Introducing Orlagh Shanks: An Interview With The UK’s Best PR Blogger 2018 & 2019

 

This is blogger, and former PR student, Orlagh Shanks (22), who runs the blog https://orlaghclaire.com/, where she talks all things PR related happening in the world from day to day. She also discusses all sorts of life experience topics, such as being a student, living in different cities of the world and general lifestyle categories.

I was drawn into Orlagh’s blog when I was exploring the idea of studying a PR related course at university, and with Orlagh being from the same town as me and attending the same secondary school, I felt I could gain some well trusted guidance from her blog.

Her blog was one of the many reasons I not only decided to study a PR related course, but also then decided to start my own blog.

So, for me, it is not hard to see why she has been given the title of ‘UK’s Best PR Blogger’ for not only 2018, but also 2019.

This is why I wanted to do an interview with her, for those that may not know her, in order to get to know Orlagh and find out what drives her in staying so dedicated to her blog and also to find out what her future plans are now that she has graduated. I feel that Orlagh will have some great advise for this years final year CMPR and CAM students.



Siobhan: 
Hey Orlagh, how are you? I have seen that your life has been crazy at the minute, so I appreciate your time to complete this interview. We are both from the same hometown and have both chosen to do PR related courses. You have now graduated with a first class honours, well done! So my first question for you is a typical one, why PR?

Orlagh: Hey Siobhan, I’m really good thanks! Ah, I always dread this question even though it’s so straightforward. I had always planned on following a career in finance, but my interests were always centred around magazines, fashion, entertainment and music. But growing up in the small town that we come from, a career in any of those industries was never really seen to be real or achievable to someone from Lurgan, in my eyes. But I spent three days at a PR agency in Belfast for work experience and I was sold. I wasn’t really able to explain PR to my mum and dad (or myself) but I just knew that it would allow me to somehow follow my dream career in one of those areas and be able to work with journalists since I had squashed my own idea of being a journalist once my two favourite magazines folded. Choosing PR meant that I was going to give myself a lot of options once I graduated from university and only once I started to study PR at LJMU did I realise just how many opportunities PR opens up.

Siobhan: How would you describe your course at Liverpool John Moore University?  What did you enjoy about it and was there anything you didn’t like about it?

Orlagh: It was a good course. I studied Business with Public Relations so I was able to also study modules like Marketing, Accounting and Finance, HR and Corporate Social Responsibility alongside my Public Relations modules. I enjoyed that part of it a lot as I now have a fair bit of insight into these areas of business that I wouldn’t have if I had studied Public Relations on its own. Another thing that I loved about the course was the option to carry out a placement year. I knew I was going to be making use of this once I had applied for the course.

What I didn’t like about the course was probably that it was very top line. Unlike a few other universities, my lecturers weren’t very active online in the PR community. They didn’t promote writing a blog like Conor McGrath from the University of Ulster does or Richard Bailey from Leeds Beckett. They didn’t really seem to know what was happening outside of LJMU or even that I had a blog and had won an award. It kind of felt like you were there to get the bit of paper at the end and that was it.

Quite like the schools back home, the main career choices were pointed towards working in corporate comms, crisis comms or internal comms for not-for-profits and public sector organisations. Roles such as publicity, influencer marketing and social media management weren’t discussed much or thrown into the equation.

Siobhan: Why did you choose to go overseas for university rather than stay at home?

Orlagh: Being honest, I couldn’t wait to get away from Northern Ireland. I was around 17 when my dad told me to get out of Northern Ireland as soon as I could, to make a better life for myself. I knew that there weren’t any opportunities for me and I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to broaden my horizons, meet a lot of new people, live in a new city and see what England had to offer. I also think that if I hadn’t moved to Liverpool for university, I probably wouldn’t have applied for a placement in London as I would have gotten too comfortable being at home. Moving to England at 18 was probably the best decision I have ever made as I think everything that has happened since then has been a ripple effect from that moment. Right now, looking at Northern Ireland in the news and just being away for so long has really made me realise how far behind NI is and how much it is struggling in terms of government, healthcare, prospects etc. I know I won’t be coming home for a very long time, that’s for sure.


Siobhan: So you said you did your placement year in London, what was your experience with that? 

Orlagh: Yes! And it was the best year of my life so far, without a doubt. I was able to carry out a placement year at Coty Inc. in London working in the Luxury PR and Influencer Marketing department. I lived and breathed my job and was so excited to go to work every single day. I was basically living my childhood dream of working with magazines, going to fashion events, music events, movie premiers, working with huge fashion labels etc. It was everything I imagined and more. My placement year made me realise that you really can find a job that you enjoy and wake up excited to go to. Now that I’ve had that, I don’t want to settle for a job that I don’t enjoy when I could be working and progressing at one that I do. My team were the best, my role was the best, the other interns were great and living and working in London was an overall great experience and one that I won’t be forgetting for a long while.


Siobhan: How did you become the UK’s best PR blogger for 2 years running?

Orlagh: Truthfully, I don’t really know. I started blogging at the beginning of my second year of university, so three years ago now. I think it really helped that I was consistent and kept blogging at least once every single week and I think with the amount that I was writing, I was improving with the practice and with every blog post that I wrote. On my placement year my content really ramped up which I think helped a lot. Then during my final year, I still managed to post at least once a week, sometimes up to three times per week and was able to give a speech to students at Greenwich University in London as well as be active on social media, contribute to Twitter chats and network with other PR professionals.

I think the main thing was consistency. I made myself stick to posting something every single week and then just got into the habit of doing it. Now, it’s second nature to post at least once per week and when I don’t post, I have a weight on my shoulders until I do. I think the more time I invested into my blog, the more my stats progressed and the more recognition I received, the more I became pretty obsessed with my site. I was constantly trying to make it look better, write better content, make it easier to navigate, make social media pages for it etc. I’m quite proud of how far my blog has come in the past three years and I think the time that I put into it shows for itself. I would be up to all hours of the morning blogging away and neglecting all of my university work just so I could focus on my own website instead. And now the middle of the night is the only free time I have to blog in New York.


Siobhan: How did blogging help you during your time at university? And how do you think it has help you in your career path?


Orlagh: I guess for university purposes, it helped a lot with my essay writing. I was writing 1,000 word blog posts a few times per week, so when I was given a 2,000 word essay, it didn’t seem as daunting. This is also how I approached my dissertation. To me, 10,000 words was just like writing 10 blog posts – achievable. It also helped a lot in terms of knowing what was going on in the world of PR and being able to draw examples for my work as I was constantly reading about PR and getting involved in conversations surrounding what was currently happening.

The main thing that my blog helped me with was my career, for sure. I really do think I owe my placement year at Coty to my blog and the opportunities that followed. Any public relations graduate can say that they are interested in the subject since they studied it, but a blog really emphasises how much you are invested in the industry since you are constantly writing, reading and talking about what’s going on. Having a blog about your degree topic is probably one of the best things to have on your CV (if you can write and spell well of course).

There’s a lot of writing involved in PR, so your blog would be a great example of your capabilities, who you are as a person and your skillset for the working world of public relations.

 

Siobhan: What does the next year have in store for you now that you have graduated?

Orlagh: After graduating in July of this year, I moved to New York City at the end of August to work for a year in influencer marketing. I feel extremely lucky to be here and can’t believe that I actually am. I’ve only been here six weeks but working and living in New York has been everything I imagined and more.

I’m excited to learn more about influencer marketing and further my knowledge and skills in the area as it’s the career path that I currently want to follow and work in once my year in New York is up.

So for now, I’ll be spending the next 12 months in NYC working in the finance industry and seeing and doing as much as I possibly can. Where blogging fits into that, I don’t know as I don’t seem to have a spare minute to myself at all.


Siobhan: What advice would you give to the CMPR/CAM students of Ulster University to help them get through final year?

Orlagh: Enjoy it as best you can! It may be called final ‘year’, but in reality it’s around eight months maximum. Those months will go by in a flash and it will be straight out into the real world. Make the most of your lie-ins, your flexible calendar, your student discount, living with your friends, many nights out and everything that your university offers. I was able to go to Amsterdam with my course during my final year and it was the best way to celebrate the end of our four years together.

Also, look out for one another. Final year can be very tough and you can feel a huge amount of pressure when thinking about what you’re going to do next. That was probably the toughest part of final year for me – deciding what my next career move was going to be. Make sure your classmates are finding everything ok and if they are struggling, help them. There is no competition in university as you all want to finish with the top degree, so help make sure all of you get the result you deserve.

But seriously, enjoy it. Don’t feel that because you are in your final year that you need to spend the entire time in the library. Do your work on the weekdays and enjoy yourself on the weekends. You can have the best of both worlds and still finish with a first class degree. As long as you put the work in, you’ll get the mark that reflects it.


Thank you so much to Orlagh for being involved in this blog post and answering some questions for me. I feel that we can all take in this quality advice from Orlagh to help us complete our degrees.

View Orlagh’s award winning blog by clicking here.

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations staudent at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

Always take the scenic route…

‘Always take the scenic route’ has unintentionally become a bit of a life motto for me. Following a leave of absence earlier this year –  in Week 9 of Semester 2 of a 1 year course – a move that perhaps shocked me as much as it did my lecturers and course director at the time – I am absolutely buzzing to be back studying at UUJ for what could well be – finally – the last time! Although…. Never say never, right?! My PhD may be calling…

Last year, I promised myself that I would start blogging, but I just didn’t get round to it. I suppose I did sometimes make excuses, like not having enough time or not wanting to come across as narcissistic, but it all boiled down to my own lack of self-confidence in my ability to take the plunge and just do it.

Well, here I am. Blogging. It might be rubbish, but so what? It’s my first time!

I’m writing this to simply offer some encouragement to my fellow students, at whatever point of your student life you happen to be reading it. I want to reassure you that it’s OK to give things a go, and it’s also OK if things don’t quite work out how you had thought they would. I think it’s really important to adopt this attitude as early as possible in the academic year, because you never know what curveballs life is going to throw at you! It doesn’t matter how many fail safe measures you attempt to put in place, or how confident you are in your own ability. Life may, and often does, get in the way.

For me, it’s been a mixture of health related issues and other personal or professional commitments which have made what ‘should have’ been four years study stretch out to what has now been my eighth September at a university. Some people think I’m crazy for sticking it out this long. Some people might even jump to their own conclusions and think that I’m not cut out for it, that I’m lazy or that I am non-committal.

I am none of these things.

Only I truly know all of the circumstances behind taking the scenic route to get to this point, and frankly, it is my business and nobody else’s. Sure, I might be asked to explain the dates of study at an interview, but it hasn’t happened yet, and as I have always held at least one part time job alongside my studies, I don’t need to fill in that uncomfortably prying question to ‘explain any gaps in your employment history’ when I apply for jobs.

What’s ultimately important, and again, I really hope this encourages some of you out there – I have always done what is right for me, and right by me. Yes, there’s been the odd leap of faith, or ‘positive risk taking’. I haven’t always made decisions with full knowledge of the repercussions of them (do any of us, all of the time?), but I can’t say that I regret any of the decisions I have made which have subsequently led me to where I am today. Not in relation to university, anyway!

I’m certainly not suggesting I am a role model, or that I would recommend my choices to others. We are all unique, as are our circumstances. This should be common knowledge, but there’s also such pressure in today’s society to conform and live your life in a certain way, and it can be easy to lose sight of what truly matters in such a commercial environment. A lot of this stuff you will learn in your Communication/PR degree, so I shan’t bore you with the details! I’m writing this to offer hope to those who might ponder on the ‘what ifs’ of the future, or otherwise panic if they realise their chosen course is not right for them, or not right for them right now.

For me, the best thing about taking a bit longer to ‘get there’ has been the opportunity to get to know and understand myself a lot more. My values, my dreams, my career aspirations… some have changed during the 10 years since leaving school, while others have become more concrete in my mind and in turn, life. What I’ve learnt that really helps along the way, is having people you can relate to, bounce off, and who will support you in your studies and decision making. For many of you this will be family and friends, whether on your course or not, but please do not underestimate the importance of a good working relationship with your course director, lecturers, studies advisers and the wider university and students union team.

Find out what works for you, find out who you can trust, and always go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. But try not to see the world in black and white – it’s so much more wonderful in full colour and shades! You may well have slip ups, but they will not be the end of the world. A self-coaching technique I learnt a long time ago now that has served me well is really easy for anyone to use: when things aren’t going your way, you’re confused, or feeling overwhelmed, simply ask yourself; what is the worst thing that could happen? It almost definitely will not be life or death (except in some circumstances, almost all linked to physical or mental health – and remember, your health is your wealth!).

Take the risks, even if you are not following the crowd. Sometimes, especially if you are not following the crowd.

Do yourself proud. What you think will make your loved ones or educators proud may not actually be an accurate reflection of their thoughts and feelings, and quite possibly may not make you happy or successful in the long run.

Do what is right for you, and by you. Be true to yourself, and you will ultimately succeed.

It might not look quite like what you thought it would – but most things never turn out exactly how you thought they would… do you ever try and recreate Pinterest or Instagram posts – how did that work out for you?!

This has definitely been a longer first post than I intended, but I do hope that it won’t be my last. I’ve deliberately been vague in my own experiences so I can expand upon these in the future – but I hope that despite this, the message is not too philosophical or cliché-heavy for your liking! I have included the clichés because they ring true, and can help illustrate a point without too much self-disclosure required, and because I want you as an individual to be able to relate and take away some comfort.

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog post; I really appreciate it. I wish you every success, and remember, you do you!

BElieve in YOUrself

Rosalie Edge is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Healthcare student at Ulster University. You can find her on Twitter @rosalieedge and LinkedIn Rosalie Edge

Return of The Student – A Sequel 20 Years in the Making.

Here goes, first blog. This is all so different to the last time. It was 1999 the bookend to the decade of Britpop, The Peace Process and Pre Spinning Around Kylie – in no particular order. That was also the year I obtained my BA in English which naturally led on to a career in the Financial Services sector. After living the dream for 20 glorious years I have taken the financial and personal plunge back into the world of Academia in an attempt to revive my long mummified intellectual creativity….it may be a deep dive

A simple question to begin – why now? Its not that I didn’t enjoy getting to grips with endless analysis of policy wording for Property Insurance and when you throw in the endless submissions detailing the construction of rural factories and workshops – well what’s not to love. But in truth while my children were little this was fine and I really do believe some to the skills honed during this period will stand me in good stead. For me though it is now time to try something new, something that can make a positive impact on the world around me – if that doesn’t sound too cheesy 🙂

Of course organisations need comprehensive insurance cover but I’ve definitely served my time. However part of the job I have enjoyed involved interactions with business placers – the face to face meetings in Dungiven and the like, the trouble shooting workshops over the phone – in other words the communication aspect. If I can apply this interest to a framework which I find both fascinating and frustrating in equal measures – again what’s not to love. A hint maybe that my specialism will be Politics – an interest cultivated at school and maintained ever since. Someone needs to sort out Brexit I suppose…maybe not in my first week though!

After such a long break from education I can say that the landscape has certainly changed. So its all about Blogging, Vlogging, Social Media – you get the picture. These concepts simply weren’t a thing in 1999 and since then not something I would necessarily equate to Academic life but here we are. It is amazing to learn that YouTube channels are the way to go now, but all is not lost. I can call on my secret weapon the J.O.E – my 12 year old son. This guided missile of modern communication has been broadcasting away for several years-with nothing but his phone and a headful of opinions on the MEU (Marvel Extended Universe). With 99 followers and his broadcast on why Apu should not be binned from The Simpsons reaching 800 views he will most certainly be my personal social media mentor. Let the good times roll.

 

See the source image

 

Deirdre Vaughan is an MSc in Communication & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter:  @e65434f0fdba4bf and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deirdre-vaughan-48274166/

Following in Dad’s footsteps – how did I end up here?

From the ages of 12 to 16, if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer certainly would’ve changed depending on my mood. Whether it was a barrister, a pathologist, or a translator, I pretty much wanted to be everything under the sun at one point or another. But one thing that stayed consistent was that I had absolutely no interest in following in my parents’ footsteps and becoming a civil servant or going in to marketing.

I just always had the mentality that following in your parents’ footsteps would somehow take away from your own individuality – something that was very important to me. So, how is it then that 5 years later I’m embarking on the final year of my CAM degree and currently working as a marketing assistant?

Again, it wasn’t just that I woke up one day and decided to copy my dad and go on to study marketing, it was a very unconventional and at times very difficult path that brought me to where I am today. I’ll begin with September 2014, aged 16 and just starting lower sixth studying French, Irish, Maths and History, not anywhere close to the subjects you would expect a future CAM student to study, right? Well as I said I couldn’t decide on a specific career path before picking A Levels so with the idea that a lot of degree courses don’t expect specific subjects, I decided the safest option would be to go for the ones I enjoyed most.

But, week one of lower sixth comes to an end and my whole life changed. On Friday 5th September 2014, my dad suffered a massive stroke that initially left him with a 30% chance of survival, complete right side paralysis and global aphasia*. We were told that our whole lives would have to change and that my dad would be left in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, never speak again and would need 24/7 care. Being the optimists that we are, we took this with a pinch of salt and kept focusing on him making a full recovery (side note – five years on he is walking, driving and even has limited speech). We did however, know that this was going to take a lot of time, effort and money from the whole family. With my mum and sister both working full time, I even considered  leaving school to care for him but after lots of discussions, I realised that as an educator, my dad would never have accepted this. We decided we had to keep everything as normal as possible because after all, our lives had changed enough – I was going to stay in school, my mum and sister were going to stay in work and we were all going to take on the responsibility of caring for my dad and taking turns with the everyday responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.

ES1

This was of course very difficult and I could write an entire book on that story alone but alas we are talking about my path to marketing. During the mid-term break over Halloween, all lower sixth students had to embark on a week’s work experience, not having time to apply for work experience myself because my dad was still in hospital gravely ill, I reached out to two of my dad’s friends who worked in PR and Graphic Design to ask if they could take me on for a couple of days. They were of course willing to do anything possible to help and so began my journey into this industry.

I spent the first three days of the week shadowing Joanne McNeill at her PR agency, McNeill Communications – at this point I had zero idea what PR actually meant, apart from knowing that some of my friends did PR for Thompsons and Filthys. I did know that it was along the same lines as marketing and had therefore decided that although this experience wouldn’t help me in my career, it would be nice to get a few days away from school and the hospital. Within the first few hours of shadowing Joanne, my mind had been completely changed. We had been working on launch events and planning for a Red Bull event and it all seemed like the most interesting work in the world – I hadn’t enjoyed myself so much in a long time. The last two days of the week were spent with Mark Mulholland at Whitenoise Designs and although we both knew for certain that I was never going to me a graphic designer, he brought me to an event set up and showed the ins and outs of all the technical and branding elements. This was an amazing experience and set in stone my love for corporate events.

I’ll skip on a year to the start of upper sixth when we were about to attend the open days at Queen’s and Ulster and we had to do some research on the degrees they offered so that we could make the most of our time and attend specific talks. At this point, I still had some interest in keeping on my language studies and I was STILL set against studying straight marketing because I did not want to end up on the same career path as my dad, after all it was PR I’d fallen in love with at this stage. I hadn’t heard of anyone doing a degree in PR and didn’t really think such a thing existed so I was leaning towards French and International Business at Queen’s. Then, as I was browsing through the Ulster open day schedule, I noticed the CMPR and CAM talks and was instantly intrigued.

I went on to apply for both courses and sit my A Levels and months later after painstakenly waiting for remarks to meet the CAM grade boundaries, I was officially a CAM student.

Now three years on I’ve just completed a twelve month Corporate Communications internship in London at The Walt Disney Company and I’m currently working as a Marketing Assistant at Mirror Media. Needless to say, my 17 year old self was naive to the similarities between PR and marketing and when I decided to go into PR I firmly believed I was not following in my dad’s footsteps. But, alas, here I am, unintentionally following my dad’s discipline that I’d always been so against and I have to say that I couldn’t be happier. The past five years have of course taught me a lot but I’ve mainly learned that the bad things that happen to us are only going to teach us lessons that no book will and sometimes they’ll even lead you down the best path. I’ve learned that it’s important not to stress too much about your career path and as cliché as it sounds, everything will work itself out in the end.  

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*Global Aphasia – This is the most severe form of aphasia, a language impairment, and is applied to patients who can produce few recognizable words and understand little or no spoken language. Persons with Global Aphasia can neither read nor write.

Emily Spackman McKee is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter @_spackman and LinkedIn Emily Spackman McKee 

Why Study a Masters?

Why Study a Masters?

Never, in my life, did I ever think I was going to do a Masters, never mind a Masters in Communications and Public Relations. However, I’ve somehow found myself here. And honestly, it has been one of the best decisions I have made yet. And here’s why. 

I left school with hopes of being an English teacher and so I went on to do a bachelors degree in English with Education at Coleraine. However, I found very quickly, that being a teacher was not for me, although I continued with the course until the very end. I came out of it with a 2:2 and feeling very much like I had wasted three years. Don’t get me wrong, the course was fantastic with great teachers, it unfortunately just wasn’t for me. 

And so, I spent three long months trying to get myself full-time work with zero experience and honestly, little motivation. I personally found it so hard to find something that I could apply for, given that my course wasn’t particularly specialised and I had done a minor in education that was primarily aimed at going into teaching. I also had very little experience, as my course didn’t offer a year’s placement, which a lot do, and so I felt slightly at a disadvantage. 

Until one night, I went to my friend’s house and they all suggested I do a Masters. To begin with, I laughed. Thought a Masters was just something people did to put off going into work for another year. But then I thought about it, realised it would open more doors and, possibly, spark a passion in me for something that I didn’t know I had a passion for. 

So the next step was what? What Masters course will I do? I began looking on the Ulster website and nothing really jumped out to me except for the Msc Communications and Public Relations course. I remember in school I had wanted to study CAM but didn’t think I would get the grades and so didn’t apply and forgot about it, But here was a Masters course, that was very much like CAM, that I did have the grades for! And so I applied in August and here I am in April, absolutely loving it. 

Starting a Masters however, was very daunting for me. I didn’t know what to expect at all. I thought there was going to be nobody my own age in the class and I thought I wasn’t good enough for it and I was going in with no knowledge of the Jordanstown campus and no friends there. But I was so, so wrong. I felt so welcome when class began. Everyone was so friendly and chatty and we are a small class which I love. The lecturers are amazing too. Very approachable, will answer any questions or queries you have and are up for a bit of craic too!

 

Now this is not to say that a Masters is easy. Because, believe me, it’s not. Yes it may only be two days a week, but that just means more independent study, more than I ever had to do. And let’s not forget that there is only student funding for tuition fees and so I have had to start working full-time on top of my studies. But it is so worth it. Not only have I gained another qualification, but I’ve opened so many more doors. I’ve gained a new perspective and I’ve found my passion. I’m more engaged in my classes than I ever was at undergraduate level and I’ve learned so many new skills. And I’ve made so many new friends.

If you’re in final year, I would never rule out a Masters. I am so happy I chose to do one, and, if you’re anything like me, a Masters just might be for you.

Kathleen Convery is an Msc in Communications and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-convery-814078158/

 

Why I chose a PR degree…

Why I chose a PR degree…

I remember when I was really young, the first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a pop star – big surprise there, every 6 year old girls dream! Watching Britney Spears on the TV every single day and admiring her so much, can you blame me?

As I began to grow up a little more, I wanted to then become a hairdresser, then a pilot, then an astronaut! My dreams came crumbling down around me when I found out that to be a pilot or an astronaut, you have to have perfect eyesight – I wanted to break my little round face glasses into a million pieces. As if my eyesight was the only thing holding me back from being an astronaut and not the fact that I had a really average set of GCSE’s!GA10

As I was getting a bit older, around the time of my A-Levels I had started to become really interested in social media – Instagram in particular. I was completely in awe of all these ‘Instagrammers’, who were making a living out of advertising products on their page, like teeth whitening and big makeup brands. How had they built themselves up so well that worldwide companies wanted them to advertise their products? I couldn’t get my head around it.

My aunt, who works in PR, was able to explain to me all about advertising and social media and how it is such a big platform today for companies and businesses to advertise their products through, with the help of influencers and celebrities. From then, I have always been so intrigued and loved researching all about it.

As an A-Level business studies student, we learnt all about marketing, advertising, media and communication, and I knew from then that it was what I wanted to further my education in. I began researching University courses that could accomodate this. Originally, I wanted to go away, to Edinburgh or Liverpool, to study, but I had happened to stumble upon the CMPR course at Ulster University. I couldn’t believe my luck when I began looking into it, and all the different modules it had. I was immediately drawn to this course, and put it down as my number one option.

One of the aspects of PR that interests me the most, is the variety. PR really is just a blend of everything media related. Promotion, advertising, campaigns, keepingGA11 up an image, brand management, press releases, media releases – the list goes on! There is a mix of absolutely everything. The reason I like this so much, is because I enjoy working in a fast-paced and dynamic workplace, rather than just doing the same thing day in and day out. It makes work interesting and different each day, and that’s what excites me the most about any of my future careers that I may have in PR.

As I mentioned earlier, I have an aunt who works in PR. Although i’ve never really realised it, but she’s been one of my main influences to choose a degree in PR. She has built her way up to the top of an extremely tough industry, and her success is inspirational. Although she works hard, she also has a lot of perks to her job and recently worked on the Strictly Come Dancing Tour, and was sending me all her selfies with the celebs and judges! I was so envious! I can remember being younger, and she used to take me to the premiers of all the newest films, as she worked for CineMagic. They are some of my fondest memories.

These are just a few of the reasons that I chose a degree in PR! Why did you choose PR?

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Grainne Arkins – final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrainneArkins

 

Five Things I’ve Learned before Graduating

As my final semester with Ulster University and the stress of final year continues to loom overhead, the end is almost in sight. However, as I was procrastinating from my assignments last week, I stumbled across an interview between pop star Taylor Swift and Elle USA to mark her thirtieth birthday. The article is titled ‘30 things I learnt before turning 30’, with Taylor providing life anecdotes and advice from friendships to family. Whether you’re a fan of Taylor Swift or not, I highly recommend reading this article as I instantly felt motivated after reading it. You can read it by clicking here.

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Although I’m only 22, this article inspired me to compare Taylor’s anecdotes to my own life, and compare it to all the things I’ve learnt before graduating. It allowed me to reflect on how different I am now compared to the 18 year old girl who stepped foot at Ulster back in September 2015.  Therefore, I’ve been inspired to write this blog about 5 things I’ve learnt before graduating university. Although everyone is feeling the heat and is eager to finish, I couldn’t help but think of all the positive things that have happened since beginning my journey at university.

 

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  1. Positivity is key: Failing and rejection is normal

As clichéd as it is, and I know we hear it all the time, failing is a part of life that will never cease to exist. I remember being so afraid of failing things at university. I was very academic in secondary school, and I didn’t want this to change in university. I’d been warned by my older sister of how different university marking/grading  is compared to school, and I remember in first year receiving my grade for my first ever assignment and feeling slightly disappointed.  I’d predicted in that moment that I was failing my degree and that I wasn’t cut out for university, but in reality I was completely overreacting. It’s easier to focus on the negatives, however it’s how we deal with those negatives is the game changer. From constructive criticism on your style of writing, to improving your interview technique or even receiving criticism from friends, it’s always beneficial to use this to continuing improving and bettering yourself.

I’m a very big fan of the quote: “what’s for you won’t go by you”, therefore failing helps facilitate the opportunities that are meant for you. A positive outlook can go a long way, and you’ll never stop failing in life, so keep continuing on your journey.

 

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  1. Be involved: Take interest in your degree

I can only speak from my own experience, but to get the most out of university and your experience at university is down to adopting a pro-active attitude. Due to the nature of my degree, I discovered from first year that it is important to have an understanding of what’s out there in the industry, whether that is local agencies or companies and learning more about the work they do. The university is excellent for introducing us to key notable speakers from Northern Ireland and beyond, as well as putting us in contact with successful past alumni of the university. I’ve really enjoyed attending these sessions, and yes, although it may mean staying in university that extra bit later, it’s a great way to network and meet people in the industry. This is a brilliant way to help secure contacts for your placement year, or for later in life.  There are a number of competitions/ opportunities available through our degree. In first year I took part in the PANI (Publicity Association Northern Ireland) and had the opportunity of working with local advertising agency, Ardmore Advertising.  Fortunately, our team were lucky enough to win this competition, meaning that our campaign for local charity Shelter NI went live across Northern Ireland in September 2016. Not only did I get the experience of working with a local agency; I also got to meet new students I wouldn’t normally have been in contact with, as we completed the competition with two graphic design students from the Belfast campus.  Small things like that not only enhance your university experience, but allow you to find your feet within the industry.

  1. Getting the right balance between work/play

Undoubtedly, there is a massive jump between secondary school life and university, as well as a massive jump from first to second year in university. Especially in first year of university, I found myself with a lot more free time than I did in secondary school. I didn’t know what to do with my new-found freedom. I always found it extremely important to get the right balance between work and play when managing my time. For many, this means finding the right balance between partying and studying, but I saw this free time as an opportunity for personal development. Free time allows you to indulge in new interests. For me, I decided to use my free time to work on gaining more experience in fields relating to my degree, for others it meant taking up a new sport/hobby. As I am in the final stages of final year, it’s truly opened my eyes to the importance of having a balance between work and play even more than before. There’s always going to be an assignment you should be doing or a journal article you need to read but spending time with friends over a cup of tea, going to the cinema in the evening or going on a night out with friends shouldn’t make you feel guilty (although I know I’ve been there). It’s so important to not burn the candle on both ends, but instead enjoy everything in moderation. A motto that I’ve found myself adapting in university is: “At the end of the day, I’ll get it done.” – and you will.

 

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  1. “I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar is all I need!”

One of the best days in the life of a student is when they receive their student loan installments. I have thoroughly enjoyed these days, and I’ve even had count-down apps on my iPhone counting down the days until I receive the next installment in my bank account. (Sad, I know) The opportunities available for using your money are endless, and a new-found sense of generosity kicks in; both to yourself and others. “Shall I buy every item in my ASOS basket?” “I’ve had a long day, I deserve this Dominoes.”  “I’ll pay for the taxi, you can pay for the drinks inside!” – (this is NEVER the case).

One thing that I’ve learnt from university is the importance of budgeting money. University for many introduces a list of bills/payments, from paying for rent to buying groceries for meals. If you’re struggling to keep on-top of your spending,  simple things like creating budgeting plans or giving yourself a weekly allowance can help keep your spending in check. Just don’t go too wild with your overdrafts…

  1. If you need help – ask.

This relates to a series of problems. If you’re struggling with the workload and unsure what you’re meant to be doing on an assignment, your course director and lecturers are more than happy to answer any of your questions via email or meet in their office hours. I’ve never been someone to shy away from asking questions, as ultimately the only person you’re disadvantaging is yourself. University can be a tough time for many people, as it’s an opportunity to fully embrace independence and finding your feet in society. For many, it’s described as the best years of your life; however there is an unspoken pressure that you must be enjoying yourself and having fun 24/7 which is unrealistic. If you feel that you need to talk to someone professionally, the university has a ‘Mind Your Mood’ campaign on their website and work closely with Inspire to provide one on one counselling.  If this isn’t something you think you need, even talking to a friend and venting out your stresses will make you feel a lot better. A problem shared is a problem halved, even if the solution isn’t always clear.

In conclusion, I’m excited to see what the next stages of my career will be; however, I’ve had the best couple of years at Ulster University both on placement and with an amazing group of people in my class – I couldn’t have gone through university without them.

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Abigail Foran is a final year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/