Some advice to help you think twice!

For my first year of university I studied in Leeds Beckett- previously known as Leeds Metropolitan. I studied Events Management, which at the time seemed like the easiest option as on my A-Level Results day (August 2014) things didn’t quite go to plan, and plan B *which I stupidly didn’t have and had to create on the day* came into play. The pressure of having to go to university really hit me hard and I jumped to the first option which was any available course I could take!

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I had a few options from clearing, but Leeds cried out to me the most, I say this as I decided on this option in a moment of sheer panic as my cousin was going into her final year in the same university, so I had some sort of common ground with the city and university. That day seemed to go by in such a flash and I just remember jumping into all sort of decisions and not properly thinking them through. The words ‘Sarah are you sure this is what you want to do?’ haunt me to this day as my Mum repeatedly kept saying those exact 11 words all through the day as we frantically sorted my accommodation, my fees, and basically my whole life which was from that moment going to be my life for the next year or what was meant to be 4 years.

That day alone taught me so much, but I never realised it until May 2015. Throughout that year I had some highs and a heck of a lot of lows, but I never really realised it until my year was coming to an end. Leaving for Leeds I had the mindset of ‘this is my life for the next 4 years’ which I personally think did not help me at all, I almost put myself in a dark whole that I thought I couldn’t get out of before I had even left Belfast.

University away from home just was not right for me as throughout my whole last year of school I had been working towards studying at home and never really looked into going away for university but when the opportunity came up I jumped at it and thought about the philosophy ‘everything happens for a reason, this must be part of my journey” …….NOPE I was wrong, I do believe everything happens for a reason but for in this case in August 2014 ‘everything’ really should have been thought through a bit more on my behalf. I learnt from this that these spontaneous decisions really are not for me!

Living away from home really taught me and I am sure anyone who does live away from home how much you really appreciate home and being with your family in friends on a regular basis, oh and of course my dog. I made so many amazing friends in Leeds of whom I am still so close with, but I really am a home bird as much as I did not want to admit it for the first few months after moving back home. This decision was difficult but I knew it was the right one for me. Below are a few photos of my time in Leeds and some of the life long friends I have made.

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I am writing about my experience as I hope possibly someone who may be wanting to study abroad or away from home takes this into consideration, or can take away something from this, to think decisions through, now I am not talking about whether or not you should have that last piece of chocolate….I am talking about  the bigger decisions in life. Looking back on my year everything really does happen for a reason, because I learnt so much about myself and as much as I hate to admit it and mum and dad probably hate it too, I am a home bunny. Leeds as a city is an absolute dream, everything is really a 5 minute away from anywhere and the people are so friendly but the uni course and that uni life was just not for me.

When I look back now I always think about how different my life could have been if I had stayed in Leeds, I would have not had met the people I know today, I would not have the job I have now and not be writing this blog post. I was so scared to tell my Mum and Dad that I did not want to stay there and wanted to come home and spent 1 week deciding on how I would tell them, but the logistics of it all were that they just wanted me to be happy and sort of knew my heart was not fully in it. They know I am so much happier than what I was for that year and know I am comfortable in my situation now.

3 things I’ve learned from my year away:

  1. Don’t jump into decisions when deep down you know they aren’t the right ones, big or small.
  2. Take the time you need and don’t let the pressure of society get to you.
  3. Don’t tell taxi drivers you are from Belfast as inevitably the conversation will always turn into an in depth discussion of the troubles and a hangover and a long discussion of the Troubles does not go well and what was meant to be a £10 taxi turns into you being £25 down as the people of Leeds love a good chat….

Sarah Heath is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @sarahmeganheath,  Instagram @sarahmeganjane, LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-heath-375053a6/

“But which one is right?” MY opinion on this generation

I’m here today to talk about snowflakes. No, I don’t mean the little white fluffy things we see at Christmas (more like March if you live in Ireland), but the delicate, precious, if-you-touch-them-they-melt, human beings that we have walking among us every day.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I could not care less about what religion or sexual preference you have; I don’t even care if you like to wear Tuesday socks on a Friday. But that’s exactly my point – I. Don’t. Care.

 

We live in a generation where people care too much. I will never understand why anyone would want to walk through this earth, getting offended by every minor thing they see or hear, when they would be much happier if they just didn’t give a shit. Likewise, I don’t get why people try to offend others for having different thoughts to them. As a wise man, Ricky Gervais, once said, “Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right.” When people get offended by homosexuals, does that mean they’re right? No. When people get offended by someone else’s religion, does that mean they’re right? No. It’s all just opinion.

 

Once upon a time, there was a big bang (or so the theory goes) and this earth was created. There was nothing but plants and animals. Then society came along, decided what was right and wrong and this created opinions, and opinions, as we can see today, create offence. Now, if you are a woman and one day you wake up and you decide that you would like to be a man, go right ahead. But be warned, someone out there is not going to agree with it. In the same way, people who decide to eat a vegan diet would not agree with someone who eats meat. But which one is right? Neither, because it’s all based on opinion and personal preferences.

 

Let’s talk about Friends, the greatest TV show on earth (in my opinion). The show that was once so ahead of its time, due to the same-sex wedding and the transgender character of Chandler’s father, that it was actually banned in parts of the US when it first arrived on our screens in 1994.  But now, since its release on UK Netflix, some millennials believe that the show is offensive to this snowflake generation. One of the main reasons for this was that they found the fat-shaming of Monica to be extremely problematic. But when you think about it, should they really be praising someone for living an unhealthy lifestyle? (Don’t get me started because I could write a whole new blog post about people who praise obesity). Another issue that has been getting a lot of press recently, is the use of the word ‘faggot’ in the classic and amazingly-brilliant Christmas song ‘Fairytale of New York’. Now, this song has been around for years and yes, I know, times have changed, blah blah blah, but if you warriors stepped back from the keyboard for long enough you would realise that this song is about a heterosexual couple, therefore the use of the word faggot here could not mean a gay man, as this would not make any sense. If you then took the time to do a little research, you would see that early usage of the word ‘faggot’ actually meant ‘a repellent man’ which, when you think about the fact that this couple had a love-hate relationship, would make a lot more sense.

 

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In my 21 years of living, I have learned a couple of things and one thing I know is that if you have a different opinion to someone else, you should not get offended when they don’t agree. You also can’t get offended when someone carries out their own personal practises or beliefs just because you have decided that you believe in something different. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and just because yours goes against what society deems as ‘normal’ does not mean that your opinion has any more significance than anyone else’s.

 

I saw these Hindu words on an Instagram post today, and I thought it would fit perfectly here. “There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading in the same direction, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only one wasting time is the one who runs around and around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.”

 

Now I am aware that this post has probably offended some people, but really, those people should have stopped reading at the word ‘snowflakes’. And that’s the point, if someone doesn’t agree with what you believe in, or if they are talking about something that is going to offend you, don’t take to twitter and tell them they’re wrong or ‘outdated’, just ignore them! Learn not to give a shit. Try accepting that everyone is unique and different and that maybe, just maybe, there is no right and wrong way to live your life.

 

But that’s just my opinion.

 

Niamh Doherty is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/niamh.doc.9 ; Twitter @niamhydoc

 

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/

My Dad – The Strongest Man in the World.

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Growing up I always viewed my Dad as the strongest man in the world. There was nothing he couldn’t fix and he was always there to protect me. He worked away from home during the week as a stone mason so Friday nights were always my favourite time seeing his van pull up outside knowing he would have presents for me, my brother Daniel and my sister Sarah. After dinner he would take me out for ice cream and being in the van up high allowed us to drive down the country roads outside of Newcastle and see all the animals in the fields. Being a young girl I couldn’t have thought of any other better ways to spend my Friday nights.

A few years ago in 2016 my Dad started to struggle with headaches. He was coming home from work and going straight to bed because of the pain. As time went on and the pain of his headaches started to deteriorate my Mum booked him in with his GP who informed them that the pain he was experiencing was “nothing more than the common headache.” Relieved by this news Mum and Dad came home with a new set of painkillers hoping they would clear the headaches.

The next time my Dad had a headache he took 2 of his painkillers and waited for them to do their job… to kill the pain. As a few hours passed Dad realised the pain hadn’t eased at all and not being one to complain it was my Mum who decided to take him to A&E to see if they could help in ways a swift visit to the GP couldn’t. After a few scans and tests they were told again that the pain he was experiencing was no more than a common headache. However unlike their first visit to the Doctors this one was different as before they arrived home one of the nurses phoned my Mum and asked if they would be able to make their way back to the hospital. Then they were informed that it wasn’t just a headache but after taking closer looks at my Dad’s scans that they were sorry to tell him that he had a tumour growing on his optic nerve and across his pituitary gland.

The next few months insisted of frequent visits to the hospital and lots of medicine. After plenty of tests and scans Dad’s Neurologist decided that it was time for him to have surgery as his tumour had doubled in size over a small amount of time. Still working up until a few days before his scheduled surgery it was easy to see that the man I viewed as the strongest man in the world was terrified, and this scared me more than anything.

I’m not sure how to describe the day of his surgery other than it was strange. No one knew how to act but pretending to be normal didn’t feel right. As my parents were panicking we set off to the hospital a few hours early which made me feel more nervous. Waiting around for something is bad but having to wait in a quiet room in a hospital is worse.

A lovely nurse came out to get Dad ready for his surgery and informed us that it’s better if we go home as after the surgery we wouldn’t be able to see Dad for a few hours and that she would phone us when we were allowed to visit. The surgery was scheduled to last 2 hours as they thought it would be a simple procedure but after a lot of complications and 8 hours in surgery the Neurologist realised he couldn’t remove all of the tumour and the risks of having my Dad in surgery for any longer were too high.

Driving to the hospital we didn’t know what to expect as the Doctors didn’t tell my mum much over the phone. I remember standing beside my Dad’s hospital bed crying and praying that he would be okay. You never expect things like this to happen to you or your family and even though we had known for months about his surgery nothing could take the fact away that it was actually my Dad lying in the hospital bed and not someone else’s.

After a week in hospital post surgery it was time Dad could home which was the best feeling EVER. It honestly took a good few months for my Dad to get back into a routine. With the strong side effects off all his medication to prevent the remainder of his tumour from growing it was decided that instead of going back to work it was better for his health if he remained at home. I thought the hard part would be over now but it was really difficult to watch my Dad struggle with staying at home. He had worked his whole life ever since he was a young boy and being at home and feeling too weak to leave the house for more than an hour or so was really difficult for him.

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Like most stereotypical retired men Dad built a green house in the back garden which turned out to be a great distraction for my Dad and still is. It keeps him busy but in the comfort of our house so if he starts to feel unwell or needs to take a break he can easily do so.

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Even though I’ve always been a ‘Daddy’s Girl’ one positive thing that has come out of these emotional and stressful few years is that it has allowed me to realise how much can change in a short period of time. Being a teenager when this all started to happen I as always directing my attention to trivial things like nights out and social media etc. I feel so blessed every day to still have my Mum and Dad spoiling me and this crazy experience has only made me want to appreciate everything they do for me and my siblings even more.

Anna Grant is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – annagrantx

Public Relations in the Digital Age

The Role of Public Relations to me, is having a good understanding of what your publics want, and desire.

We live in the age of technology, which allows for organisations to become evermore competitive in the race for success. Reputation in any industry must be considered by most organisations as their biggest asset, and concern. Good public relations can benefit an organisations reputation with the means of good communication between themselves, and their publics.

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Smith, R.D. (2014) argued, reputation management is the process of seeking to influence the way publics view and understand the organization.

Reputation management begins with tracking and identifying what others say, and feel about an organisation, shaping the public’s perception of the organisations online brands via the Internet searches. Lots of organisations maintain their reputation on websites that consumers would visit most, such as, Amazon, Google, and even social media platforms. Social media platforms are fantastic opportunities to target a desired audience. I am particularly interested in the social media sector as a future public relations practitioner with first hand experience of managing a large digital audience as a successful blogger via Instagram, and www.wix.com. I have developed the knowledge of how to direct these audiences, and what communications are best in driving an affective, successful, and a current feed to attract more audiences, and keep current audiences wanting more from my brand. Learning these techniques assures myself that a career in public relations is a route best fitting to myself. Having already had opportunities in creating, and managing digital content online. I am skilled in the use of Photoshop software for image, and graphic editing and image manipulation. Constant maintaining on these networks and platforms will create for myself a reputation, and adds credibility in assuring I will be an excellent PR practitioner. Public relation practitioners have many roles, and usually deal with angry consumers who can write negative reviews about them and the organisations they work for, which could cause massive implications for the organisation leading to bad reputation. Public relations practitioners must be strategic, and corporations, companies and local businesses have to stand out of the crowd in their field of business to ensure success, especially in today’s globalisation.

Social Media Management

Most smart organisations will or should take advantage of social media platforms; kd6it’s free advertising with most of the public checking various social media sites everyday e.g. Instagram and Facebook etc. An organisations survival, and successes is dependable upon reputation management. In today’s society consumers can have a massive effect to a company’s reputation especially with use of social media platforms, where consumers can buy and review an organisations business ventures or new products. This allows future consumers to read these said reviews, and ultimately make a decision on whether or not to use these facilities. My personal belief is that mass media/social media is solely becoming a reflection of our working organisational economies, and ultimately everything that an organisation must adapt too in the age of technology. To survive in the aggressive economy, adapting is key; organisations that don’t adapt will untimely see a quick demise, although this is based on personal opinion.

Grunig & Hunt (1984) suggested public relations manages communication between the organization and its public sphere.

Ideologies of public relations shapes mind-sets through mass mediums that is present to the public sphere through stature. However, whatever way one can look at it, public relations primarily associates itself in shaping societal ways of thinking, which is something I myself have a great disposition to be involved in. Creating and preserving stature is perhaps a vital representation of how public relations works for any cooperation, organisation or persons heavily involved in wanting to change mind-sets. This is one of the many reasons I am attracted to a career in public relations, it is unyielding vitality that makes myself have the belief I am doing something right for myself. According to L’Etang (2008) public relations is forever involved in communications that enables change, and adjustment of communication. This career path, that allows for unforeseen routes and unavoidable paths that come with exhilaration is everything I would desire out of a career as a public practitioner.

PR Solutions and Globalising

kd7Public relations is changing massively, to benefit the practitioners, clients and consumers especially with the introduction of public relations to mass media. Mass media is communal source that’s engages with a specific target audience, It reaches a larger group of publics in a shorter space of time. Online and digital public relations has a number of PR solutions that can be deployed against a PR issue, it’s a limitless process that changes everyday. If these tools are put in place, plans will stand above the competition. I personally have the belief I have acquired the necessary skills and tools to be utilised in assuring my success in a forever changing market. I will know how fast current trends change, and what styles I should take to make myself seem current in my future PR profession.

Robert, Z, C. (2013) made an interesting statement, which I have previously mentioned, he said the public relations professionals need to be smart individuals.

Smart public relations practitioners should already be incorporating and integrating digital solutions to stem away from traditional solutions, as the market is changing fast. Goldsworthy & Morris, (2015) noted that mass mediums, online and social media is escalating and merging, they also argued that PR in relation to mass media, is beginning to look like a force of information and commentary through a funnel. This is great advice to any young professional embarking upon the world of public relations, one in which I believe I am best suited for.

Cultural Practitioner

University has simply confirmed how much I desire a career in public relations. During my studies, I have, and still am developing an excellent eye for detail and have significant experience of reading and interpreting large amounts of materials in an accurate and efficient manner. Personally, my passion for public relations lay in the arts, media and current affairs, especially when creating my own content.kd8

Green (2007) states, a creative individual, consist in not only originating, but also evaluating what the value the creative individual contributes.

Ultimately what this says to me is, the PR individual must produce something of value that can be recognised by third parties. There is a large increasing development of public relations practitioners having to navigate across the planet, and knowing the demands of different cultures and expectations of these cultures. Public relations practitioners must become multicultural and intercultural to keep up with demands of an ever-changing globalised world.

Edwards and Hodges (2011) argued, globalization in the public relations industry, shines a light upon how cultural and societal conventions ultimately influence the industry.

These directly shape the expectation in the public relations industry, and expectations of PR practitioners. With the emphasis on cultural effectiveness, which seems to be expected in a career in public relations.

Wakefield (2007) suggested, there is key principals that are dominant contrasts linking globalized and domesticated public relation practice

Rapport & Communications

Public relations in the in the digital age, establishes the answer on how to make organisations thrive, which is something I want to be part off. These PR skills and techniques of course must be learnt over a period of time and can’t be learnt over night. The process takes creative, and strategic minds as well as many other roles to make public relations work as a career. Public relations must be an efficient tool to solve issues in the way off goods and services through good communications, and good communicators. Throughout this blog, I have looked at many examples of why a career in public relations interests myself, and what the role of public relations involves in making a successful career for myself. From reputation management through to use of digital media resources, there are numerous ways public relations can be implemented in making a career in it succeed. Moreover public relations is rudimentary in understanding the importance of the PR profession, it creates the favourable relationships between the corporations and the public sphere. By looking at all these key principals, a career in public relation would ultimately benefit my urging as creativity individual. Becoming a Communication Management and Public Relation student has allowed myself to improve and polish the skills gaining in opening the doors to a career in public relations. My future lays in relationship rapport, where I will be using communications and public relations acquired at university into the profession.

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Reference List

Edwards, L.L & Hodges, C.E.M (2011). Public Relations, Society & Culture: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations. (1st ed.). New York: Routledge Publications. P,45.

Goldsworthy, S & Morris, T (2015). PR Today: The Authoritative Guide to Public Relations. (2nd ed.). England: Macmillan International Higher Education. P 29.

Green, A (2007). Creativity in Public Relations. (3rd ed.). London: Kogan Page Publishers. P, 8.

Grunig, J.E & Hunt, T (1984). Managing Public Relations. (1sted.). England: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. P, 5.

L’etang, J (2008). Public Relations: Concepts, Practice and Critique. (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications. P, 18.

Smith, R.D. (2014) Public Relations: The Basics. London: Routledge.

Waddington, S. (ed) (2012) Share This: The Social Media Handbook For PR Professionals. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. P, 14.

Wakefield, R. I. (2007). A retrospective on world class: The excellence theory goes international. In E.L. Toth (Ed). The future of excellence in Public Relations and communication management: Challenges for the next generation (pp. 545-568). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Chew Robert , RCZ, 2013. The Fundamentals of Public Relations. 6th ed. Los Angeles: Boldpoint Communications. P, 89.

Kevin Doonan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/irishcuchulainn/ ; Twitter – @KevinODunain ; Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/irish_cuchulainn/ ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-patrick-doonan-54749056/

NEVER STOP LEARNING

Lecturers always plug extra-curricular activities, don’t they?  It’s easy to nod along in agreement, making a mental note to respond to the university’s countless invitations by email but when they land there’s a deadline looming and you’re left weighing up the value of said event versus research/writing/reading.

We have the rest of our lives to learn from other PR & Comms specialists, right?

As a mature student, trust me when I say there is always something looming, that’s life. However, there won’t always be a queue of industry experts willing and ready to meet you and share their expertise.  With that in mind, I’m very glad I took @ConorMcGrath up on his invitation to attend a discussion with Alex Aiken, Head of the Government Communication Service (GCS).

I expected two things on the day of the discussion: firstly, for the event to be cancelled in lieu of the Prime Minister’s highly anticipated announcement that evening; secondly, I assumed that if it did go ahead, our guest would be sticking to a strict script, deflecting any difficult or Brexit-related questions.

I was wrong on both counts…

Alex was extremely down to earth and spoke to us candidly for over an hour; he laid out a compelling case for communications to be seen as an integral lever for transparent, responsible governance and a hugely important function within public services.  Good news for those of us that are too aesthetically challenged to make a living out of Instagram, even better news for those of us that are constantly wrestling with their conscience when it comes to considering graduate jobs outwith the voluntary sector.

Over the course of the evening we gained a fascinating insight into the GCS and crisis management – yes, that included Brexit.  We learned of the difficulties surrounding the GCS’s response to the Salisbury ‘Novichok’ attack – namely the difficulty in disseminating information to the press and public without jeopardising classified sources; we heard about previous campaigns – ‘the good, the bad, the ugly’ – and we we were privy to the contents of national address! We were given advice on GCS strategy and the modern importance of creating a story with characters and a conflict, stories that audiences can connect with, as opposed to the historical ‘who/what/where/when/why’ of the traditional press release.No alt text provided for this image

Most importantly, we were awarded the opportunity to put questions and observations to Alex; I had a list as long as my arm but settled on raising the dilemma of ‘spin’ – do communicators run the risk of fuelling tensions in society, especially in this climate, by creating a ‘story’ for their audience?  My understanding of the answer is ‘no’, providing the intentions of the author are not to mislead or misrepresent.

Alex laid out 8 key challenges for the GCS in 2018, one being to “maximise the role of government comms in challenging declining trust in institutions through honest, relevant and responsive campaigns”.  I felt that parts of the discussion were a rallying call to humbly acknowledge public mistrust and harness its existence as motivation to prove the positive impact that communications can have in our society; as someone that is leaning towards a career in some form of public service, but often cynical about the integrity of certain institutions, the call was welcomed and now that I’m writing this, I’m reminded of an exchange that has resonated since.

A small group of us headed to the Harp Bar after the discussion, and along the way, Alex praised Police Scotland’s tackling of knife crime via the campaign to treat violence as a public health issue.  Well this obviously sent me off on a tangent about whether it’s appropriate for police forces to use social media tools (yes, the laughs never stop when I’m around).  I was giving it big licks about certain public services ‘cheapening’ their reputation by endorsing PR tactics, when it was put to me that any measure with a proven ability to reduce the numbers of people being stabbed on our streets was a positive one.  Who could argue with that?

So take it from me: if anyone is reading this and thinking about skipping a relevant talk or event in lieu of a library session, then catch yourself on.  We are extremely privileged to have these opportunities and the confidence that comes from making your voice heard among the current leaders of PR & Comms, and learning from them, is more valuable than a book chapter.*

Don’t just rely on invites from your lecturer, either.  Find out for yourself what’s on offer.  For those in or near Belfast, !MAGINE! FESTIVAL has a fantastic line-up of events and discussions between 25th to 31st March 2019.

*don’t @ me for any academic decline

Fay Costello is an MSc in Communication & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @fay_costello. 

“If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?”

How many times have you asked someone how they are, and they answered with something along the lines of “Oh grand, keeping busy so I can’t complain”?

I don’t know about you, but it’s something that I hear a lot and I’ve noticed that it’s usually said with a positive connotation. But is it really a good thing?

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Living in a society where everything happens almost instantly, people are finding themselves under a new-found pressure to get as much done as possible in 24 hours. 

If we aren’t in work or university, we’re working on projects or assignments at home. If we aren’t at the gym trying to keep fit, we’re in the house trying to get the place cleaned up for a few more days. We’re living in a world of endless to-do lists, but yet this is portrayed as if it’s something to be happy about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should sit around all day doing nothing and I for one really admire a hard-work ethic, but have things gotten to the point that we feel guilty for sitting down to watch a movie on a weekday evening, instead of replying to the emails your boss sent 20 minutes after you left the office?

My mother always tells me that she can’t believe when I say that time is going too quickly, because she never felt like that at my age (and it certainly wasn’t because she was sitting around doing nothing). So I couldn’t help but think about why I feel like this so often; and to be honest I blame technology. Yes, I know what you’re thinking…“We all waste so much time on social media”. Which is true, but technology has advanced so much in the last thirty years, we now have fully-functioning computers in our pockets. Everything is so instantaneous. From our communication to our grocery shopping; it can all be done with the click of a few buttons. And I feel that this new quick-paced culture has created a society that is too impatient and expects everything and everyone to be ‘flat to the mat’ 100% of the time. We become aggravated when traffic isn’t moving fast enough or when the wifi isn’t working because we always have things to get done.

That’s what it comes down to isn’t it? We can’t spend too long chatting to our neighbours because we have somewhere to be. We don’t call our family because we can do that any time and there’s six assignments waiting to be finished. We don’t take time to relax after work because the housework needs to be done before bed.

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Personally, I have found myself in a continuous rut of planning every hour of every day so that I can go to work, go to uni, go to the gym, get my assignments done, do some housework, try and see my friends, family and boyfriend, get sufficient sleep, work on my personal brand and so on. We are under so much pressure to do everything all at once, that we don’t make time for the things that we’re essentially working for. You know the feeling; you have something coming up that you should be looking forward to but you aren’t because you just have too much to do.

There’s a saying that goes “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” and I can’t help but feel that 21st century life has put the wrong context to this.

We live in such a constant cycle of trying to catch-up or get ahead that we don’t appreciate what we’ve worked for so far. We need to take a step back and remember that life is not a race, it’s a journey. And by trying to take shortcuts all we are doing is losing out on all the amazing sights along the way.

Okay so yes, being busy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But we need to stop glorifying busyness as if it’s a sign of success. Do your job and do it well. Do your chores and do them well. Do the things you need to do, and do them well. But do not prioritise the things that can wait, over the things that really matter.

As Eli Wallach asked, “if you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?”

 

Shannon Hegarty is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-hegarty-594193172/ and Twitter: @shannonhegPR