A graduate’s guide to landing your first job in PR

A graduate’s guide to landing your first job in PR

Natalie Clarke and Charlotte Goss are Account Executives at Holywood based PR and experiential agency, Clearbox. Coming from two different degree backgrounds, and with nearly a year of agency life under their belts, they’re here to serve up some of their best advice for soon-to-be graduates on getting a job in the world of PR… 

We’ve been there. You’re finishing up your dissertation, exams are on the horizon and after that… PANIC! What do I want to do after uni? Where would I like to be? What jobs are out there? What skills and experience do I need to get a job?

One year later, we’re working in a great company with great clients and just generally living our best PR lives. But we know it’s not that easy to just walk straight into a job once you graduate. It can  be a daunting task to get into the PR industry in Northern Ireland – it can feel like everyone knows everyone and competition is fierce.

While university is a great starting point for gaining the basic skills, we felt there were a few extra things worth noting before you start the job hunt.

It’s not all about your degree

We both came from different disciplines: Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University and History and International Politics and Conflict Studies at Queen’s. The courses are very different in terms of subject area, and it goes to show that not everyone in the industry starts off in the same way. You don’t have to have studied PR to get a job in PR; having a broader knowledge of the world around you will set you apart from other applicants. This is particularly important within Northern Ireland where you have to be aware of different ways of thinking, and sensitivity around certain topics of discussion. Having a deeper understanding of these issues is a very useful trait to have. Travelling the world and having interesting hobbies are also great for giving employers a better feel for who you are; it helps them to know if you’re a right fit for their team. Make sure you include the sports team you’re involved in, that summer you worked at Camp America or the time you spent Interrailing on your CV – these are great ways to show your personality and that you have more to offer.

Werrrrkkkk that networking life

It sounds cliché because everyone is always telling you to ‘network’. It seems a bit awkward and forced, doesn’t it? Getting out there and surrounding yourself with people in the industry is important, but try and do it in a way that works for you. That could mean joining a collective like ‘Netwerk’, being a student member of the CIPR and attending industry events, or (if you aren’t ready for all the small talk) just getting in touch with local media on Twitter. Simple things like knowing your Cool FM presenters from your Q Radio presenters can help you to stand out as a graduate who is comfortable with the local media landscape and is ready to dive in to their first industry job.

Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

Knock on everybody’s door. You don’t have to wait for a company to be hiring to hand them your CV. Putting a face to a name is also a great way to get an employer to notice you, whether that’s asking to meet for a coffee, or hand delivering your C.V. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, especially in somewhere as small as Northern Ireland. A friendly face and a positive attitude goes further than you’d think.

READ READ READ READ READ READ READ… you get where we’re going with this

PR professionals are multi-tasking machines covering content creation, media relations, social media management, SEO, event management… the list goes on. It’s useful to know what new skills are being demanded of PR graduates and to take some time to read up on them to give yourself an edge. Free online webinars and industry publications like Campaign Live, PR Week and The Drum are a great way to keep up to date. Seeing how brands and agencies launch new products, pull off stunts and do things a little differently can also be a great way to spark your own creativity. Keeping up to date with the news agenda is also an essential part of the job – you need to know what the world is talking about to help build your campaigns and speak to your audience. If a PR-related scandal is happening in the media, read about it and formulate an opinion – how would you deal with it? What can we learn? It’s a great conversation starter and helps you to show you’re engaged in the industry.

The writing’s on the wall

A huge part of any PR job is being able to write compelling and creative content. Building a portfolio of your work is a great way to show potential employers your flair for writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a post for the Ulster PR Student blog or Facebook posts for your dad’s business. Get drafting, offer to contribute where you can and don’t be afraid to have an opinion in your writing. Make sure to also ask for feedback on your work so can continue to improve your tone and style. Writing experience is great for your CV and gives you something to chat about when it comes to the interview.

There are hundreds of things we wish we knew before starting out, and a lot of that comes with being in the job and experiencing things first hand. Our advice is to put yourself out there and grab every opportunity you can. You never know who you’ll meet or where it will lead.

YOU GOT THIS!

You can follow Natalie and Charlotte on Twitter (@NatalieClarke9 / @CharlotteGoss94) and LinkedIn (Natalie Clarke / Charlotte Goss)

You can also keep up with all things Clearbox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

YouTubers and Instagram Stars Have Quickly Become the Only Voice That Matters for Consumers in the Beauty Industry.

On YouTube, I am subscribed to 40 (yes, 40!) beauty “gurus”.  Excessive? Let me explain.

Over the past decade, YouTube has exploded as a user-generated platform for companies and people around the world to share their ideas, their work, their talents and their opinions. This platform has facilitated the oh-so-important co-creation process for brands and consumers to mutually create and share content.

For the beauty industry, YouTube is now an intrinsic part of communication strategy with thousands of beauty channels providing access to millions of consumers. L’Oreal’s most recent advertisement even included beauty YouTuber KaushalBeauty alongside long-time L’Oreal ambassador, Cheryl.

YouTube videos are the earned media that today’s makeup brands need to survive. These makeup channels post regular product reviews and makeup tutorials with the latest products, providing consumers with real, mostly unbiased information that they want and need before they make a purchase decision. If they don’t like the product, they tell you! Essentially, it allows consumers to ignore traditional advertisements for new products and base their decisions solely on other people’s opinions. They cut out half of the purchase decision-making process!

nikkietutorials2

Paid media is also increasingly a major part of YouTube, with makeup sponsoring videos, where the “guru” is asked to use and promote a new product, or they are sending them new products for free to review. This was my downfall – never considering that these YouTubers were getting these products for free, I was the ideal consumer for these brands: the girl who went out and bought these “must-have” products immediately, spending hundreds of pounds to keep up with my favourite influencers! (No regrets.)

YouTube and Instagram have revolutionised word-of-mouth communication, where I can search a specific term or product and instantly have access to thousands of posts and videos telling me the pros and cons of a product, and showing me how to use it. Additionally, I have access to the opinions of people of different ages, different skin tones, different skin types, different genders, from different countries (where certain brands may not be available), ex-MAC makeup artists, celebrity makeup artists… every opinion a consumer could possibly need!

youtubers

Need more proof of the power of these beauty gurus? The number of cosmetic surgery procedures fell 40% in 2016, with analysts suggesting the rise of makeup contouring tutorials may have been a contributing factor.

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YouTube heavyweight Carli Bybel demonstrating her famous nose contouring.

Currently, I am following 40 YouTubers who are more influential upon my makeup purchase decisions than any TV or print ad. Ultimately, Maybelline and Estee Lauder may promise “flawless coverage” with their new product offerings, but until NikkieTutorials and MannyMUA tell me it’s true, I won’t be convinced.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94

The Super Bowl: The Golden Opportunity

American football, the Halftime Show, and legendary advertisements, a.k.a. the PR dream. Over time the Super Bowl has come to stand as a global attraction, with millions tuning in to watch the game, and more prevalently, to see the elusive adverts and the Halftime Show. Following Super Bowl 51, it is worth examining this annual sporting event as the golden PR opportunity that it is.

It’s that time of year when the big brands battle it out and pump huge amounts of money into the world’s most expensive advertising slots to create content that will grab the US’, and the globe’s, attention. Often cinematic in nature, these adverts become as big a talking point as the game itself, and so the execution needs to be perfect. This year, the adverts were notably rooted in current affairs, with political undertones across all of the brand messages, either to speak out against the current political situation, or to portray themselves as a bipartisan brand. Here’s Budweiser’s offering, which tells the tale of the company’s German co-founder, Adolphus Busch, arriving in America, facing and defeating adversity to set up his brewing company:

And here’s Coca-Cola’s ad, which first aired in 2014, but has the pertinent message, “America Is Beautiful” – perhaps a deliberate contrast to the Trump administration’s “Make America Great Again!” slogan:

Additionally, the Halftime Show in itself has become a platform for PR stunts, with performers trying to out-do the show from the year before with large scale displays of dance routines, flames, fireworks, drones: the works! And it’s no coincidence that they announce a new album or world tour simultaneously. Indeed Beyoncé twice used the Super Bowl stage to launch her  most recent albums and world tours. It’s a formula that works, and it only gets bigger and better every year.

beyonce-superbowl
Beyonce performs during the Super Bowl Halftime show.

With a saturated and noisy marketplace, the Super Bowl is still a surefire hit for reaching the largest amount of people almost instantaneously. With the dominance of social media, and the sporting event being broadcast live around the globe, the Super Bowl is the perfect platform to attract, engage and retain consumers, to generate virality, and to rocket brands, be they companies, products or celebrity performers, into the forefront of global consumers’ minds overnight.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94

Political PR in the world of fake news and social media

Political PR in the world of fake news and social media

In recent days, US President-elect Donald Trump has had to battle unverified allegations which have derived from a leaked dossier created by a Washington-based opposition research firm, branding them “fake news”. Yet despite the document’s claims being wholly unverified, the story remained at the top of Facebook’s algorithm, and has led to a growing amount of media coverage clouding the public sphere.

trump-tweet

Fake news is a collection of fabricated stories and strategic narratives which are increasingly influencing public and political discourse. With 62% of US citizens saying they get their news from Facebook, fake news poses a threat to politicians trying to influence public opinion. For example, during the 2016 US election, fake news overtook mainstream news in terms of social media engagement.

facebook-election

(Source: Buzzfeed (2016) Total Facebook engagements for to 20 election stories. Available from: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.bxxLnNkmKn#.salzVDKP9V )

So what does this mean for modern political PR practice?

With fake news taking centre stage, it shows how social media has facilitated “Chinese whispers” of sorts, allowing people to share stories like “Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump for President”, and showing just how little “fact checking” comes in to play. Despite the impact of fake news on public action still being undetermined, it has the potential to fuel some dangerous rumours, and lead to a misinformed public and an upheaval of the current media system. If people lose their trust in all news stories and outlets as a result of constantly being bombarded with fake news, this will render earned and paid media placements pointless and valueless, as they will no longer resonate with a growingly suspicious public.

As the ever-expanding and ever-complex media system creates an obscuring trellis around key issues and demands, more and more of the public are relying on social media for news stories, and are not differentiating real news from fake news. It is therefore increasingly necessary for politicians, public figures, and organisations alike to utilise public relations in order to disseminate and distinguish the “real story”, and to protect their image.

social-media-culture

When politicians and other public figures are being derailed constantly the rise of fake news, and an invasive and powerful media agenda trying to verify the stories, PR and spin tactics may become a necessary evil. In a media environment of accelerated information flow, political figures have less control than with older media forms. This intensification of media attention puts pressure on politicians to communicate a variety of messages quickly, and thus an increased reliance on spin is a reaction to the need to maximise electoral support, engage a wide range of publics, and connect them through an alternative media filter, allowing politicians and public figures to communicate particular messages and to break through the media monolith.

 

References:

http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

Khaldarova, I. and Pantti, M. (2016) Fake News: The narrative battle over the Ukrainian conflict. Journalism Practice, 10 (7), 891-901.

McNair, B. (2004) PR must die: spin, anti-spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997-2004. Journalism Studies, 5 (3), 325-338.

http://www.mediabullseye.com/2016/12/fake-news-poses-a-real-problem-for-pr/

Moloney, K. and Colmer, R. (2001) Does Political PR Enhance or Trivialise Democracy? The UK General Election 2001 as Contest between Presentation and Substance. Journal of Marketing Management, 17 (9-10), 957-968.

Moloney, K. (2006) Rethinking Public Relations. Second Edition. London: Routledge.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.bxxLnNkmKn#.salzVDKP9V

 

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94

 

3 Things A Year in Industry Taught Me That PR Lectures Couldn’t

As a current final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student, and having recently completed a year’s Regional Communications placement at The Walt Disney Company EMEA in London, I’ve come to appreciate the key inner workings of the PR industry that can only really be discovered outside of the lecture theatre, and on the job.

Increasingly, it seems that your academic achievements can only take you so far in the hunt for a job, with most employers valuing experience above all else, and so it’s more important than ever to get out there and into the nitty-gritty of the industry.

With that in mind, here are 3 things, in my experience, which I learned through my work experience, which my academic studies couldn’t teach me:

  1. NETWORKING IS KEY

The PR industry really is all about who you know! It was only through my work experience that I began to realise how fundamentally social the industry is. Alongside the fact that you’re always working as part of a wider team, networking is a core function of the profession, and occurs not only in the work environment, but at industry events and gatherings and nights out! PR professionals build up relationships with stakeholders and journalists over time, sometimes years, and retain these relationships throughout their careers. Whilst we learn this in theory as part of our university degree, actually witnessing these interactions in real life is essential for budding PR professionals, to develop the skills to form your own relationships with these types of people. Throughout my time with The Walt Disney Company, I met some great people from all over the world – exposure and experience which is very hard to come by so early on in my career. It is essential that we learn how to put ourselves out there and build a personal brand of sorts.

networking

  1. THIS IS NOT A 9-5 JOB

I hate to break it to you, but PR professionals don’t always live the glamorous life that Samantha Jones portrays in Sex and the City; they work exceptionally hard! With constant deadlines across several projects, it can get a bit overwhelming, but some of the best advice I received was from the intern before me, who told me, “You’ll get out of it what you put in.” Throughout my year I found this to be 100% true. Coming in early and working later than expected is all part of the job, but it’s worth it when the end product finally comes together. The world of PR really is non-stop!

samanthajones22
What people think PR is…
workaholics
What PR actually is…

 

3. IT’S A LOT OF FUN

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” – Mary Poppins

Remember I said it wasn’t all glamour and fun? This isn’t necessarily true. During my placement, I got to work on some incredible projects, like the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, numerous press junkets (including one in Milan), and countless events. Whilst I worked hard approaching all of these projects, it made them all the more rewarding to be a part of the final execution, and meant I could enjoy what I was doing. PR professionals work hard, but they play harder!

charlotte

Meeting Anthony Daniels at the Star Wars “Fashion Finds The Force” event last year.

 

PR is a really exciting industry for young professionals, and is one I have become truly enthralled with after having been given the chance to see how it really works from an inside perspective. Additionally, in today’s world, PR is an intrinsic operation within every aspect of our surroundings and culture. With its diverse nature, and the ever-changing role of the PR practitioner, PR is set to remain a key part of business, and a growing industry constantly on the hunt for new talent. This being said, a university degree is no longer enough; PR hopefuls must aim to accumulate industry experience throughout their studies, in order to have the best chance of cracking, and succeeding in, this great industry.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94