How I chose to Study CMPR

Throwing it back to May 2016, when I was awaiting my Nursing application to change to a conditional offer on my UCAS page … which never came. Instead, I was greeted with the lovely sight of all 5 of my nursing applications being rejected following my interview. I knew that nursing was a very hard course to get into and was told to prepare for not getting in on the first year and having to wait till the next year to reapply. However, once I was rejected, I could feel that that was not the path for me at that time in my life. I was not ready for the commitment that a nursing course requires, and decided that maybe sometime later in my life, if I still wanted, I could always go back and do a nursing degree, but now was not the time.

So when results day came (which was on my birthday I must add), and I seen that I got the results I would have need for the nursing course, it was a bitter sweet moment. 

However, I had just recently discovered that a girl from my town had a blog, which I started to read and realised that she was blogging about the course she was doing at university in Liverpool, which was a PR related course. I was so fascinated with her blogs and began to get very interested in the topics she was talking about. So this was my first introduction to the world of PR, and I was heavily interested in it. I began to look up similar courses in universities at home as I did not want to go away for uni, and I found the Communication Management and Public Relations course at Ulster University. However, I hadn’t applied for this course within my first 5 choices, so I was stuck on what to do now. 

I had the results necessary to get in to this course, so on results day I thought I would have a look at the ‘clearing’ option on UCAS. But unfortunately for me, this course was not on clearing. But I wasn’t giving up that fast! I rang the course director and basically begged for a place. 

I had to wait a few days to find out if I was going to be offered a place on the course…these days were the longest, most stressful days ever. But finally I got the notification offering me a place on the course, to which I confirmed. 

I am now in final year and I can definitely say that I made the right choice for my career. I am so happy that I picked this course, I have been so interested in the topics I have been studying over the years and can see how this career path will be suited to me. 

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

When I grow up I wanna be….a PR professional

The industry of Public Relations is one that I still struggle to explain to anyone when they ask where my degree will actually get me in life.

So the way in which I describe it to others is to tell them what PR means to me.

What PR means to me…

Public relations is having growing media representation within today’s society, whether that’s through online brand content or on the streets of your nearest city, public relations comes in many forms and is all around us, yet not may actually know what it is.

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It is becoming extremely important for organisations to have a PR strategy in place, in order to get their brand out there and increase the reputation within the industry and to their publics.

Producing a single definition of PR, to me, is impossible, there are many different interpretations of PR and so many different definitions by different organisations.

There are two top public relations organisations within the UK, the CIPR and PRCA, and even they define public relations differently.

The definition that sticks with me is the CIPR definition, as it states that public relations is about an organisations reputation, and is ‘a result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you’.

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Initial Interest 

The first time I had heard of the term Public Relations was when I was finishing my A-levels and discovered a local girl from my area who was studying a business and PR course at university and had created a blog where she discussed all things PR related. Through reading her blogs I realised that, while I had no clue what she was talking about, the topics she was discussing really intrigued me. That girl was Orlagh Shanks, now the UK’s top PR blogger for 2018 and 2019.

I then decided, (after a rejected nursing application) that I was going to apply for the Communication Management and Public Relations course at Ulster University. Even though, at this stage, I didn’t know much about public relations or what it was, or even what kind of job it would get me, I just knew that I really enjoyed reading PR related content, and that was enough for me to apply.

To this day I am thankful for that rejected nursing application, as I have been really enjoying my course at university.

Creativity 

One of the main reasons a career in PR interests me is that it allows you to be creative.

‘In the UK, public relations practitioners work in an industry with millions of pounds spent by organisations and clients to pay them to be creative and practise creativity’ (Green, A. 2010).

A job in public relations would allow you to express and show your creative mind through the development of PR strategies and campaigns. This is an aspect of mu university course that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Developing a PR strategy or campaign is exciting, it allows me to express my ideas and come up with innovative concepts to make a brand stand out and gain engagement, which in turn will benefit the organisation as it will influence a positive opinion of the brand. I have always had an interest in writing and producing online content, which is why I developed my own blog two years ago – https://siobhanmckerr.blogspot.com/. This interest will benefit me within my career in PR as it will assist me when writing press releases for organisations to be used by journalists and other media.

Public relations is an industry that is very fast paced, things change all the time, which for me is exciting. I have always viewed a job in PR as ‘fun’, and something I would love doing everyday, which would make me feel more motivated within my job. A day working in PR would never be the same as the last, the world of PR is constantly developing, things happen everyday that involve the use of PR, in news, media and online.

Social media as a tool

Another aspect of a job within PR is the use of social media. Social media can be used as a tool, whether it be to improve an organisations reputation or to grow their publics in order to gain customers, if social media is done right it can achieve all of these things.

Social media is something that I enjoy on a regular basis like most of us, however, through the development of my blog, I have also been able to see the side of social media that can be used as a tool for businesses. I often find myself looking up local businesses on social media sites, whether that be to see a menu or to see their latest promotional offers, and often I end up thinking to myself about the ways that the local businesses could improve on their social media sites in order to gain more engagement and traffic to their site and promote their business further.

Running an organisation’s social media sites would be something I would really enjoy, I would love to be involved in raising a brands awareness online and creating more engagement and watch this all improve on analytic sites. This is something I would thrive on, and I also believe, do well.

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Innocent smoothies are a company that have really changed the game when it comes to social media campaigns and they have really grown their social media presence in the last few years due to their fantastic reactive marketing campaigns and their use of crisis management in scandal situations, such as the ‘conker milk’ scandal. 

Versatile 

A degree in Public relations can take you down many different paths and can allow you to work within many different sectors of the industry, whether that be within the voluntary, public service or private sectors, or in-house vs agency.

Right know the path that interests me the most is Influencer Marketing. I want to learn more about the process of influencer marketing, such as why people online are so influential to consumers through the use of sponsored content. I would also love to learn more about how businesses and organisations work with influencers to promote their brands and become more successful online.

While this is a stem off the idea of a career solely in public relations, I feel that a job in influencer marketing would also incorporate PR as it involves working with publics and forming relationships in order to improve an organisations reputation. I hope to be able to explore many different paths within the PR industry as this would open many doors for me as a PR professional and would enable me to gain overall insight into the industry. This would also encourage me to stay motivated and inspired within my career.
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Feeling valued

Having a job where the work you do actually is important and means something will help you to feel respected and valued within the organisation you are working for. Everyone needs PR, so everyone needs your ideas and creative mind to ensure the reputation of their business stays at a high standard.  At some stage, every organisation will need some sort of content creation, promotional content, crisis management or an entirely new PR strategy, meaning that as a PR professional, you will always be valued and have meaning. This is something that is important to me when discussing a career, as feeling valued within the work place will enable you to work to the best of your ability with the team around you. This will also ensure a healthy and exciting workplace.

Success 

For me, when a think of a PR professional, I think of success. We all want to be successful and this is something I see as achievable when I think of a career in Public Relations. It offers the opportunity to progress within your career through the possibility of promotion, starting as a PR assistant and working your way up to a PR manager or even director. This means that within the PR sector there is always the opportunity for improvement and also for learning throughout your career, which is important to me as it reduces the likeliness of hitting a dead end with your career and will help to keep me motivated throughout and in return will hopefully enable a lot of success within my future career plan.

Here are some motivational quotes from successful women to inspire you!

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

PRETTY LITTLE THING’S PRETTY BIG PR DISASTER

I am sure if you are a fashion follower of any sort, you will have seen that Pretty Little Thing products have been exposed….

The fast fashion clothing company Pretty Little Thing rarely ever has many scandals from what I have seen. They seem to just be constantly building on their reigning empire, gaining more celebrity collaboration, more customers and ultimately more money… until recently, when their empire hit a bump in the road, when they were subjected to a case of FAKE NEWS.

A Facebook post was published by a PLT customer who had a look through the company terms and conditions on their US website to find this…

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https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1430300487135168&set=a.281899951975233&type=3&theater

This post went viral, now having approximately 25k shares on Facebook and thousands and thousands of Twitter threads discussing the issue. 


When I first seen this my instant reaction was shock…I couldn’t understand why a massive company like Pretty Little Thing would have chemicals in their products that were known cancer, reproductive harm and birth defects, and why it was just point blank in the terms and conditions without anyone knowing of this before. 

Disgust spread across the Internet, with many people putting up their own social media posts expressing their concerns and spreading the word to ‘Boycott Pretty Little Thing’. 

However, others were quick to fight back and defend Pretty Little Thing. Those who looked further into the statement within the terms and conditions discovered the truth. 

The truth 

The truth is that this warning was required due to a new law in the California, called Proposition 65, which requires all companies in California must provide warnings of ‘significant exposure’ to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm. However, it is highly unlikely that PLT clothing could contain sufficient amounts of these chemicals to cause harm at all. 

In fact, it is not the only clothing company that has used this warning, ASOS and Fashion Nova also have this warning within their company terms and conditions. 

FAKE NEWS 

Due to the first post going viral, many other customers and non-customers of Pretty Little Thing now had a negative outlook on the company, so much so that they posted about it on their social media and so on so forth, until thousands of people now thought that their PLT purchases were going to cause them harm, and so were suggesting that people do not purchase from the company any more. 

This lead to many articles posted containing FAKE NEWS. 

Fake news can have irreversible effects to organisations, it can change consumers image of a company, it can make them lose custom and can reduce their stock price. 

Public opinion is vital for companies in general, but especially online brands, like PLT, who build their reputation up online and gain a following of customers who have a high impression of the brand. 

Fake news can destroy this reputation, and if the brand is not strong enough, can also bring down the company. 

Luckily enough, I don’t think this has had much of a significant effect to the Pretty Little Thing brand as they have continued to issue statements claiming that their products do not contain sufficient amounts of lead to cause the stated effects, however this may have planted a seed of criticism into the heads of consumers who may then go and shop at a competitor brand that does not have such warnings in their T&Cs. 

For me, as a shopping addict…I can safely say that I will be purchasing from Pretty Little Thing again without any hesitation. 

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

Introducing Orlagh Shanks: An Interview With The UK’s Best PR Blogger 2018 & 2019

 

This is blogger, and former PR student, Orlagh Shanks (22), who runs the blog https://orlaghclaire.com/, where she talks all things PR related happening in the world from day to day. She also discusses all sorts of life experience topics, such as being a student, living in different cities of the world and general lifestyle categories.

I was drawn into Orlagh’s blog when I was exploring the idea of studying a PR related course at university, and with Orlagh being from the same town as me and attending the same secondary school, I felt I could gain some well trusted guidance from her blog.

Her blog was one of the many reasons I not only decided to study a PR related course, but also then decided to start my own blog.

So, for me, it is not hard to see why she has been given the title of ‘UK’s Best PR Blogger’ for not only 2018, but also 2019.

This is why I wanted to do an interview with her, for those that may not know her, in order to get to know Orlagh and find out what drives her in staying so dedicated to her blog and also to find out what her future plans are now that she has graduated. I feel that Orlagh will have some great advise for this years final year CMPR and CAM students.



Siobhan: 
Hey Orlagh, how are you? I have seen that your life has been crazy at the minute, so I appreciate your time to complete this interview. We are both from the same hometown and have both chosen to do PR related courses. You have now graduated with a first class honours, well done! So my first question for you is a typical one, why PR?

Orlagh: Hey Siobhan, I’m really good thanks! Ah, I always dread this question even though it’s so straightforward. I had always planned on following a career in finance, but my interests were always centred around magazines, fashion, entertainment and music. But growing up in the small town that we come from, a career in any of those industries was never really seen to be real or achievable to someone from Lurgan, in my eyes. But I spent three days at a PR agency in Belfast for work experience and I was sold. I wasn’t really able to explain PR to my mum and dad (or myself) but I just knew that it would allow me to somehow follow my dream career in one of those areas and be able to work with journalists since I had squashed my own idea of being a journalist once my two favourite magazines folded. Choosing PR meant that I was going to give myself a lot of options once I graduated from university and only once I started to study PR at LJMU did I realise just how many opportunities PR opens up.

Siobhan: How would you describe your course at Liverpool John Moore University?  What did you enjoy about it and was there anything you didn’t like about it?

Orlagh: It was a good course. I studied Business with Public Relations so I was able to also study modules like Marketing, Accounting and Finance, HR and Corporate Social Responsibility alongside my Public Relations modules. I enjoyed that part of it a lot as I now have a fair bit of insight into these areas of business that I wouldn’t have if I had studied Public Relations on its own. Another thing that I loved about the course was the option to carry out a placement year. I knew I was going to be making use of this once I had applied for the course.

What I didn’t like about the course was probably that it was very top line. Unlike a few other universities, my lecturers weren’t very active online in the PR community. They didn’t promote writing a blog like Conor McGrath from the University of Ulster does or Richard Bailey from Leeds Beckett. They didn’t really seem to know what was happening outside of LJMU or even that I had a blog and had won an award. It kind of felt like you were there to get the bit of paper at the end and that was it.

Quite like the schools back home, the main career choices were pointed towards working in corporate comms, crisis comms or internal comms for not-for-profits and public sector organisations. Roles such as publicity, influencer marketing and social media management weren’t discussed much or thrown into the equation.

Siobhan: Why did you choose to go overseas for university rather than stay at home?

Orlagh: Being honest, I couldn’t wait to get away from Northern Ireland. I was around 17 when my dad told me to get out of Northern Ireland as soon as I could, to make a better life for myself. I knew that there weren’t any opportunities for me and I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to broaden my horizons, meet a lot of new people, live in a new city and see what England had to offer. I also think that if I hadn’t moved to Liverpool for university, I probably wouldn’t have applied for a placement in London as I would have gotten too comfortable being at home. Moving to England at 18 was probably the best decision I have ever made as I think everything that has happened since then has been a ripple effect from that moment. Right now, looking at Northern Ireland in the news and just being away for so long has really made me realise how far behind NI is and how much it is struggling in terms of government, healthcare, prospects etc. I know I won’t be coming home for a very long time, that’s for sure.


Siobhan: So you said you did your placement year in London, what was your experience with that? 

Orlagh: Yes! And it was the best year of my life so far, without a doubt. I was able to carry out a placement year at Coty Inc. in London working in the Luxury PR and Influencer Marketing department. I lived and breathed my job and was so excited to go to work every single day. I was basically living my childhood dream of working with magazines, going to fashion events, music events, movie premiers, working with huge fashion labels etc. It was everything I imagined and more. My placement year made me realise that you really can find a job that you enjoy and wake up excited to go to. Now that I’ve had that, I don’t want to settle for a job that I don’t enjoy when I could be working and progressing at one that I do. My team were the best, my role was the best, the other interns were great and living and working in London was an overall great experience and one that I won’t be forgetting for a long while.


Siobhan: How did you become the UK’s best PR blogger for 2 years running?

Orlagh: Truthfully, I don’t really know. I started blogging at the beginning of my second year of university, so three years ago now. I think it really helped that I was consistent and kept blogging at least once every single week and I think with the amount that I was writing, I was improving with the practice and with every blog post that I wrote. On my placement year my content really ramped up which I think helped a lot. Then during my final year, I still managed to post at least once a week, sometimes up to three times per week and was able to give a speech to students at Greenwich University in London as well as be active on social media, contribute to Twitter chats and network with other PR professionals.

I think the main thing was consistency. I made myself stick to posting something every single week and then just got into the habit of doing it. Now, it’s second nature to post at least once per week and when I don’t post, I have a weight on my shoulders until I do. I think the more time I invested into my blog, the more my stats progressed and the more recognition I received, the more I became pretty obsessed with my site. I was constantly trying to make it look better, write better content, make it easier to navigate, make social media pages for it etc. I’m quite proud of how far my blog has come in the past three years and I think the time that I put into it shows for itself. I would be up to all hours of the morning blogging away and neglecting all of my university work just so I could focus on my own website instead. And now the middle of the night is the only free time I have to blog in New York.


Siobhan: How did blogging help you during your time at university? And how do you think it has help you in your career path?


Orlagh: I guess for university purposes, it helped a lot with my essay writing. I was writing 1,000 word blog posts a few times per week, so when I was given a 2,000 word essay, it didn’t seem as daunting. This is also how I approached my dissertation. To me, 10,000 words was just like writing 10 blog posts – achievable. It also helped a lot in terms of knowing what was going on in the world of PR and being able to draw examples for my work as I was constantly reading about PR and getting involved in conversations surrounding what was currently happening.

The main thing that my blog helped me with was my career, for sure. I really do think I owe my placement year at Coty to my blog and the opportunities that followed. Any public relations graduate can say that they are interested in the subject since they studied it, but a blog really emphasises how much you are invested in the industry since you are constantly writing, reading and talking about what’s going on. Having a blog about your degree topic is probably one of the best things to have on your CV (if you can write and spell well of course).

There’s a lot of writing involved in PR, so your blog would be a great example of your capabilities, who you are as a person and your skillset for the working world of public relations.

 

Siobhan: What does the next year have in store for you now that you have graduated?

Orlagh: After graduating in July of this year, I moved to New York City at the end of August to work for a year in influencer marketing. I feel extremely lucky to be here and can’t believe that I actually am. I’ve only been here six weeks but working and living in New York has been everything I imagined and more.

I’m excited to learn more about influencer marketing and further my knowledge and skills in the area as it’s the career path that I currently want to follow and work in once my year in New York is up.

So for now, I’ll be spending the next 12 months in NYC working in the finance industry and seeing and doing as much as I possibly can. Where blogging fits into that, I don’t know as I don’t seem to have a spare minute to myself at all.


Siobhan: What advice would you give to the CMPR/CAM students of Ulster University to help them get through final year?

Orlagh: Enjoy it as best you can! It may be called final ‘year’, but in reality it’s around eight months maximum. Those months will go by in a flash and it will be straight out into the real world. Make the most of your lie-ins, your flexible calendar, your student discount, living with your friends, many nights out and everything that your university offers. I was able to go to Amsterdam with my course during my final year and it was the best way to celebrate the end of our four years together.

Also, look out for one another. Final year can be very tough and you can feel a huge amount of pressure when thinking about what you’re going to do next. That was probably the toughest part of final year for me – deciding what my next career move was going to be. Make sure your classmates are finding everything ok and if they are struggling, help them. There is no competition in university as you all want to finish with the top degree, so help make sure all of you get the result you deserve.

But seriously, enjoy it. Don’t feel that because you are in your final year that you need to spend the entire time in the library. Do your work on the weekdays and enjoy yourself on the weekends. You can have the best of both worlds and still finish with a first class degree. As long as you put the work in, you’ll get the mark that reflects it.


Thank you so much to Orlagh for being involved in this blog post and answering some questions for me. I feel that we can all take in this quality advice from Orlagh to help us complete our degrees.

View Orlagh’s award winning blog by clicking here.

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations staudent at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.