How To Increase Your PR Job Prospects In Northern Ireland

 

NH1

When considering a career in the Public Relations industry I believe there is a few important questions you must ask yourself before diving into a career in PR. Due to the fast paced, forever changing, and high-pressure environment you will be working in you must have an acquired skill set, hold a great level of determination and drive to prosper within the industry.

 

The first question I would ask myself is…

 What is PR?

Well much to the dismay of many people it does not involve being responsible for promoting nightclubs across social media nor is it attending lavish events and living this glamorous lifestyle that the media portray a job in Public Relations to be.

One of my favourite definitions of Public Relations is one from the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) which states “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public Relations is essentially all about reputation and relationships which is something we touched on in our lecture about PR, Rhetoric and Persuasion in week 2.

 

Am I interested in what is going on in the world around me?

Having an interest in current affairs and reading about what is happening in the environment around you is a very important aspect of a PR practitioners job as they regularly analyse trends and brainstorm campaign ideas with various clients daily. Therefore, being informed and knowledgeable about what is happening in the world around you will set you apart from others.

 

What does a job in PR involve?

A job in PR can be quite varied and diverse depending on the company you work in so it’s hard to specify, although the ability to be a flexible, highly organised individual with the ability to work under pressure and possess excellent written and communication skills is a must.

 

So, with the above questions in mind. How do you go about increasing your chances of employment in this field? I thought I’d share some of my own personal top tips to help anyone that is considering a career in Public Relations!

 

CIPR membership

For an excellent discounted rate of £35 annually for students the Chartered Institute of Public Relations will provide you with endless opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge of PR to help you climb further up your career ladder through providing courses to attend, achieve chartered status and hosting events with likeminded individuals who you will have the opportunity to network with.

 

Follow Key PR Influencers/Blogs

Getting involved in the world of online blogging by reading, commenting and sharing PR related blogs online. Check out PR Week, PR Daily, PR News Online and follow key influencers on Twitter for example @CIPR_UK, @PRstudies, @BobPickard and @pracademy to stay abreast of the latest news!

 

 Work Experience

Get your foot in the door – offer yourself up for paid/unpaid internships in local agencies to get real life experience of the job because when you start a career in PR you will automatically be expected to know how to write a press release, develop a campaign strategy, plan an event, liaise effectively with journalists and so on. This is also a great way to determine whether the job is for you or identify areas in which you would like to specialise.

 

Public Relations Courses

Enhance your CV with a PR qualification – there are plenty to choose from both online and face to face through the PR Academy. These CIPR accredited courses will provide you with working examples to give you a more thorough understanding of the industry.

 

Be Passionate

The ever-changing nature of the PR industry means passion is key to success. Stay abreast of latest news, get involved and prepare to be forever learning!

 

Nicole Hanna is a final year BSc student in Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://goo.gl/pLviS8 or on Twitter @NicoleHanna101

Who runs the PR world…? Most Definitely Girls!

In the wise words of the inspirational Oprah Winfrey, “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” A theme which ran prominently throughout the CIPR NI (@CIPR_NI), Women in PR Panel Event, which took place in the ESparkGlobal (@ESparkGlobal) Belfast Hub in Lombard House. With not a man in sight, the room was full of budding PR professionals and women at the top of their professional game. Since my last blog I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the new Student Ambassadors for CIPR NI alongside the brilliant Kathryn Bigger (@KatieB_05). We are already planning events and making connections so watch this space for some exciting news…

CIPR3

I have to begin by introducing you to the incredibly accomplished panel, Gemma-Louise Bond (@GemmaLEBond), Michelle Canning (@micanning) and Susie Brown (@Brownturf). Gemma, also known for her fabulous blog ‘That Belfast Girl’, at just 25, has been able to achieve career goals, someone starting out in the world of PR could only dream of. As the Marketing Assistant at Victoria Square, Gemma is responsible for keeping its brand as iconic as its stunning glass dome. Next up we were introduced to the skilled Michelle Canning, who made a brave career change at 41 into the world of Communications. Now the Communications Manager at Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Michelle has utilised her skills as a Journalist to propel herself into this senior role. Last, but by no means least, was Susie Brown, whose impressive CV speaks for itself. Alongside her busy career as Interim Director of Corporate Development at Tourism NI, Susie also headed the ‘Be Seen Be Heard’ media initiative to improve gender balance on Northern Ireland’s airwaves. The first thing, we, as an audience were asked to do, was introduce ourselves to the rest of the room. Networking, always being at the fore of any PR event. Hearing the positions of the rest of the women from leading PR firms in Northern Ireland was inspiring for me, going in as a novice.

CIPR2

Michelle Canning raised the invaluable point that even rejection in the workplace can be good, using J.K Rowling as the prime example of being turned down time and time again but not giving up. This led the chair of the night, Sara McCracken (@dougalhorse) to ask the panel what they felt were the biggest barriers they have faced in the workplace. Having come up against ageism and unconscious bias, the panel explained how they faced challenges head on to overcome and conquer them. As an advocate for women being heard throughout Northern Ireland, Susie raised the thought provoking statement that “you can’t be what you can’t see”, sparking a conversation change towards self-confidence. How can young women coming up in the world of PR aspire towards anything if they cannot ‘see’ someone else doing just that. The moral of the story being to speak out about what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to big yourself up.

When asked where they wanted to go in the future all three women had very different answers. Gemma has a very clear five-year plan, with the end goal of being the director of a company by the age of 30 (which I have no doubt she will achieve). Michelle doesn’t make plans but achieves what she wants through sheer determination. Susie spots an opportunity and runs with it, making her the definition of a #boss. All three women left us with their final words of wisdom… ‘speak out and influence up’, ‘stand up and be counted’ and ‘be confident in who you are’. I’ve already ordered the board mounts with these inspirational quotes for my future PR office.

Thank you so much to the three forward thinking, self-empowered women who shared their experiences and to CIPR NI for organising such a #girlboss event.

Olivia x

Olivia McAleenan is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @OliviaMcAleenan / LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mcaleenan-88774413b /Facebook – Olivia McAleenan / Instagram @oliviamcaleenan

The Confessions of a PR Girl

So, here it goes …

I am Kathryn Bigger, lover of fashion, PR (shocker) and collecting cacti.

As a third-year student studying Public Relations and Communications I have certainly learnt a lot about myself and most importantly what I am capable of.  If you too have a love for all things PR, Fashion and Cacti (Avocados are so overrated) then I know you will feel right at home here. My mission is to provide insight into the wonderful world of PR and to let you know that it is OK to mess up along the path of reaching your goals. Trust me, this is a tough industry and the more you learn to dust yourself off, pick yourself up and progress forward the better!

graphic

When I thought about writing my own content I have in some ways been put off by the negative stigma that surrounds the blogging network.  Within Northern Ireland word spreads faster than I can spread Nutella on toast (true bill folks).  Just like our small but widely diverse communities, our NI blogging network is tightly knit.  Those who fail to understand the network are quick to judge, it is nice to be nice (I see you keyboard warriors).   It is time that we focused on the positives by supporting those who are confident, courageous and creative enough to showcase their lives online – You go Glen Coco!

I will let you into a little secret, a secret that I am slowly learning to share… I wear my heart on my sleeve. Some believe that to work in PR you must be utterly glamorous, cut-throat and super confident.  This is NOT the case.  One of the many reasons why I decided to write this blog was to share with you that it is absolutely OK to be yourself. You can remain successful by being humble. Climbing the slippery ‘social ladder’ in PR may seem daunting at first, however my best piece of advice is to remain true to yourself.  Let success be your noise!

13438926_1180415945336653_7861045091435647830_n

Communication is KEY.  I am pretty sure that if my friends and family had to write one thing about me they would jot down immediately that I LOVE to talk (just as my phone bill would suggest).  Whilst chatting for hours may not be your cup of tea it has helped me immensely in the world of PR.  Making solid connections with clients is vital, it not only boosts morale but will help you to nurture new and existing relationships. Ok, so we are all capable of communicating but what is that magic ingredient that brings our ideas and conversations to life? CREATIVITY (Yes, this word deserves capitals because it is the Queen of sass).

We are created to create.  I love to communicate through illustration, just as the saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ The moment I put paintbrush to paper the world around me stops.  Being able to express my thoughts and feelings on a blank canvas is the most rewarding feeling.  One simple, understated design can progress into something rather beautiful.

21751522_1628031700575073_7083858989818446335_n

So, discover what you are good at and make it work for you. Exercise your talents and remember stay true to who you are. Authenticity is an extremely attractive characteristic; only you can determine your own success!

Kathryn x

Kathryn Bigger is a third year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She is currently undertaking her placement year at Marks Design Collective. Kathryn can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.

 

 

Here’s How To Get a Job in PR – Reason #4 Will Shock You

  1. Apply for a job in PR
  2. Go To The Interview
  3. Smash The Interview
  4. Pretend to be a man because according to a recent survey they still get paid more for doing the same job. See, number 4 was genuinely shocking, I’ll be covering the CIPR State of the Profession next and go into detail. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Accept Job In PR
pr_gap
Figure 1 – CIPR State of the Profession 2016

Well, now you’re here you may as well read the rest. You can skip to the TL;DR at the bottom if you don’t want to.

Everyone seems to start these things with a bit of background of themselves, so here it goes. My name’s Anthony, I was on placement at a fantastic company (don’t let them know I said that), I’ve done work experience at leading PR agencies (or so they tell me), I’m a CIPR Student Ambassador annnnnnnd I still don’t know why I’m studying Public Relations. Go figure eh? I hear you say, “obviously you know why you’re studying PR, you picked it didn’t you?” (maybe you didn’t say that, but let’s assume you did). Yeah, I did. Originally, I picked Business Economics with Marketing, then I changed my mind picked Communication, Advertising & Marketing, got accepted, changed my mind and picked PR because it seemed more fun. In hindsight, both CAM and PR are really the same but PR has a bit of politics involved. I was, still am, concerned with having fun and enjoying what I do with making money being a nice benefit too.

pug_801826_1280

I spent most of my first 2 years studying in PR wondering what I had to do to stand out in the industry. I mean if you can’t make yourself stand out, how are you meant to make a company stand out and how are you meant to make a career out of it, right? I spent hours researching everything from speech-writing to how individual leaders, from Chavez to Obama, speak. I’ve worked with members of the CIPR as a student ambassador and watched how they carry themselves in meetings. And luckily for you I’ve come to a conclusion that I want to share with the world.

You’ll never make yourself stand out if you’re trying too hard. You want to be like the CEO of that successful PR agency? Congrats, so does everyone else. You need to let go of everything and just be yourself. Are you the kind of person that cracks jokes all the time? Keep on doing it. Do you see yourself as a professional businessman/woman? Keep on business-ing. Are you rather boring? Keep on studying CAM. The point is, you need to be yourself.

Buttttt back to me, why don’t I know why I’m studying PR? Easy, cause it’s terrifying; what if I’m no good at social media? What if no one likes my writing style? What if someone finds out that I have an undying hatred for humanity? Who cares!? You’ll find your niche, trust me. I haven’t yet, so I’m not a good example but there’s loads of people on my course who seem like they know what they’re doing so I probably will one day too. If not, maybe PR isn’t for me. That’s the beauty of the world though. PR may not be for me or you, but I’ve learnt that it’s not the end of the road. PR has still done a lot for me, I’ve learnt more about businesses and how to make businesses work than what I would have done studying any business degree! The lessons you’ll learn will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career. So hang in there, you won’t get anywhere worrying about the destination. Take a leap of faith and see where it takes you!

But how do you make yourself stand out? “Gotta create your own brand” lecturers have been telling us it every. Single. Year. But how? Start with LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn, stop reading and go make one. List your skills and get people to endorse you for them. But be honest about it. I put ‘Public Speaking’ in mine, went into work on Monday got pulled to the side by my boss and asked me to speak at the Chartered Institute of Credit Managers (NI) Legal Action Workshop on the role a debt collection agency can play for businesses. Boom, on stage in front of 100 people with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in credit control all listening to these very well-respected lawyers from North and South of the border, and then me. Banter. If you’re going to exaggerate, be prepared to back it up! Then Twitter, people who work in PR love Twitter, which means you can connect with them! And they can see everything you post and like and retweet… make a separate account for ‘work’. And then you could always start a blog! I did and hit 80,000 views in a month, but that’s a story for another time/I’ve 4 blogs to write and not giving everything away in my first.

So, go out, the tools are there, and start creating you!

TL;DR – Start of it rambles on a bit but the message might be to hang in there, don’t try too hard to be like everyone else and you’ll be just fine.

Anthony Boyd is a final year student on Bsc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @anthonyboyd16 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-boyd-4a5a63b4/

PRide and Joy: NI’s outstanding communicators celebrate 2017

PRide and Joy: NI’s outstanding communicators celebrate 2017

Friday 13th may be unlucky for some, but for many of Northern Ireland’s PR practitioners, the night ended in trophies, applause and possibly some sore heads in the morning!

For the past 18 months, I have had the privilege of sitting on the CIPR NI Committee as a Student Ambassador. During my time I have sat opposite some the leading lights in Northern Irish public relations and have witnessed the organisation of some brilliant events for PR professionals across the country.

There is however, one event on the PR calendar which can’t be missed – The PRide Awards.

Now, I’ve heard the rumours about PR, “it’s all parties and drinking and schmoozing”, and despite what this post may suggest, trust me it isn’t. But for one night a year, that stereotype might be a little true.

The CIPR PRide Awards NI is an annual awards ceremony to recognise the hard work and creativity of PR professionals and communicators over the past 12 months. It’s that one night of the year when professionals put away their laptops, put down the phone and come together for a night of celebration and healthy competition.

Image 1

Like previous years, the PRide Awards 2017 were held in the Culloden Hotel, Holywood. Taking the lead in organising the event along with the team at CIPR HQ were Seona McGrath from Smarts Communicate, Jane Williams from JComms along with Sinead Doyle and Alana Taylor from MCE Public Relations, who put together a brilliant evening.

I was kindly asked to be this year’s trophy assistant at what would be my first year in attendance, which much to my surprise included an official announcement and my name on the screen, hopefully, the amount of make-up on face hid my reaction. The awards portion of the night was hosted by Stephen and Cate from Q Radio, while I was tasked with delivering winner envelopes and passing on trophies. Thankfully, I didn’t manage to mess it up.

Image 2

There I am, in the background, looking the wrong way

The big winners on the night were PR agency powerhouses Smarts Communicate, with Seona McGrath deservedly picking up the Outstanding Young Communicator Award, and JComms. Also showing very strongly, proving the strength of practitioners across the country were in-house communication teams. Some of the winners included Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, North West Regional College and Translink.

Click on this link if you want to see a full list of the winners from the night along with the winning case studies: https://www.cipr.co.uk/content/awards-events/pride-awards/northern-ireland/results-and-case-studies

Image 3

For those of us studying and working in the industry, we know first-hand that public relations is often one filled with misconceptions. For most, PR is ‘selling tickets to nightclubs’. The PRide awards are the perfect response for those who criticise the industry and its professionals, and give us students who face questions about how ‘serious’ our degree is, some back up for those unwanted questions.

Another important aspect of the night, was supporting the CIPR NI charity of the year, AWARE. AWARE NI are the national depression charity for Northern Ireland and provide vital support across the country for those suffering from a mental health condition. Led by an incredible team, AWARE NI offer many essential programmes which require funding. Thanks to some great raffle prizes and generous donations, £1450 was raised impacting the lives of 96 pupils across NI – a job well done!

If you want to find out more about AWARE NI check out their website:

http://www.aware-ni.org/

The PRide Awards and the CIPR NI in general offer a great chance for young professionals to meet established practitioners, so if you get the chance check out one of the social events I would really advise doing so. Our industry is in great hands and growing year on year which can only be a good thing for those us who need a job in the next few years.

Images are courtesy of Press Eye

Kirsty Wallace is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/kirsty-wallace-851504115 and on twitter @KayyWallace

Stateside Summers

Stateside Summers

Every summer, there is a reoccurring theme that happens on our Facebook timelines. Groups of 18/19 year old Ibiza-goers checking in at the Lagan Bar at Belfast International Airport with a caption along the lines of ‘are you even on holidays if you don’t check in at the Lagan?’

For me, I opted out of the tradition and the alcohol infused headache as I can barely cope with a hangover on a Sunday morning, never mind one that lasts for a week or more. Instead, I chose to spend my summers of 2015 and 2017 in the States, and not one ounce of me regrets it.

So, if you are the same as me and are thinking of doing something else with your summer, here is a little about my experience.

In 2015, I got my first J1 visa and worked at a summer camp in upstate New York called Camp Hilltop. I was hired at Hilltop to be a lifeguard (despite the fact that I wasn’t qualified and hadn’t dipped as much as a toe in a swimming pool in 5 years) but luckily I was fully trained on my first week and spent the most of my day in a swimsuit topping up my tan and watching American kids scream at each other.

One question I’m always asked is about my typical day at camp, a question I always find difficult to answer. There really is no typical day at camp because every day brings something new. I could have been lifeguarding and teaching Gaelic in the morning, building rockets or making tie-dye t-shirts in the afternoon, and dressed as an absolute horror in the evening. (Hoping the picture doesn’t scare you too much!)

11986417_10153308741206865_2325171885901179144_n

The best way to describe camp is that it really is its own little world and it’s a world you will learn to love, to be yourself and to meet people from all different backgrounds. When you leave that world, the real world doesn’t seem as fun anymore.

As accommodation and food is all taken care of at camp, it leaves you with quite a bit of saving for travels. After camp, myself and a few others decided to spend a few days in New York and Boston before flying to Las Vegas, driving to LA, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.

Loren

When I finished placement in 2017, heading to the States again for the summer was a definite, the decision was to return to camp or try something new. I opted for something new – working in a Mexican restaurant in Boston.

I had originally been hired as a waitress in a Sports bar at the Boston Seaport, but instead the managers landed me in the job of a ‘host’ – where I made $12 an hour and no tips (some could call it slavery). Shortly after, I found myself a new job in a Mexican restaurant as the only Irish, non-Spanish speaking person. I had to learn how to pronounce and recite the entire Spanish menu, greet customers with an ‘Hola!’ and prepare fresh guacamole tableside – you could say the craic was great, and the money was even better!

Living away from home, even if just for a few months, is an incredible learning experience. One of the most important lessons for me was to value your money. I saw first hand how tough it is to earn it, so I was very reluctant to spend it as easy as I usually would have in Zara when my student loan comes in. I’d be lying if I said it was all smooth sailing, it really wasn’t, but I can’t help but feel a sense of pride looking back on everything I have accomplished.

After saving every cent that we made, myself and my boyfriend decided to finish out the summer with a road-trip to Philadelphia, line dancing in the Honkytonks in Nashville and snorkelling in the Bahamas.

So if you are thinking of heading off on a J1 visa, this is my advice to you:

  1. Don’t think you are missing out on party holidays; there is plenty of time for that. You are only applicable for a J1 when you are a student, make the most of it (especially before Trump scraps it).
  2. Whether you choose Camp America, working in a restaurant or playing for a GAA team, research the state you want to go to, the location of your J1 can have a huge impact on your experience.
  3. For Camp based J1’s, you can definitely go by yourself. If none of your friends want to go, it’s fine; you will meet people from all over the world who will become friends for life.
  4. ENJOY IT! If you are ever having a bad day, remember that in a few weeks/months time you will be back in university sitting in lectures or studying for exams wishing you could be back in the states, I know I do!

As cheesy as it may sound, the summer is short but the experience, memories and friendships last a lifetime. If I haven’t yet persuaded you to consider doing a J1, have a look at my video from this summer!

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward

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