Why does a career in Public Relations interest me?

Why does a career in Public Relations interest me?

The journey from a creative to a creative PR professional

Creativity is deemed to be an essential quality of a PR professional as discovered by Parker, Wayne, and Kent Ltd. (2005) through their survey conducted amongst 104 professionals belonging to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Their survey discovered that 96% of these professionals considered creativity to play an extremely important role in the public relations process.

It could be argued that I was always destined to explore a career in public relations as I was often described as a very ‘imaginative’ and ‘creative’ child throughout my younger years. ‘She has some imagination’ my relatives would have said – and so I did. I had two imaginary friends: Lizzy and Dumb. They went everywhere with me at the annoyance of my sisters who were often demoted to the boot seats of our jeep so that my imaginary companions could sit beside me. I’m not sure whether this made me an imaginative child or just downright weird. I had great aspirations for my two best friends at the time. Lizzie progressed to be a hairdresser whereas Dumb, the more academic of the two (ironic I know), went on to attend University to become a doctor – but what did I want to be when I grew up? Well, a dancer of course, what else? I dedicated many of my junior days to blasting music in my living room, dancing until my heart was content and attending several dancing classes until one day, I decided it wasn’t for me, as most children do. Expressing my creativity and imagination through my work, however, is something I always knew I wanted to do, and I knew my future career had to involve this side of myself which I discovered from a young age.

During my teen years I began involving myself in creative pastimes such as drawing and painting which motivated me to opt for Art as a GCSE subject. My creativity also transferred to paper through my writing in English which I decided to take on for A level. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this decision would be beneficial in my future career when targeting publics as throughout A level English, I was taught to provide a deep analysis of written pieces composed from different points of view. I was never an overly scientific, mathematic, or athletic student in school. My performance was very much average in these areas and I didn’t really show much interest in pursuing them in the future. It was quite demotivating when I seen many students commended for being brainboxes and strong athletes, whereas there weren’t as many opportunities for the more creative students to portray their talents. However, growing up, my daddy ensured that my two sisters and I had a strong work ethic instilled in us from a young age. This work ethic enabled me to achieve my desired grades at both GCSE and A level and to this day it still enables me to work hard against any oppositions I face to do what needs to be done. I know that this will be useful throughout my PR career as I very rarely let anything stand in my way and will put in any amount of work needed to get a job done.

When it came to applying for UCAS in September 2016, I’m not going to lie, I had no clue what I wanted to apply for! At the tender age of 17 how are you expected to know what you want to do for the rest of your life? I had expressed interest in mental health nursing as I had an unrelenting desire to help people and have an impact on the lives of others, however, upon taking part in a two-day work experience it was revealed that you had to be a very emotionally strong person with the ability to detach yourself from your patients – an ability I didn’t think I possessed and so it was back to the drawing board for me. When I was researching what I wanted to study at university, I discovered that a job in public relations would allow me to express my creativity through innovative ideas on how to make a brand stand out when developing PR strategies and campaigns (which is a concept I have thoroughly enjoyed throughout the 3 years of studying my course so far). This was what first sparked my interest in PR and applying to study Communication Management and Public Relations.

What does Public Relations mean to me?

Despite the copious hours I have spent studying CMPR over the past 3 years, when people ask me what PR is, it is still something I struggle to underpin and define as it is constantly evolving. CIPR define public relations as, “The result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour” (CIPR, 2015).

It wasn’t until I spent my placement year working at The SHS Group, Belfast, and was given the opportunity to put the theory I had learnt into practice, that I gained a better understanding of what a career in PR included. I spent my year shadowing Kellie-Ann Hoey, Head of Group Communications, working as a Communications and PR intern. The knowledge and experience I gained throughout my placement year has been invaluable and has without a doubt boosted the beginning of my career in PR. My typical daily tasks at SHS included designing graphics, updating social media platforms and company websites and circulating PR communications such as press releases and emailers. I quickly realised that the ability to social network is essential in PR. Throughout my time at SHS I connected with many different contacts in the industry who only spoke highly of the work I had completed, which massively heightened my confidence in the career path I had chosen. Although I would describe myself as a very sociable person which made it easy for me to connect with these contacts, I also discovered that it is just as important to humble yourself, prepare to be flexible and adapt to different situations in the PR world to ensure you present yourself and your brand in the best possible light – especially during a crisis.

It was at SHS that I learnt that public relations is an extremely fast paced industry with each day guaranteed to be different from the last. To me this is a very appealing aspect of the industry as I am someone who tends to get bored with the same old repetitive patterns and processes. A career in PR can also quite literally take you anywhere in the world you want to go. The reason simply being that every company needs public relations to some extent and travelling with the job is a definite career perk for someone with huge wanderlust. Another perk of the job is that you are not confined to a desk like most other 9 to 5 professions. This only enhances my perception that I would love a career in PR and as they say if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life!

Although a degree in public relations can take you down many different routes, the route I mostly gauged an interest in during my time at SHS was events management. I was heavily involved and had a great sense of responsibility in the organisation of launch events, company conferences, briefings, and seasonal parties. When organising my first event, I realised there is so much work necessary to host a successful event that I hadn’t even considered before, however, the sense of accomplishment you feel when the event you organised is a success not only to you but to others as well, is second to none and satisfies my need to impact the lives of others by providing them with a time to feel enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, each event brought it’s own set of challenges and stressful, ‘on the verge of tears’, moments as I navigated my way through the organisation of table plans, entertainment, guest speakers, taxi lists and charity activities. That is another thing about a career in PR; to be successful you must be on top of your crisis management game and be prepared for the worst to happen, armed with several back up plans and solutions for X, Y and Z. The stress that emerged from the trials and tribulations presented to me when organising events, could not outshine my desire to be successful and instead it provided me with an adrenaline rush that spurred me on and motivated me to overcome them.

In the PR world, it is essential that you keep yourself up to date with the latest trends to become fully aware of what your publics will want to see and engage with the most. As an avid social media user active on most platforms, who has a slight obsession with pinterest and reads far too many news articles, this is an enjoyable pastime for me. When I had finished my normal 9 to 5 day at SHS I often found myself screenshotting news stories and saving social media posts in the evenings which included material I thought could be beneficial to incorporate in our own PR strategies. This is the kind of work, to me that does not feel like work but that I get a great sense of pleasure out of.

Despite most of my work experience consisting of customer service and retail jobs, I value my past retail work experiences as great opportunities that have allowed me to develop skills which are frequently used in PR. I now have a better understanding of how customer needs can vary among different demographics and how in turn, they react to different situations. I hope to one day be working as part of a public relations and event management team at a global brand, but for now I look forward to improving the PR skills I have acquired so far and graduating in 2021.

Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

To answer the question why does a career in Public Relations interest me? As well as why did I chose a Public Relations degree to study? The answer isn’t as straight forward as the questions, there are a number of different reasons and answers, for how I ended up on this career path. In this blog I’ll be (roughly) explaining my story as to how I ended up studying and enjoying the field of Public Relations. I will start by explaining what interested and attracted me to the industry in the first place as well as, how I chose my degree and what I have learned over the course of my studies.

For another who doesn’t know what public relations is, it can often be confused with advertising and mis-defined as being just about promotion. Grunig and Hunt define Public Relations as “Management of communication between an organisation and its publics”. Charted Institute of Public Relations defines it as “the discipline which looks after reputation, “It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.” It can be argued that there is no distinct definition of  what Public Relations is, and in many ways it is so broadly scoped it is undefinable. Personally I believe it is about the management of multiple different relationships within an organisation/person of interest and how they use this to communicate, promote and attract attention in their interest across a range of multimedia platforms.

When leaving high school I initially accepted an offer to study Law and marketing, as in the past I had always been torn between what I wanted to study. Soon after beginning my Law degree I quickly became bored. The copious amount of reading, referencing and interpreting became boring to me. The only aspect of law I was interested in was the real life cases and how they were resolved. I was still curious about marketing and business but I had realised I was also very interested in social psychology. I decided to change courses and I began looking for something that would interest me more, within a number of universities. When I came across the course Communication Management and Public Relations I was initially struck by the many different areas of study that it involved. I wanted to learn more about communication and I also wanted to know more about how to use communication in a professional context. I also researched into the career opportunities and found them interesting. I have always been a very confident person and that is why I thought that public relations would suit my personality better.  

Originally what attracted me to Public Relations was its communication aspect, how fast-paced and current the industry is.  Another aspect of public relations I liked was that unlike marketing, they don’t push promotions in an informal fashion towards consumers rather convince consumers by creating connections and relationships that are mutually beneficial.  Take Edward Bernays as an example. Bernays is often described as the father of Public Relations and his work and campaigns were not only successful, but they changed the world that we live in today. For example Bernays was employed by American Tobacco Companies and in 1928 he created the revolutionary  “Torches of Freedom.” Campaign. Smoking at the time was a Taboo in America for women and “smoking by women in North America and Europe had long been associated with loose morals and dubious sexual behaviour.” Bernays thought he could change this idea and he believed “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” Bernays organised multiple demonstrations of women smoking these women included debutants as well as prominent figures from the Women’s Movement and Churches. The demonstrations obviously attracted huge media attention and as a result newspapers across the country published stories on it. It’s crazy to me that through this occupation it was quite literally possible to change the world! 

During the course of my studies into to Public Relations, I have learned a lot about its uses in politics. I fascinated by the work of spin doctors and I was intrigued at how these people were able to take something that felt like bad news and turn it into something they could use for their benefit. While people often have mixed opinions over whether or not the use of spin particularly in politics is ethically correct Ludlam and Smith define it as “new strategic thinking”. I agree and, I think that there is an art to spin and it requires a great deal of knowledge as well as the ability to work on your own initiative. The labour party in England has often been accused of spinning facts to their own advantage, For example back in 2015 when Ed Miliband was the leader of the labour party, he took part in an interview which was held in the kitchen of his supposed £2 million house. These images then surfaced in an article published by the Daily Mail. The kitchen was in a modest state considering the price of the house, and the Daily Mail article compared it to a “utility room”. The article also went on to suggest that this might be the work of spin doctors as at the time Ed Miliband was running in the general election and he had just promised to introduce a mansion tax if he won. It was thought that by placing him in a less expensive looking kitchen it would favour the idea that he is a man of the people. Another example is throughout the course of Jeremy Corbyn’s time in office he was accused of spin multiple times. Back in 2016 when Owen Smith became the main leadership challenger for Corbyn. Smith gave a speech at the time condemning Conservative spending towards the NHS as well as accusing them of having plans to privatise the NHS. This was in order to present Smith as a socialist and an advocate for free health care, the only problem with this is that Owen Smith had spent five years working in big pharmaceutical companies as well as spending some of that time working as a corporate lobbyist. He also previously had the role of  head of policy and government relations for Pfizer. As this information was being brought to light in the press Corbyn timed a policy announcement well, which was to remove tax relief for pharmaceutical innovation. The idea was to frame Corbyn as someone who was anti/against big pharmaceutical companies compared with Smith the “lobbyist”.

From the examples I have given I can understand as to why someone would question the ethics of the use of spin. However, I believe that spin is a strategic thought process that involves a lot of planning, timing and driving of the news agenda. This skill requires a good judgment and knowledge about the industry you are working in.

Another aspect of Public relations that I find interesting is crisis communication. When an organisation gets into a crisis situation it usually contributes to public distrust. It is the PR practitioners job to ensure as little damage as possible is done to the firm. For example Pret a Manager dealt with a severe crisis in 2016. A 15-year-old girl died after having an allergic reaction to one of Pret a Manger’s baguettes. She collapsed on a British Airways flight and went into anaphylactic shock which caused her to go into cardiac arrest. Pret a Manager became the centre of the scandal as the baguette did not have any allergen advice on its wrapper. At the time food allergen advice was produced on site, and there was no legal requirement to provide it on the label. It was expected that staff deliver allergen information orally when asked. Pret a Manger received heavy criticism from both the press and the public. In this case Pret had to take some of the blame, in the beginning they tried to blame the British airways staff but in order to save company reputation the company CEO realised a statement saying that the firm was “deeply sorry” and that they were making “meaningful changes” to prevent something like this happening again. As a result Pret called for changes on the food labelling laws, gave the family compensation and encouraged other businesses to create change in their food allergens labelling. This is a successful example of the skill involved in crisis communication and how they were able to create a positive out of the terrible situation by getting the law changed.

A career in public relations interests me deeply. Although, I’m not entirely sure as to what direction or aspect of PR that I will end up working in. I feel safe in the knowledge that it always interests me, sometimes this is a quality I think people over look when planning a career. I think if you’re interested in what you do not only will you do well but you will enjoy your work as well.

Alicia Fox is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Linkedin and Twitter.

Why does a career in public relations interest me?

Why does a career in public relations interest me?

Oliver, S. (2010) claims “if you asked a hundred people to define public relations you would get a hundred different answers.” To begin, when describing relations, I believe it has numerous definitions and it simply cannot be labelled to one.  Different people in society would have a range of perspectives and opinions on defining “what is public relations?” However, I personally agree with the definition provided by Bernays, E. (1923) in which he states “information given to the public, persuasion directed at the public to modify attitudes and actions, and efforts to integrate attitudes and actions of an institution with its publics and of publics with those of that institution.” Bernays definition explains public relations perfectly for me as he clarifies that based on what we hear and see in the media and on the news, we then proceed to form our attitudes and views on the particular matter in question even if we are not knowledgeable in that field. We then tend to form our opinion on the topic. Bernays emphasises how the media plays a huge role in influencing our opinions and behaviour on different areas in the way it is portrayed via public relations.

The Modern Day Publicist: Traditional Public Relations (PR) Vs. Digital PR

Why public relations really interest me is because it is an industry that is forever changing. There are always new and exciting things happening in the world that you can never predict. For example, let us consider COVID-19. According to the CIPR (2020) “ the impact of Covid-19 and the opportunities it presents for the communications profession finds the pandemic has accelerated changes already underway within practice and concludes it has demonstrated the strategic role of communications.” This emphasizes that with the pandemic happening it has impacted public relations massively. It is so important to be up to date with new rules, covid-19 death rates around the world and in Northern Ireland, reports from the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, updates from Boris Johnson along with updates from the public health agency. It is equally important to report about the hospitality sector which has been significantly impacted by covid-19. It is so important that public relations provides this information to the public and allows them to gather important information that is very relevant and essential to know when it comes to something as unprecedented as Covid-19 and allow people to develop their attitudes, behaviours, opinion and plan. From here, they will determine what to do with this information and make vital adjustments to their life.

Grunig, J. (1989) claims “public relations is the management of communications between an organisation and its publics.” A career in public relations interests me because I have a passion for strong communication skills and being able to strategically communicate within the workplace because I know it is integral when working effectively with your colleagues, different companies, brands and media agencies. These key factors are all linked to PR and are therefore essential to develop your communication skills and how to use them effectively. Additionally, another key topic I am very passionate about is having strong organisational skills because by having both communication skills and organisation skills combined it provides you with the underpinning knowledge to nurture a relationship with your co-workers, companies you work with and essentially, it allows you to develop connections in the industry which is very important. Building relationships in public relations is key because it helps manage your reputation which is another important tool to have when working in public relations. Building a strong working relationship with a brand for example, allows you to develop trusted media connections which is vital to have in this industry. By having media connections, you can issue a press release in times of a bad advertising campaign or during a crisis when you may need crisis management support for example therefore, your trusted media connection can help you repair the damage.

Today more than ever your online presence is crucial in a world where everyone is digitally connected. “Much of social media is done in public, by the public, and the dynamics that have shaped public relations in the past media relations, interactions with opinion leaders and influencers, and of course, crisis/reputation management are not only present in social media, but often accentuated and amplified by it.” (Breakenridge, K.D 2012). This is another point to why I am interested in a public relations role because when looking for a job, promoting a product or brand or networking in the world of marketing and advertising, it is vital to establish your online presence. Having a strong online presence allows you to build connections digitally, ultimately opening the window to partnering with other brands, gaining advice from other PR professionals, and obtaining a portfolio of connections, to better identify how to maximise your content and market yourself online.  Public relations are concentrated on public opinion and today social media is a forever expanding market where PR is becoming an integral part of marketing communications. Ultimately, PR effects the performance of marketing. Therefore, to achieve greater success, building connections digitally with a PR agency is an essential path.

I enjoy the strategical and planning process leading up to a campaign, and public relations covers all these components.

The PR strategy consists of:

  • Context
  • Situation /Issue Analysis
  • Objectives
  • Publics
  • Messaging
  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

“Having a sense of direction and of what is important is part of well-being at work and indeed being able to mark off progress and milestones is an intrinsic element of job satisfaction.(Gregory, A. 2010) For example, when creating a campaign, I thrive on having a strategy in place and establishing on how to successfully market a campaign and make it successful. A career in PR appeals to me as I enjoy looking at the brand ethos and ensuring that is promoted relevantly and speaks to their vision and mission. When carrying out a piece of work I enjoy looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a brand/campaign, establishing what the brand is trying to achieve, narrowing down target audiences to ensure it is a success, creating a powerful message and ultimately  delivering it to the public, through creativity, planning, delivery and  evaluation. “Public relations play a role in assisting the organisation clarify its purpose and values”. (Moloney, K. and McGrath, C. 2020) Additionally, as I enjoy this process, I believe I would thrive in a PR role and apply the PR strategy to everything that I do to make any future job roles enjoyable and  importantly successful.

Overall, a career in public relations interests me because I enjoy strategical processes, planning, organising, creating ideas and coming up with crisis management tactics because this allows me to learn more about the industry, how to create a successful business plan and make it a huge success , which is any organisations ultimate goal. Social media is a wonderful resource for PR and media communications today as it allows you to not only access an extensive network but also to take advantage of advertising and marketing opportunities in order to build awareness of your business or campaign. I have experience working in the social media and marketing world through my placement year therefore, doing this in PR environment is something I would love to be involved in.

I also enjoy keeping up to date with the latest trends and monitoring other brands and seeing how they are contributing to the “woke” era. I would love to bring this into my PR career and ensure as a brand or company we are relevant with the current times, where the outcome would be establishing a solid reputation and a great online presence in a world which is ever changing. I am interested in organisational communication as this is very relevant to a PR career where you must be able to strategically communicate and have effective interaction. Personally, a career in public relations grabs me because I enjoy industries that are evolving, and public relations offers just that. It is never the same and that is what makes it exciting, innovative and current. This ultimately, retains that enjoyment in a career where public relations keeps creativity levels high and engaging.

The Art of Selling in Public Relations | "What's HAppening" Blog

Tara Hamill is a final year student in Ulster University studying Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram

What is PR? – A beginner’s help and hand to defining PR.

What is PR? – A beginner’s help and hand to defining PR.
The Public Relations for Dummies (and philosophers) | by Eric Maillard |  Medium

What is PR?

Looking at a textbook definition of public relations may be the most helpful tool to come to terms with what exactly PR is , The Chartered institute of public relations  have defined public relations to be “the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour.” However to narrow it down, the definition of public relations really is what it says on the tin …

PUBLIC – the people

RELATIONS– the relationship between people.

As the definition states, that public relations is down to the people and the relationship with the people. So, if a business has “bad” PR the relationship with the people will be negative. Whereas if the business has “good” PR the relationship with the people will be positive.

Now that we have come to an understanding on the definition of what public relations is…

Why exactly is it so important for a business to have good public relations?

Good PR can do numerous things for a business, the top things good PR can potentially do are:

  • Credibility – Being recognised for having good PR and doing the right things builds credibility and trust between the business and the public. Being viewed as credible is just as effective as advertising. Being viewed as a credible business can, in result, potentially increase profit for the business.
  • Customers – If a business is noticeably doing new and exciting things this builds a good reputation for them which attracts new customers. New customers will positively increase the popularity of the business as well as increasing the profit. A business won’t survive without customers, so this is why it is so important for good pr. Good PR = Customers.
  • Planning – Having good public relation’s won’t be carried out without effective and structured planning. With this planning it will decrease the chances of things going wrong and when things go wrong for a business it can be expensive… mistakes cost A LOT.

So now, we understand the benefits of a business having good PR, but how do they get there?

It’s no easy road for a business to succeed in the world of good PR, However, It is essential for a business who are serious about building and wanting to achieve good PR to create and implement a good, well-structured and detailed public relations strategy. This strategy should include:

  • Define their aims and objects – what do they want achieve from this strategy?
  • Analyse their current situation – Where are the currently positioned? What are their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
  • Identify their key publics – who exactly are they targeting at?
  • Key messages – what message do they want to deliver to the public?
  • Budget – how much are they willing to spend if anything?
  • Timeline – when do they want to execute this strategy?
  • Tactics – what exactly are they going to do to attract new customers?

If a business create and execute a carefully detailed public relations strategy, this can increase their chances of achieving good PR, compared to a business who doesn’t plan. A business may have a plan of what they want to achieve but without planning, this plan will not be achieved.

The most noticeable result for a business having good PR is customers as customers bring profit, and profit is the main driving force behind every single business as without profit, it’s not very likely that the business will survive. However, business’ need to be patient as they may struggle to receive profit and increase their revenue without putting PR first, and good PR at that. It is so important for a business to focus and strategically work on nailing their PR.

Once a business starts to focus on their PR, then the profit will come.

Refrernces :

Cipr.co.uk. 2020. About PR. [online] Available at: <https://www.cipr.co.uk/CIPR/About_Us/About_PR.aspx?WebsiteKey=0379ffac-bc76-433c-9a94-56a04331bf64&gt; [Accessed 20 November 2020].

Naomi Finnegan is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn.

So, you think you know what PR is?

So, you think you know what PR is?

It is true that there is much more to public relations than what meets the eye, but often people’s perceptions of the profession can be mistaken. I have summed up just some of these common misconceptions of PR below in the form of an acronym, to hopefully give you a better understanding of what we do and don’t do as PR professionals.

Personal Assistants: Often, at the beginning of our careers, we might land our first role of ‘PR intern’, yet we find ourselves making the coffees for meetings or grabbing the manager’s lunch. This is much more common than not and personally, I believe it is selfish of employers to expect this of interns (sometimes all while being on a big fat wage of £0). Of course, it is fine to lend a helping hand and run the odd errand here and there where needed, but if this is something that starts to become a part of your unwritten job criteria, then you might as well have applied for a Personal Assistant role. Employers, do better! PR students do not spend years studying and paying for a degree to make your coffee. Simple.

Unethical: In the past, this was a very common perception of PR and it still taints the profession’s reputation to this day. I remember working in a supermarket and an older customer asked me what I do in Uni, when I told him I was studying PR, his whole demeanour shifted. He would joke that you could never trust someone in PR and that they will always try to twist your words. PR is not an evil, unethical profession, if anything (in my experience) we try to shed light on the positive parts of a business rather than completely cover up and hide any negative parts of the business. The bad rep of being deceitful is definitely still around today.

Bouncers: This one is a bit funny but there is relevance in it, I promise! So, when holding events there is typically a PR person put ‘on the door’. This is usually to mark people’s names off the guest list upon arriving and turning away anyone that isn’t on the list. Sometimes this can be heated, turning away people that feel entitled to be at the event and back up from your manager may be required! So, we’re not exactly bouncers, but we do refuse entry.


Loud: This is definitely a misconception people have of PR. You do not need to be the life and soul of the party or the loudest person in a room to work in PR. Having confidence will help, but some of the best PR’s I have worked with can be introverts. If you’re an extrovert and could make conversation with a brick wall, great! But it is definitely not an essential criterion for landing a job in PR.


Influencer wannabe’s: This is a more recent misconception developed of PR. Lots of young people don’t fully understand what PR actually entails, so when they see us sharing blog posts, reviewing businesses, and creating our own websites, etc., they might in fact think we are trying to become ‘bloggers’ or ‘influencers’. Don’t get me wrong, if someone paid me to write a post for them I would do it, but more so because I am professionally trained in content creation and copy-writing, not because I am trying to ‘influence’ others, or because I think my opinion needs to be shared. Blogging helps you become noticed by other professionals and it is something that helps you stand out when applying for jobs.

Content Creator: With that being said, yes some of us may be trained in content creation, but this is definitely not a given when studying PR. Content creation is a mix of photography, creative directing, design, and many other niche skills and qualities. This is not something that should be expected of all PR professionals, but it is something I am seeing on more and more job criteria. If you can put together a flat lay and edit it, great. But don’t worry if you can just about apply a filter to your Instagram post. There is always room to learn these skills as we progress.

Rich: Another funny one, but some people genuinely believe this. Depending on where you work, you might be ‘partying’ with celebrities, staying in famous hotels, and drinking fancy champagne as part of your job. Unfortunately, working with celebs does not come hand in hand with a celebrity wage. We are probably just as shocked as you when we are experiencing these situations and the impostor syndrome is real! The bank account does not match the lifestyle sometimes, but that’s all part of it.

Experts: I say experts as an umbrella term, but this basically means expert in everything! Sometimes smaller companies hire a PR professional as someone has advised them that they need PR to succeed. They want someone that does social media, content creation, email marketing, press, digital, events, influencer management, media, and the list goes on. It is important to know that there are people that will have experience in all of these areas, but they will certainly not be experts in each area.

Legal Associates: In areas of PR like crisis management, businesses may turn to us for legal advice. When a disaster strikes in your business, your PR may be just as vital as your Lawyer, but these cannot be confused. We can advise you on how to save your business’s reputation, but we can’t bail you out of jail. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime and all that. We can only do so much in a crisis, but we are not above the law.


Alternative Options: It might seem obvious, but PR is definitely not an alternative option to advertising, marketing, social media management, or communications. It actually works best alongside these positions as the PR professional will be able to give their all to their position without spilling fulfilling other roles. Maybe not all are essential, but PR can’t be used as an alternative for other professions.


Trained in Psychology: Yes, it is good to have an understanding of social psychology and how the mind works in order to persuade someone, which is a tactic use in PR to promote a product, business, or campaign. But I think sometimes wider marketing professions might have the perception that the girl that work’s in PR will create a press release that is so convincing that everyone will just have to buy the product. We might know how to persuade, but we definitely aren’t psychologists and people are entitled to free will.


In the know: Looking at the stereotypical idea of PR, we are all gossips. We know everything about everyone and their business and can use this against them to negotiate things and ‘spin’ them our way. This is also not true, we are not Mi5, we do not know everyone’s business. Even if we keep up to date with current affairs, we still might miss something that you saw in the news (as we are human) so don’t expect us to know it all. We don’t.

Only for women: In any TV show you have watched that has a PR professional in (I know you’re thinking of Samantha Jones), they will be portrayed as a blonde outgoing woman, that loves to shop and date. It’s such a bad stereotype that needs changing as it is a professional career, that is totally inclusive of men (but there is room for more as it is heavily female-oriented).


Nice to have: I don’t even know what to say to this one. PR is ESSENTIAL!

Shot Girls: That job advertised by Thompsons night club saying ‘PR staff. Sell shots in nightclub and recruit customers on the street’ is not a job anyone spends years studying to get, and I think it’s quite worrying that some may think that this is what PR actually is.

Grace Blaney is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.

Defining PR through a student lens

Defining PR through a student lens

When I think of blogging, I think of 7-year-old me writing a diary about everything I did every weekend throughout my childhood to look back at and remember the fond memories. Now that I have grown up and had the opportunity to look back at these supposed ‘blogs’ I drafted. It usually consisted of my weekly dance class and a sleepover at my favourite aunties house. But since this is my first ‘official’ blog lets start over. When my lecturer Conor asked us to each write a blog on a professional topic within the PR industry it got me thinking, how would I sum up in my head the definition of Public Relations?

The public relations and communications association (PRCA) defines public relations as ‘the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image. The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages. (PRCA, 2020)  

Yes, there is a lot of this definition I would agree with, however, in my eyes it’s so much more. So much more I could probably write 50 pages about. In a lecture with Conor he asked us to each come up with a definition of what we thought PR was. So, for me I got my pen and paper and started writing random words in bubbles around the page. He then asked us to ask a family member to see how they would sum it up and how their definition differed from mine. My mum made me laugh as she stood there making the dinner and said, ‘I take it it’s just marketing a company!’.  Three words kept appearing in the back of my head and it got me thinking, does anyone really know what PR is?

The first was the organisation. Now to me, an organisation is Tesco so I can understand when PRCA refers to ‘the way an organisation is represented in the media’ and how Tesco have TV adverts, radio adverts, social media platforms and even for me a monthly email to my inbox for some light bedtime reading!  But then Conor mentioned something that stuck, and it was ‘but the Kardashians wouldn’t be considered a company or organisation, would they?’ I’m not going to lie I did zone out for a few seconds because I’m one of those people who will agree with it being the biggest load of rubbish but secretly binge watch it all day on a Sunday afternoon. But in reality, the marketing and digital side to an organisation are all merging, so to me there is no clear, concise answer to that being considered the definition of PR. 

Secondly is publics. When I think of publics, I think it means segmenting our population into different groups and that the core message an organisation is trying to portray is relatable and when needed, they may tweak a message to make it suitable for the target audience.  When I look at the level of interest regarding publics, it’s clear to see that this cannot always be achieved by every organisation. For example, a local bakery may not be able to gain the same message to the publics as Tesco might or that one set of publics could be more ‘aware’ and the other more ‘latent’ when it comes to an organisation.  It’s about tailoring the core message to each set of publics in a way that will not conflict itself.  Jerry Silfwer, 2015 says ‘Group people on the basis on what situation that created them and how, when and where they choose to communicate. It’s easier, it’s faster, it makes more sense and most of all — it makes your public relations activities much more relevant and efficient.’

And finally, reputation. In the eyes of some, this factor is not held highly accountable but, in my opinion, reputation is important although it is not necessarily controlled by the PR team itself. Many people will disregard reputation and say that it is connected with relationships. But to me, they are categorised completely differently.  For me, it’s the image I envisage in my head when I think of an organisation, company or even the Kardashians! Or on the other hand, a bad scenario that sticks in my head when something is leaked or a few negative comments that one time on my 3am twitter rampage. But then again, not the full package of what a true definition of what public relations stands for. 

So, organisations, publics, and reputation are definitely relevant in shaping the definition of public relations but are by no means in my eyes what make up the full picture. So, what is the full picture? Will we ever know? For now, I’d say there is no single-handed answer to what or how to define public relations because the truth is its ever-changing and that is the beauty of it.  In my opinion of being a student studying the academic literature and history of what it has brought to the table over the years, I would say it’s a professional industry that helps organisations to communicate to its publics in an effective way which then helps to uphold a reputation which other organisations and departments can learn from within the workplace as well as outside the workplace and these messages are mostly perceived well by the media as they are sent and passed on.

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.

Addressing PR’s PR Problem and the search for the answer to ‘What is PR?’

Does anyone else know that slightly perplexed look you get when you tell someone you’re doing a degree/work in PR? When people ask me what I’m studying at university and I tell them ‘Public Relations’ they usually look confused, like I’ve made it up or, if they think they do know what PR is they’re usually wrong and find it difficult to believe that you can actually do a degree in it. It’s a bit ironic really; the PR industry do a poor job at their own public relations.

This has led me to thinking about the definition of PR, my understanding of the industry and its place in the world of business today.  If nothing else, a little bit of research into what is meant by ‘PR’ will at least give us a few well-informed lines to offer the next time someone asks ‘What’s that?’ or suggests that we’ll be selling tickets to events for the rest of our lives.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines PR as ‘the discipline which looks after reputation’ and emphasises its importance in today’s flooded and competitive business market, where ‘reputation can be a company’s biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge’ (CIPR, 2017).

It’s true; PR is concerned with promoting and protecting a company’s reputation but, I think it’s so much more than that. If we were to describe our profession as simply ‘looking after a company’s reputation’ we’d be selling ourselves short. Public relations encompasses an extensive list of specialities and skills (shown in the table below) and today’s PR professionals have to be able to turn their hand to many of them.

PMK4

Taking a look at this list, if I had to sum up PR in just one word I think ‘communication’ is more relevant than ‘reputation’. PR professionals are ‘communicators’ and use expertise in communications to help companies build bilateral relationships with their publics. Better still, we can effectively describe PR as ‘strategic management of communication’ (Ledingham and Bruning, 1998).

For those of us coming to the end of our degree, having already experienced the crazy world of PR while on placement and those of us already working in the industry, we are well aware of the long list of skills we are expected to master (it’s difficult to keep on top of it all)! The problem lies with how the media portrays the industry and subsequently the perceptions (or lack thereof) our friends and family have of the jobs we do.

After all, PR is an invisible industry and it usually hides behind the camera. Albeit with the exceptions of those few portrayals in the public eye; the real people or fictional characters that have somehow come to be the ‘faces’ of PR and shape the way the industry is perceived. I’m thinking Downing Street Press Secretary Alastair Campbell and Sex in the City‘s Samantha Jones, who respectively helped to cement PR’s reputation as one of two evils. Apparently we are either nefarious ‘spin doctors’ accountable for some serious media manipulation or glamorous schmoozers in designer pencil skirts, attending star-studded parties.

Admittedly, there are small elements of truth in both depictions but the real thing isn’t quite as juicy. Yes, we are involved in developing messages and sharing stories with the media to help shape public opinion, and we do organise/attend an event or two in the average working week. But more importantly we are strategic thinkers, effective communicators and extremely hard workers, and to give credit where credit is due, most industries and business sectors could not exist without PR. People are quick to throw around the term, ‘PR stunt’ with ephemeral negativity or affiliate PR with pretty girls promoting nightclubs. But in discovering more about the profession we quickly realise that PR is everywhere and every career field has a PR element related to it. We are living in a noisy world where we are inundated with information every day and as PR pros we help to communicate the messages businesses, organisations, charities, and governments need people to know in order for them to continue to exist.

PMK2

The truth is, there is no single all-encompassing answer as to what PR professionals do and each of us have our own unique talents that we bring to the table. But together we manage to uphold a long-serving industry that supports the world of business in helping professionals communicate more effectively with their customers, stakeholders and the public.

Paula McKay is a 4th year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulamckay55, and on Twitter @paulamck55