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. 

Suite dreams are made of this

Public relations is a profound interest of mine and there are plentiful reasons why this area of expertise elevates me, particularly the communication aspect, as well as being exposed to so many interesting individuals. I am going to share my story with you, career choices and life experiences that have led me to believe that public relations is the ingredient that brings my ideas to a reality.

Anyway here’s my story (so far)…

The moment I realized that a career in public relations was for me was in 2014 when I took a year out from education; as I was unsure about which degree to pursue. I began working as a receptionist in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. The reason I decided to pursue a job as a hotel receptionist was with the intention of evolving my existing skill set and qualities as well as my interpersonal communication skills. With no prior experience in this field of work; I was dependent on landing the position solely on my interview and given the opportunity of expressing my ‘inner brand’. The interview was very formal and intimidating, however it was my time to shine and showcase what made me an eligible candidate for the position. The interviewers must have seen past my nerves as I was surprisingly successful and got offered a full-time position!

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The job opened me up to the public as I was the primary point of contact with the guests, meaning I was responsible for their first impressions as well as leaving the lasting impression as they departed from the hotel. At first the reception department was extremely daunting, It took me roughly three months to feel confident behind the desk, at this point my passion for public relations began to grow. I had soon become acquainted with the regular guests and catering to their needs became my second nature. I took pride in ensuring their stay was enjoyable and It wasn’t long before I started noticing my name frequently mentioned in trip advisor reviews, highlighting my ‘professionalism’ and being regarded as a ‘fantastic ambassador’ for the hotel. The recognition, gratitude and positive feedback was very fulfilling, and this was when I discovered that this was my major – representing companies whilst working alongside the stakeholders.

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Having proved my charisma, expressed my effective communication skills and established customer rapport in the business I decided it was time to enroll into university. I applied for my degree in ‘communication management and public relations’ whilst continuing to work for the organization. However, as my degree required me to move to Belfast, the company transferred me to their sister hotel – the world-famous Europa.

This environment was completely unknown to me as the hotel is twice the size of the Slieve Donard and I underestimated how demanding the job was and how busy I would be kept. This hotel is in such high demand and attracts numerous celebrities, who always must always be accommodated with VIP treatment. Over the 2 years I worked for the Europa I have checked in numerous celebrities including;  Van Morrison, Conor McGregor, Lee Evans, Jimmy Page and the entire cast of Game of Thrones. The public relations profession operates in a celebrity-driven world, and the very first celebrity I checked in whilst working in the Europa was Conor McGregor, and I can remember it like yesterday. I had only been working on the front desk for 2 weeks and can still remember the overwhelming, starstruck feeling that I got. I cant express it but every single guest that checked into the hotel, I had an overwhelming desire to go out of my way to make their stay great, whether it be a couple checking in for a little getaway for the weekend, simply upgrading their room and seeing the smiles on their faces made it worthwhile. Or having Game of Thrones stars phone down to the desk and request a wake up call at 4am to go filming, and ask to speak to me personally for knowing their room service order like the back of my hand. All these little things are what made my job wonderful.

 

Working in the Europa introduced me to so many amazing people and friends for life and even opened doors to new potential career opportunities. For example: One particular day I was checking out a lady and got chatting to her, she asked me an unexpected and extremely surprising question: “You have an amazing bone structure. Have you ever considered modelling?” I was evidently stunned by her question as I looked eagerly at my colleagues for an appropriate response to this bizarre enquiry. “No?” I replied as she handed me her business card shook my hand and invited me to attend an interview at her business ‘Alison Campbell Academy.’ I unknowingly just checked out the CEO of ‘ACA Models’ and had just been scouted as a model!

I was unsure how to feel about this proposition as the possibility of embarking on a career in modelling had never ever crossed my mind, but my colleagues were adamant that I attend the interview anyway, and I even managed to get signed onto their books. I have been placed onto various modelling jobs in which I have represented a specific brand for a certain advertising/catwalk events. Examples of brands that I have worked for include: Miss Northern Ireland, Danske Bank, Down Royal Race Course, Victoria Square and many more. It was very exciting to work as the spokesperson for established companies and represent their brand. I am frequently commended for my outgoing personality and charismatic nature working these jobs; I personally believe that my communication skills and devoted nature is what enabled my public relations abilities to blossom into a reality in the working front of an organization like this.

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Public relations is an ever-evolving industry that brings so much excitement and possibilities to the world. Public relations is deeply embedded into my personality. It is my lifestyle. Every given day is a new inspiration for me to undertake something new that will improve my professional and personal life. In the technologically advanced world we live in, there is an infinite variety of potential connections at our disposal. The  life experiences I have encountered have steered me to the realization that public relations is my bread and butter.

Thank you for reading,

© eline ®ussell

Celine Russell is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/celine-russell-849ba4171/ ; Twitter –  @celine_russ; Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/celine.russell.7

A Career in PR …

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Public relations can offer me a challenging and rewarding career in which I will have the opportunity to work on tasks and projects that will have a diverse range of jobs to undertake. I am highly interested in current affairs such as politics and what’s going on in the business world. I find it fascinating to know what businesses, entrepreneurs and politicians/parties are doing well and what ones are on a downfall. Keeping up to date with political parties’ proposals and the likes of Brexit is an area which I am keen to be working with in my day to day jobs and tasks. To be a PR practitioner I would need to be aware of current trends and issues as it will be essential if I want to offer advice to clients or an organisation. No two days would ever be the same if I was working in PR. This spikes my interest as the same boring routine everyday would make me lose my motivation to work harder and would result in a negative impact on my productivity.

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Studying PR and communication for the past 2 years has allowed me to grow in confidence. Group projects that include us sharing presentations with our class has enabled me to be a better public speaker and to learn skills to help me when it comes to talking to a wide range of people. These skills are essential if I want to start a career in PR as it will involve speaking with clients or journalists and groups of people who may be important to an organisation or client. A job in PR would let me gain insight into the impact of communication and how it effects our day to day lives from our buying habits to who we vote for. It will allow me to have the opportunity to work in many different fields from politics, to airlines or even universities.

When I was in upper 6th in school I studied English Literature as one of A-levels. I realised I had a passion for writing and creativity but quickly learned that I had a preference towards the work I had to complete for my Business Studies class. In Business Studies we competed in a national competition which involved us creating and promoting a new cereal bar. During the task I completed a press release and a blog on the health benefits of cereal bars. It allowed me to be creative without the restraints of only analysing a book, poem or play.  As a result of this I was attracted to PR as I knew it would include creative communication. In school we also went on a trip to the Coca Cola factory where their PR practitioner met us, gave us a tour and answered all of our questions. I remember thinking it seemed like a really enjoyable job and she informed us off different tasks she would complete. She told us how she dealt with the press or the general public that had questions about Coca Cola which raised my interest. When I started to research what a job in public relations would entail communicating with colleagues, the media and the public interested me. I am extremely interested in organising events such as exhibitions, open days and press tours as it allows you to get out of the office and engage with key stakeholders. In school I was part of a debating team which allowed me to practise and sharpen my verbal communication skills and taught me how to clearly present my ideas and thinking’s. The creative aspects of PR are off interest to me as I enjoy making brochures, handouts, promotional videos and so on. Similar to most student’s social media interests me as it’s something I would feel comfortable working with. PR would include tasks such as managing and updating and engaging with an organisation or client’s social media site. Working in public relations can teach me how to create content on these platforms that will be useful and engaging to its audiences.

Writing assignments, speeches, blogs, press releases and so on interested me. I knew I had already developed writing skills in school that were essential for working in PR and I enjoyed sitting down to create a piece of work. I’m a very talkative person so the fact that PR is mainly focused on communication is a massive positive for me. I am really comfortable talking with new people, doing interviews and answering the phone. I would love to have a career that involved fostering community relations such as open days and tours that would include communicating with stakeholders. People who work in PR are expected to network and socialise which I find appealing. Dealing with clients, the media and colleagues and building and maintaining relationships with them significantly interests me as social and work life may become a little intertwined.

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One of the main benefits of working in PR I could find during my research was that PR can involve a lot of travelling depending on the organisation. This interests me as it can be exciting and motivating to be working in a new environment. It gives the opportunity to meet and learn from new people which in turn can increase your skill set and make you more employable for future jobs. Travelling with work would also allow you to visit and see places that you may not have seen before and would give the opportunity to experience new cultures, even if it is only for a short period.

I like that it mainly has a professional dress code and you will hold a lot of responsibility. Having a lot of responsibility in work helps motivate me to complete projects and be more creative with my thinking. A career in PR would open many doors for me and allow me to gain brilliant work experience which could lead to a massive variety of jobs.

 

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

Why a PR Career?

Why does a career in PR interest me?

Four years ago, once I finished school, I took a year out away from studies as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and what career path I wanted to follow. Heading off away from my work and responsibilities, I lived in Australia for a year and during that time I visited family friends, from back home that moved out a long time ago whenever I possibly could. Which therefore goes on to lead me into when and why I first thought about PR as a future career for myself.

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I was first introduced to PR by a family friend in Australia, who I and everyone knew as the ‘globe-trotter’. He was constantly travelling with his job working for a PR firm but as he said, at his own leisure (if he didn’t want to he didn’t ever have to, although I understand that this may not sit well with all jobs and PR companies). The excitement of having a fluid job seemed to pique my interest, so being intrigued I started to ask more questions about what exactly he did for a living and with that, he couldn’t answer me with a set-in stone answer as his job was always continually ‘evolving’. He stated the fact that I was a good outgoing person with great communication skills, this would sit very well with people wanting to go into the PR industry for a career. I was never particularly interested in a job that was completely enclosed in a somewhat ‘box’ which would have a repeated, recurrent routine also suited my personality. Having all these thoughts in mind, one particular word that he told me stood out from the rest: ‘Stunts’. Horton (2008) says that, ‘Public relations stunts are an effective form of message delivery when integrated with concepts being communicated’. I began to think of PR stunts and how interesting they were as a form of creative communication and began to think ‘I could think of some great innovative PR stunts myself’. Having this new-found perspective on PR, this was my first overall impression of the industry itself as a whole.

‘Public relations is closely associated with whatever is newest, freshest and most fashionable – and often with what is most successful (and indeed is, disproportionately, a young person’s industry)’ (Morris & Goldsworthy, 2015). With this little seed that my family friend planted in my head, I then started to look at different PR stunts and how they went about being created, what ideas were good and innovative (even mad) by looking at the likes of Red-Bull, who creatively took ‘Red-Bull gives you wings’ maybe even too literally by having a man jump out of a spaceship and plummet to earth, these great stunts began my interest in looking up degrees surrounding PR and Communication.

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Goldsworthy & Morris (2015) state that although PR work might be portrayed as artificial, it is rarely viewed as dull and it likes to be seen as ‘a creative industry’.  The creative side to PR is very appealing to me. The artistic approaches which can be applied to a career in PR would constantly leave me fascinated and with this always thinking and creating new ideas.  In popular culture especially, PR’s role can often be thinking up of ideas for certain events, parties and festivities (which might also lead to attending them). The communication side of this and constantly meeting new people for all various reasons, in my view this has no comparison to a certified office work routine, no matter how small the reality of it may be.

On the subject about a daily office routine, people in PR, like my said family friend, can work almost anywhere, even with a permanent post in a particular business, this doesn’t seclude the fact that in this industry you might and most likely will not be working a 9-5 job every week. Society pressures of having a specific routine do not sit well with me and a repetitive almost mechanical nature in a job wouldn’t suffice. A career in the PR industry could almost guarantee little to none boredom. How the economy of today’s world is working, this further reiterates my point of wanting a job in the PR sector.

Gordon (2011) mentions different types of PR sectors, that you can choose to branch out in, depending on what interests you. ‘PR seems to offer would-be practitioners the chance to decide what interests them, do the PR for it and get paid into the bargain’ (Goldsworthy & Morris, 2015). This would interest me as I could reach out and dip into areas of PR that would suit my liking, such as fashion, music, nature and even sports. As the variety of PR is so vast and complex, this would give me multiple opportunities to experience different sides to PR and the large variety of work would leave me to choose areas that I also wouldn’t be particularly fond of therefore stay away from and areas that I would like to stick at and delve into more that would suit my particular needs and interests.

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PR consultancies are having to distinguish themselves and seek out a competitive advantage as they are ‘selling an intangible service and ultimately the difference is about personalities, but this is notoriously hard to articulate convincingly’ (Goldsworthy & Morris, 2015). This therefore means that PR practices need to keep up to date and in trend with social media and society outside of this. Keeping on top of new technologies and rapidly responding to new social trends interest me as I like to keep ‘on trend’ myself, whether it be with my peers on online, so as this is an integrated aspect of PR this would interest me and my tastes of the work surrounding this.

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Like any career, you cannot go into a job knowing everything. ‘There are few if any scientific laws in PR’ (Smith, 2013). Learning from experience is always key, but this is even more validated within the PR industry. Creative working and thinking is wisdom and collective learning is very interesting and a career in this industry is so unsolidified and not set in stone that embracing your imaginative side interests me.

PR’s role can be tough, ‘pitching stories to sceptical journalists or bloggers, or taking that difficult call when the media have uncovered a damaging story’ (Theaker, 2012). Preparation must be done in advance for these types of situations, which can be make or break for some businesses depending on how big stories or certain situations are. Some people may find the responsibility of this too much, or not wanting the stress that may come along with some ambiguous, unplanned situations, although organisations value these type of PR people, that can stay cool, calm and collected in these types of situations. As I have a very calm nature, I like to work under pressure without it being to over bearing for me and I would like to be given the opportunities to experience these types of pressures. Overcoming these aspects of the job, particularly with myself, a strong sense of job satisfaction would come out of these types of situations for me if they are dealt with properly and respectfully. As being helpful in these situations this could make you a valued representative in an organisation which certain businesses would want and would definitely have perks.

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When naming some large international PR consultancies, I couldn’t think of any at all. ‘Most people have difficulty identifying PR campaigns, and, when they try, frequently confuse them with advertising and other forms of marketing’ (Goldsworthy & Morris, 2008). This interests me are PR as a whole is quite unknown. With certain names, fact and PR concepts, PR is kept at a rather large scale as a blank canvas. The mysteriousness of PR and that surrounding it keeps an interest towards it and I find that extremely interesting.

Public relations is and continues to be a heavily influenced aspect of my personality and I implement some aspects of it into my everyday life, influencing brands I buy such as what I wear, what I eat, and I watch on television.

The fluidity and creativeness aspects of the career, such as stunts really peak my interest in the PR industry as a whole. Interestingly in today’s society PR’s work is still relatively unknown to people outside of the industry and people actually working in a PR career, this ‘secretive’ aspect for me creates a magnetic pull ever more so towards a career in PR as the unknown is exciting and somewhat stimulating.

Alexandra McEvoy is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @alexmcevoy_ ; Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandra-mcevoy-111ba5171/

University: The Third Edition

With the aim of forging a path to a future filled with success and happiness, settling on a university degree was possibly one of the most daunting and difficult decisions we, at the tender age of 17, were forced to make. However, the recurring questions of: “what is Communication Management and Public Relations?”, “what can you do with that when you graduate?”, and most common of them all: “whaaaaatttt the **** is that?” have echoed in my ear from the day and hour I accepted the offer on UCAS. There are times I feel like I can’t even walk down the Jordanstown mall without folks knowing I study that course that nobody can describe or explain.

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Before embarking on my undergraduate degree in Public Relations, I had spent the two previous years chancing my arm at two different courses: English and Journalism. However, anybody that has spent more than 42 seconds with me will know that I am almost incapable of making life-impacting decisions, and I was unsure whether I wanted to devote the next three years of my life studying either of these degrees. So, I threw the towel in, packed the bags, and I decided to pursue a new path. Again.

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I have always been an avid believer that good things happen to people who communicate eloquently, confidently and fluently, and the opportunities they have are boundless. Therefore, I have continuously been heavily reliant and focused on the way I communicate in order maximise the potential possibilities there are for myself, too. Brian Tracy describes communication as: “a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life”, which perfectly underscores the importance of it. The reason communication is so significant to me can be encapsulated in a quote by Shannon L. Adler (2018), which is: “When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” Removing negative energy equates to a happy life, my friends.

As a very charismatic and vocal person, I haven’t been classified as “shy” too many times in the last decade or so. I took this with me all throughout school, and still utilise my boisterous personality to benefit my day-to-day life. My ability to communicate has always been something I took pride in, and I have used it to, as Adler phrased it, receive peace and deter from negative energy of fear and regret. Following this, communication has broadened and enhanced my social, personal and professional life. In my personal life, and especially in the last year, I have been surrounded by good, likeminded people who motivate me to keep making good choices and changes. Whereas, in my professional life, I have climbed the career ladder and now hold a supervisory position within an ostentatious restaurant, where I oversee more than 20 staff members; and no surprise, confidence and a high-quality level of effective communication gave me both of those positive outcomes.

 

So, why a career in Public Relations?

I was feeling similar emotions to Ross Gellar who feared being known for getting divorced, but instead, I was Dalez, and instead of divorcing, I was trialling and swiftly exiting undergraduate degrees like I wasn’t clocking up £20k debt.

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I became interested in Public Relations during my stint at studying Journalism, and it was here that I flourished in the written aspect of it. Throughout my school years my interests centralised on communication; verbal and written and it was in this that I thrived. Fortunately, this was an intricate component in Public Relations, which perhaps meant to me that this would be the one, and I wouldn’t be waving Jordanstown goodbye.

Before making the decision to study it, I did some research into what jobs were associated with Public Relations, (meanwhile, my Mum insisted it was offering cheaper entry into nightclubs and five Jägerbomb’s for a tenner), and then I investigated what other interpersonal skills I would need, coupled with a degree, to become successful. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations describes Public Relations as: “the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its public”, and as someone happy enough to “wet the ear” of anybody willing (or unwilling) to listen to what I have to say, PR is well-suited to my personality. This would also mean I would be able to strategically practise my expertise with oral and written communication to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with clients, suppliers, and partner organisations.

During my research, I uncovered that it is essential to be organised, with particular importance placed on the ability to multitask; and as somebody who has a generally busy social life, works full-time while also studying full-time, organisation is a skill I can assure you I have (even if I do rock up 10 minutes late from time to time). It is imperative for me to have a weekly to-do list and have my days mapped out beforehand, to help ensure that I complete each task I have set for myself; otherwise I’d become overwhelmed, quit my job, drop out of university, and continue my life on a different continent somewhere because of a meltdown which stemmed from a week of disorganisation. And it could happen yet, folks. Other sets of skills listed included strong teamwork and problem-solving skills; which are qualities I utilise on a day-to-day basis, leaving me confident enough to exude them professionally.

As well as this, Public Relations provides an extremely broad line of work, which was a crucial requirement for me while I was deciding whether to apply to my undergraduate degree and attaining a qualification which only benefited one specific field of work is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I did some research and found that the possibilities of work were plentiful within Public Relations; I was largely unaware of how extensive the prospects really were. “PR practitioners work across a range of industries and may work in any of the following settings: consumer, corporate, financial, local government, public affairs or trade and technical”. I had always feared that I would qualify and feel trapped within a job, but as Public Relations is so extensive, it would be possible to move within these interrelated industries and fields of work.

 

The Plans For The Future

Regardless whether I follow the path and end up in the Public Relations industry, I think the qualification will be beneficial for me within any job I pursue throughout my life. The knowledge gained in my undergraduate degree can, and has been, transferred to enhance my personal and professional life, as aforementioned. Ideally, I would like to become an entrepreneur and leader; and this coupled with an established blog, and knowledge in Public Relations would prove to be very valuable to a start-up business, where success can be tough – with 50% of new businesses failing “during the first five years”.

Currently employed as a social media manager for a renowned business, I already use and expand my skills I have attained from university to help aid the businesses marketing strategies online. The language, photographs and posts are all pre-empted in order to portray the business in a particular manner, which helps to maintain the respect and good relationship the company has already established with the clientele. This experience, with the background knowledge of Public Relations, marketing and advertising would all be useful in helping me solidify future decisions on how I would like to advertise and appear online, as social media presence is currently incredibly crucial.

With a passion and interest in writing; and more specifically, the conversational style of writing, a Public Relations degree would give me the professional information on effective communication that I would need to ensure that I could have a balance of expressing my own personality, while still appearing eloquent and well-versed. The possibilities for the future are endless, my pals, and maybe even the oul blogging will sky-rocket and take off now shortly due to the growing popularity and demand there is. If you have never had a story relayed to you by Dalez, have you really heard a story?

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Mark Daly is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markdaly123/

I’m Back.

What to write about? It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, writing about my deepest darkest secrets. And my ideas for my first blog post are lacking. But hopefully the more I write, the more creative juices will just flow from my fingertips to my keyboard.

So ~building suspense~ as my first blog post back, I am going to write about placement. You’ve probably just been knocked off from your seat. Shocked by the creativity of a third year CAM student. Writing about placement.

I was going to be one of those students that gives you monthly updates placement, but I didn’t feel I had the expertise or experience to give you monthly updates. But, I’m 8 months in now and boy, have I gained experience. So here’s my take from placement, with only a few months left.

Don’t Stress // Now, those of you know me are thinking ‘how can Alex tell me not to stress?’ And yes, this is true, I stress when I am running low on milk, so you can imagine the stress a hunt for a placement position brought. This time last year, I received another decline, with the hope of an interview (never mind a job offer) quickly seeming further from my grasp.

I’m sure there are many of you in the same position and don’t stress about it – apply for jobs you are genuinely excited about and in the meantime perfect your CV, write a killer cover letter and gain experience wherever you can to bulk up that LinkedIn Bio.

It’s all about your attitude // ‘What’s for you, won’t pass you’. I remember I was first told this by my Mum and it’s a saying that has really stuck with me. Now 5 weeks into Semester 2, receiving your 900th placement email and with 3 assignment deadlines approaching, this attitude is hard to maintain. I understand that struggle.

But do stay positive, rejections are hard to get over, but you should see them as a learning curve – how can you improve your CV? What techniques can you use in your next interview? Was your cover letter as well-researched and unique as you once thought? Remember, that interview, call back or job offer will come at a time you will least expect it.

Be in the know // Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, we are spoilt on how we can stay connected with industry updates, leaders and campaigns. Whilst I received an email about my position, I first saw it on LinkedIn and without seeing the post, I don’t know if I ever would have applied. I was able to see what the company was up to, who worked there and the company’s culture.

Acting like an MI5 agent and doing a background check on the company that has invited you in for an interview will put you in a strong position. It will show initiative by researching the company and communicate a passion for their activities. So, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile by now, get one, you might sign up and stumble upon a job advert that interests you.

I feel like three hints for the placement process is enough, so I’ll give some advice on what I have learnt on placement so far. And I think the best way to start this, is share what I do, I work at Intel Ireland, holding the position of Media and Education Intern. I could write a whole blog post on what I’ll do, but I’ll leave that for my placement report and upload that to Turnitin rather than here. But in the short, I love it and with final year getting closer and closer, time can slow down.

Don’t take uni for granted // For those studying CAM like me, we have been blessed with a course that is max 12hrs a week, with Monday’s and Friday’s off, enjoy this time. It can seem like a lot with the various assignments, placement emails and simply functioning, but enjoy it. When placement hits, you’ll be working 40hrs a week, with only your evenings to do as you please, rather than finishing at 1pm and feeling like you still have the whole day. 

Placement should be enjoyable // Placement is hard, I’ve learnt that from first hand experience, you’re thrown in the deep-end and suddenly you have responsibilities that matter and have an affect on other people. But this is all a learning curve and you should (hopefully) be enjoying it. You will be working on projects related to your course, working with people who may have your dream job and working for a company you would love to return to. Appreciate your placement opportunity, enjoy it and see it as a chance to learn and develop your skill-set.

So, there you have it – a very small portion of advice relating to placement, take it or leave, these are just my learnings.

And if you’ve learnt nothing, you now know I stress when I’m low on milk.

Alex Slaine is a Third Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. He is currently working as Media and Education Intern at Intel Ireland on his placement year. He can be found on Twitter – @alexslainee; and LinkedIn – Alex Slaine

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