on time.  I feel that even though I would describe myself as someone who works well under pressure, at times I might let things get to me and may feel overwhelmed as I someone who likes to get things right and would put a lot of pressure on myself.  I also know that I would have other team members around me and we could work together to overcome any challenges we might face using the skills each of us has gained.  Eventually, I know I would become a key individual in a workplace by working within a team and becoming a valued team member which other organisations would recognise and possibly want to employ.

Like in any career, eg fireman, doctor or astronaut, I believe you can do anything when you put your mind to it. I want to try and get more experience before I begin my career in PR or whatever direction I take in the future. This involves understanding myself more as a person and projecting this in a respectable way to employers to relate and understand that I am right for the job role in PR. By keeping up to date with ongoing movement in PR is also crucial, for example on social media platforms such as Twitter where updates are being put up hourly about what is trending in PR circles. Finally, by practicing my writing when and where I can eg. writing a blog and posting it or setting myself goals to practice things I am not so confident at, such as public speaking. The drive and enthusiasm aspects that come with the career and how it matches to my personality makes me excited for the future and I hope this reflects on why I want a career in Public Relations.

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.

Oh Polly- NHS competition-coincidence or crisis?

If you’re in your twenties and into your fashion like me, I’m sure you’ve heard of or follow some form of social media fashion brand like “Oh Polly”.  If you don’t or haven’t heard of them, I’ll let you judge for yourself after reading this blog. Famously known for their body-con embellished styled dresses, making a turnover profit of £15.6 million during 2018, the brand is one of the most successful fashion brands in the UK today. Like many fashion brands now-a-days they regularly run competitions in order to win a prize gifted by themselves by liking, commenting and sharing on one’s social media platform. Supposedly for them to gain more followers and become more recognised.

Throughout this global pandemic they took this opportunity to give all NHS workers the chance to enter a competition free of charge, ran by themselves to applaud them for all their hard work and bravery throughout covid-19.

Student, Lara Harper, aged 20 had entered the competition for key workers to win a ‘care package’ of products, along with a zoom party which had been due to take place with other winners and ‘oh Polly babes’. She then went on to send them a message to explain that she would be on shift at the time of the party and if there was an alternative way, she would be able to receive a prize at another time.  Oh Polly went on to respond to her message by saying: “Hey babe, unfortunately the prize was joining our party, and dress and package was a little something to participate in on the evening of the event. So sorry you are unable to join us babe and we do hope you are able to join us at future competitions.”

Well… Lara was not going down quietly and rightly so! Ever heard of the calm before the storm, this is the only way I can describe what happened next. She got onto her fellow Twitter followers to let them know exactly what way Oh Polly had treated her in case they had decided to change their tone. And of course, that’s exactly what they did!

As guessed, shortly after, Oh Polly were quick to respond to this media outrage by saying that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ and they would really like to apologise for their actions. By going on to exaggerate their gratefulness for what this young girl was doing, other clothing companies were not slow to react and recognise the fault their competitor had caused. Pretty Little Thing another clothing brand well known in the UK, quickly responded by tweeting Lara, ‘we want to celebrate you and all the incredible things you are doing right now! PM us for a Pretty Little parcel. You deserve it.’ She then went on to tweet them back saying how she was very appreciative of their offer and how she would never be shopping with Oh Polly again. Online users on Twitter were not blinded to the experience Lara had went through, one even said ‘Mix up? If she hadn’t posted it for everyone to see you wouldn’t have given her a new outfit anyways?’

In my opinion, this is a clear reflection of the type of brand Oh Polly are. It is also an example of how a good deed has gone wrong in a matter of hours. The power of social media was very important in this incident as if it were not posted for everyone to see, they could have got away with it.  Although an apology was made on behalf of their mistake it seemed very feeble in my eyes and others who expressed their opinion on other social media platforms and replies to the original tweet. This can be very damaging for a brand as popular as themselves and is a clear example of how to lose customers in rapid numbers and fast.

In future, to avoid another crisis like this, Oh Polly need to have a crisis management plan in place to deal with their staff more efficiently and have a back-up strategy to ensure they put their customers first in every situation. They were not fast enough to respond, and their replies were not effectively dealt with. I have no doubt that they will remain a popular fashion brand however it does change my opinion personally and it will forever be the story that sticks in my head when I see their brand logo, what do you think?

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. . She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.

Defining PR through a student lens

Defining PR through a student lens

When I think of blogging, I think of 7-year-old me writing a diary about everything I did every weekend throughout my childhood to look back at and remember the fond memories. Now that I have grown up and had the opportunity to look back at these supposed ‘blogs’ I drafted. It usually consisted of my weekly dance class and a sleepover at my favourite aunties house. But since this is my first ‘official’ blog lets start over. When my lecturer Conor asked us to each write a blog on a professional topic within the PR industry it got me thinking, how would I sum up in my head the definition of Public Relations?

The public relations and communications association (PRCA) defines public relations as ‘the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image. The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages. (PRCA, 2020)  

Yes, there is a lot of this definition I would agree with, however, in my eyes it’s so much more. So much more I could probably write 50 pages about. In a lecture with Conor he asked us to each come up with a definition of what we thought PR was. So, for me I got my pen and paper and started writing random words in bubbles around the page. He then asked us to ask a family member to see how they would sum it up and how their definition differed from mine. My mum made me laugh as she stood there making the dinner and said, ‘I take it it’s just marketing a company!’.  Three words kept appearing in the back of my head and it got me thinking, does anyone really know what PR is?

The first was the organisation. Now to me, an organisation is Tesco so I can understand when PRCA refers to ‘the way an organisation is represented in the media’ and how Tesco have TV adverts, radio adverts, social media platforms and even for me a monthly email to my inbox for some light bedtime reading!  But then Conor mentioned something that stuck, and it was ‘but the Kardashians wouldn’t be considered a company or organisation, would they?’ I’m not going to lie I did zone out for a few seconds because I’m one of those people who will agree with it being the biggest load of rubbish but secretly binge watch it all day on a Sunday afternoon. But in reality, the marketing and digital side to an organisation are all merging, so to me there is no clear, concise answer to that being considered the definition of PR. 

Secondly is publics. When I think of publics, I think it means segmenting our population into different groups and that the core message an organisation is trying to portray is relatable and when needed, they may tweak a message to make it suitable for the target audience.  When I look at the level of interest regarding publics, it’s clear to see that this cannot always be achieved by every organisation. For example, a local bakery may not be able to gain the same message to the publics as Tesco might or that one set of publics could be more ‘aware’ and the other more ‘latent’ when it comes to an organisation.  It’s about tailoring the core message to each set of publics in a way that will not conflict itself.  Jerry Silfwer, 2015 says ‘Group people on the basis on what situation that created them and how, when and where they choose to communicate. It’s easier, it’s faster, it makes more sense and most of all — it makes your public relations activities much more relevant and efficient.’

And finally, reputation. In the eyes of some, this factor is not held highly accountable but, in my opinion, reputation is important although it is not necessarily controlled by the PR team itself. Many people will disregard reputation and say that it is connected with relationships. But to me, they are categorised completely differently.  For me, it’s the image I envisage in my head when I think of an organisation, company or even the Kardashians! Or on the other hand, a bad scenario that sticks in my head when something is leaked or a few negative comments that one time on my 3am twitter rampage. But then again, not the full package of what a true definition of what public relations stands for. 

So, organisations, publics, and reputation are definitely relevant in shaping the definition of public relations but are by no means in my eyes what make up the full picture. So, what is the full picture? Will we ever know? For now, I’d say there is no single-handed answer to what or how to define public relations because the truth is its ever-changing and that is the beauty of it.  In my opinion of being a student studying the academic literature and history of what it has brought to the table over the years, I would say it’s a professional industry that helps organisations to communicate to its publics in an effective way which then helps to uphold a reputation which other organisations and departments can learn from within the workplace as well as outside the workplace and these messages are mostly perceived well by the media as they are sent and passed on.

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.