A STEP INTO THE REAL WORLD

A STEP INTO THE REAL WORLD

2 0 2 0 – What a year?

Apart from living throughout a pandemic, the second half of 2020 has been extremely positive. I think it has taught us all to be grateful to wake up on a Monday morning and be able to go into an office or visit family & friends.

I have completed my first six months as a Social Media Marketing intern with Elite Electronic Systems. It has been the CRAZIEST. FASTEST. But most REWARDING six months. To sum it up in four words… a huge learning curve.

Taking it back to June 1st, my very first day at Elite, I really didn’t know what to expect. Sitting in an office 8-5 was a completely new experience for me, but one I have now adapted to, and learnt to love.

I had a lot to prove as I was the first Marketing Placement student Elite had taken on. I think this gave me more motivation than ever to show I could do the role and, do it well.

The responsibility I was given from the very start, gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, grasp everything with open arms and just try my best. It is thanks to this responsibility that I am, where I am, today.

I am immensely proud of where I have taken Elite in the last 6 months. From starting up Elite’s social media, to adobe designing, video campaigns, website development, analytical reviews, you name it – I have done it!

Within my first three weeks, I created a LinkedIn account and now roughly 5.5 months on we are sitting at 900 followers – pushing for that 1000 mark at Christmas (you can find our page here). From the timid girl that walked in on the 1st June, I never thought by the middle of the first month I would be in full control of social media, creating posts three times a week and learning about the Electronic Manufacturing World, which was complete brain fog to begin. But here I am, soaking up every second of it.

If you want to see some of the work I have been creating in my first six months, I released a promotional video on Elite’s LinkedIn last week (you will find it here). If you want more of an insight, check our YouTube channel where you will find all our latest videos from 2020.

For those of you currently seeking placement:

I want to tell you that, I was you this time last year, extremely apprehensive for what the next year ahead would bring. As stressful as getting a placement is, especially during a pandemic, I really couldn’t have gone to final year without it. The real life, day to day dilemmas are not something a lecture hall can prepare you for.

With already being over halfway through my placement year, I am excited for the next 6 months ahead, new goals, ambitions and one step closer to my final year studies – eeeekk.

My advice for you;

Get as much experience as you can during these strange times; freelance for that local restaurant who needs support during their closures, utilise free online training courses to build up your CV and network on LinkedIn. Most importantly DON’T GIVE UP!! – The skills you will be gain on your placement year are invaluable.

What I would tell my 2nd year self;

  • They understand that you won’t know everything, if not anything – they have been in the same position
  • Ask questions
  • Step out of your comfort zone
  • Its ok to get things wrong
  • Network
  • Challenge Yourself
  • E N J O Y I T! The year goes so quick.

I want to leave you with this;A year from now you’ll be glad you started today“. For me, after only six months, I can tell you I am very glad I took the leap and pursued a placement year.

P.S.

EXCITING ROLE ALERT FOR PLACMENT STUDENTS 2021-22;

Elite are hiring for next year’s Social Media Marketing Intern, a brilliant opportunity for you all. Check out our website – www.elitees.com and LinkedIn– for more details or feel free to message me!

Wishing you all lots of luck in your placement search.

Courtney McGoldrick is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

Covid19 – It’s Made Me A Better Student.

Covid19 – It’s Made Me A Better Student.

The world isn’t what it used to be. The past eight months or so have changed what we consider to be everyday normality.

For someone like myself, a student, I found the whole experience so far to be pretty surreal. One day I’m paying rent for a house so close to the train that you could slap the Translink logo. The next I’m moving back home to a fully stocked fridge and free heating because the city is in lockdown.

Whilst there is no denying how horrible the events of the last year have been, I want to focus on the positives instead.

Lockdown was oddly a perfect opportunity. When else will the world come to a grinding halt to give you a chance to self-reflect? Well that is what I did (unintentionally).It made me be more proactive in both my course and improving real world attributes that will serve me down the line in career prospects. Here’s why.

It only took a pandemic…

Before Covid:

Before the pandemic hit, I would be quite confident in saying I was an average student. I would attend my classes. Take notes. I would use the library to study or get work done. Sit in traffic for longer than I can bare. Then after I get home everyone is making their dinner, watching tv, and debating are we going out tonight or studying. Add in a few shifts for my part-time job and there you have it.  Some might call that a routine, it was really more of a rut. I just didn’t realise that yet.

Looking back on all of that, I think it’s safe to say I was just going through the motions. I was getting by, but I could have been doing more.

Without realising it, I was tunnel visioned. I was working my job in retail so I could afford rent and groceries. I was paying for those things so I could have a student experience living by myself and be closer to the university. I felt like I was beginning to mature and be more responsible.

After Lockdown:

Well this is where Coronavirus comes in.

No more student house or student nights means less distractions. Online classes now mean no more mad dashes in the morning. Are my friends here or will I be sitting by myself? It sounds a bit dramatic but when you take away these small grievances, all you’re left with is the lecture. From my perspective, I found myself concentrating better. No distractions.

Now I sit in my room, headphones on, relaxed, ready to learn.

The fact that the lectures are being recorded is personally something I wish had always been around. Being able to revisit the recorded lecture to better my understanding is something I didn’t even realise I wanted or needed. Long may that continue. It might be up for debate to see if university teaching was perfect the way it was before lockdown. Or could it benefit from some slight additions or structural changes.

Furthermore, I feel like I wasn’t being productive enough before. Time spent travelling. Going out for food. With more free time in the house I feel that I’ve finally been able to devise a schedule I can work around. Even saving a few hours a week now that I’m at home, it has made me realise how to organise myself better for when life returns closer to normality.

Applying What I Know:

A lot of marketing and PR has had to go mainly digital thanks to lockdown. No better time to apply what I’ve been studying. Having extensively delved into digital communication and marketing, it’s almost free experience being handed to me. Observing the amount of social media advertising from both brands and individuals, and being able to see their effectiveness, is invaluable going forward.

One trend I’ve definitely noticed across Instagram, are young women promoting these nameless health boost juices. The media they share seems so disingenuous and pandering. It seems to target vulnerable people locked in their homes who are maybe out of work. With more and more PR taking itself online, analysing what works and what doesn’t in a crisis like this will hopefully give an edge in the future.

As far as work is concerned. My job was a typical customer assistant for a large retailer. Another module I’m studying about organisational communication couldn’t be more relevant at the moment. Organisations must evolve or they will suffer. My place of work struggled to adapt its hierarchy correctly for the current situation. That lead to ineffective management, which led to ineffective engagement from employees. In the long run the organisation has now seen a large change in workforce due to that issue. Compare that to my sister’s place of work. Recently graduated and now working in a modern adaptive organisation, both her and her team’s engagement outshines anything I’ve ever experienced at my own job. I can physically see what I’m learning be applied right in front of me. It’s a lesson I’m going to be mindful of when looking for work in the future.

Wrapping things up:

With everything that’s been said, I still want to make it clear that like everyone else, I can’t wait for Covid:19 to disappear and for normality to return. What I am thankful for is that it presented me with an opportunity to make sure I’m going into that future as prepared as I can be.

Rory Skillen is a fourth year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on 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.

Is Freelancing the Answer? This is My Journey.

Is Freelancing the Answer? This is My Journey.

On the 27th Of August, I finished my placement year at Invest Northern Ireland. I was a Communications Assistant in the Communications Team and did various work for the team’s different divisions. During the first six months, my work mostly consisted of building, writing stories, and publishing for the internal newsletter, Newsweekly. I also did some work for the PR team writing press releases and Twitter posts. In the final six months of my placement, I was given control over the Innovation Accreditation Twitter account and learned how to manage a corporate social media platform fully. I was delighted for this project to land on my desk because I knew it was a precious experience that could put me in good stead for the future.

My placement was filled with both exciting and challenging times. Covid-19 hit during the seven-month mark of my placement, and I was lucky enough that Invest NI had a plan set in place to allow employees to continue their work from home. This worked out perfectly for me as I was able to visit my boyfriend in Manchester and stay for much more extended periods. I was in Manchester when the travel ban hit, so suddenly, I lived permanently with him and his family during a pandemic. It was a scary time because I didn’t know how long I would be over for and integrate well into the household. Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about as everything went super smoothly!

The end of my placement was fast approaching, and I was worried about what I would do to earn an income to cover my bills. My friends and I signed for a house in Belfast, and the rent was coming out every month, eating away at my overdraft – so I needed to find something quick!

I looked at what my friends were doing, and many of them were working in bars or doing home care. I couldn’t drive, so home care was out. And the thought of drunk people shouting at me was a scary thought, so I had a sit down to look at some options. I thought, why not have a go at freelancing and put the skills I learned at placement to fair use? I spent about twenty minutes looking through freelancing websites and tried one called Upwork, which promised to be the best out there. I joined and applied to every job I seen that I was qualified for. After one week of consistently applying to jobs on Upwork, I won zero. I then took a step back and looked at my second option, a website called Peopleperhour. I set up an account and applied to my first job, which required one 800 word article to be written for £10. Within about half an hour, I heard back from the client that they had accepted my proposal. The excitement this brought me was crazy; although I wasn’t making much money for the time I would spend on the article, the fact I had gained work on my own gave me such a buzz.

Since then, the relationship with the client continued and turned into more orders. They even helped me out with my pricing and gave me some great business advice! I applied to a few more jobs on Peopleperhour, I won some and I lost some. I loved the freedom this website gave me and the opportunities to connect with people all over the country.

The most significant turning point in my journey was when I made a LinkedIn post recommending the website to anyone who was in the same position as me and I did a little shameless self-promo. The response was something I could never have expected. I had people messaging me about my freelancing!!! I couldn’t believe it; I managed to schedule calls with four business owners. This has to be the most daunting thing I have ever done, but I got through it, and each business owner converted into a paying client!

I was now fully working for myself, doing what I love, and helping SME businesses in the process. If there is one thing I have learned during the process, it would be to slip in what you do everywhere you can to everyone you can. A quick example of this is when I was recently chatting during a new instructor’s driving lesson. I dropped in that I was Managing a few social media accounts for SMEs alongside my final year at University. The driving instructor immediately explained how he had needed someone to get his social media off the ground as his school is rapidly growing. I suggested we have a chat about what I could do for him, and we have agreed to schedule a call.

I hope to continue freelancing alongside my degree and sign more clients when I graduate. If you’re thinking of putting the skills you’ve learned during placement or your course into practise and want to dive into working for yourself, then I couldn’t recommend it more – why not go for it? If I can do it, I promise, you can too.

Lauren Simmons is a final year BSc in Communication, Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn

My Work Placement Experience Before and During a Global Pandemic

My Work Placement Experience Before and During a Global Pandemic

I can still remember the days, when applying for a placement position, wondering what the year ahead would hold. I had always worked in retail and hospitality and had no idea what working in an office environment would be like, let alone working in a Marketing and Communications role.

When I received the news, I had been offering a place working for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council I was ecstatic. I began picturing what the year ahead would look like… I for some reason did not think that my year would be interrupted by a global pandemic.

The first few months of the job were fun but also a little nerve racking. But by the time Christmas came I felt like I was finally beginning to find my feet. I was getting along well with colleagues and taking every opportunity there was to expand my knowledge. My main role involved managing the Council’s social media page and website. I got to spend time learning how to create content, in the council’s house style, and how to manage the back end of the website. I already felt like I was going to go back to University with so much more experience than the previous months, when I was applying for jobs.

I also decided to reach out to my manager and asked if I could help in other parts of the department. As I was working with a small team, they were more than happy to train me up to give a helping hand. This is where I then got to the opportunity to learn how to coordinate with professional designers to help design leaflets, banners, and social media icons. The Council provided training courses such as a Proof Reading class, a How to Write a Press Release and a How to Write for Social Media course, which I choose to participate in, to help continue to develop my skills, (I may have also missed being a student a tad).

But once March 23rd hit it felt like I was starting my placement all over again. 

While most of the other departments in the council began to die down, as the world began to close, the Marketing and Communications team at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council were more active than ever (as I’m sure the Communications teams at other Councils were too.) But with a small team of 4 plus me, to handle social media, press, internal and external communications and design. The pressure was on.

One thing I had not realised before working in the council, was that the Marketing and Communications teams are key players in certain organisations, when it comes to emergencies. Especially public organisations. The council’s marketing and Communications team are the main correspondents between the public and the council. 

Like most offices we were told to work from in March (thinking that this was only going to be for a month or two I didn’t mind this much).

But this meant my role was no longer the 9am-5pm job I had been working the previous 7 months. This was because we had to wait for Government announcements to be made. Meaning I could no longer plan the social media posts for the week, they had to go our as the news and decisions came in. It also meant that instead of writing posts for Easter, spring or summer events, and community group classes, I got to share new COVID-19 updates and campaigns to prevent the public making unnecessary journeys. (Exciting, I know!)

The requests for putting items onto the webpage went from 2 or 3 a week to at least three every day. ALOT of these posts where informing the public what building or public area was going to close next. As you can imagine I was no longer getting to be too creative with my tasks.  

However, I was learning what time management really had to look like. (And that lunch time wasn’t always going to be at 12pm..)

Don’t get me wrong working from home wasn’t always terrible. There was some benefits to this; I got to sleep in an extra hour, I saved A LOT of money on travel (I was usually driving 60 miles a day), and I got to have a freshly made lunch instead of a quick microwavable meal and spend some lunch times in the sun and with my dog.

My work from home colleague 🐶

But I still missed the office environment, I missed the craic in the office, people asking how my weekend was and vis versa, and not only being able to talk to said dog.

It was also hard being a student in the workplace, usually if I had questions about my tasks, I could turn to any of my colleagues and ask for help. This wasn’t as easy at home, people had kids to look after and everyone was working different times, although they were a quick phone call away, it was checking to see who was available to call and when.

Despite the negatives though, I was truly lucky to be kept on at a time when many were loosing their jobs. It was an experience that I truly learned from. It was definitely not the experience that I expected, I learnt the importance of a Marketing and Communications team and watch an emergency communications plan come to life. I had finished my placement feeling a lot more confident about the year ahead and the dreaded job hunt after graduation.

Keela Costello is a third year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn

What life is like as a student during Covid-19

What life is like as a student during Covid-19

2020 is still a year many people are trying to wrap their head around, myself included. Covid-19 has brought on a lot of stress for those who are working and have lost their jobs and also to those who have returned back to university, everything feels so surreal. During lock down it had been announced that university would be done online this year with the possibility of being back on campus by second semester, this isn’t something many students wanted to hear; however, we know that it was needed due to the circumstances so we quickly came to terms with the news.

When I “returned” to university this year, I had been feeling anxious before we’d even gotten past our introduction week as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope with online learning, so far my fears have become a reality. Lack of concentration, finding it harder to read academic literature online, not being able to see my friends and catch up about the last year we’ve been apart. All minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things but we are halfway through the first semester and nothing has improved. This has caused me a great deal of concern about the future as I’m a final year student, this could affect my degree massively if I don’t try and implement things to boost my concentration levels. Having lectures and seminars on campus makes learning so much more fulfilling, you finish the day feeling like you’ve actually done something with your time and you feel more accomplished. Whereas, doing online lectures at home you find yourself feeling tired, and mentally not at the lecture, most of the time you don’t even realise you’ve zoned out until you zone back in again.

I’ve thought of a list of things that could potentially help me concentrate better and anyone who reads this that’s in the same situation can try them out too.
• Leave your phone in another room – Yes, I know this is a hard one, our generation is constantly glued to our phones, which is probably the main culprit for lack of concentration levels, but put it away and only use it on your breaks.
• Work from a desk not from a bed- Probably a bit hypocritical of me as I write this from my bed however, I definitely will not be working in bed from this day onwards. Working from your desk will make you feel more productive, especially when listening to a lecture you will be more likely to take notes and remember the information you were taught.
• Drink plenty of water- Keeping hydrated will leave you less heavy headed and you’ll feel a lot more refreshed whilst working.
• Go for a walk between lectures- Whether it’s to the shop or just to your front door for some fresh air, try and get a walk in especially if you have a long day online, it will prevent you from getting groggy and tired.
• Interact in lectures- Ask questions, answer them, speak up if you’re unsure on something, lead discussions. Interaction during lectures will not only give your lectures peace of mind but it will also help make the lecture more enjoyable.
These are just a few things you can try and implement to get the best out of your online university experience. This year will definitely be a struggle for the vast majority of us, but if we try and get ourselves into a routine and the right head space, I have no doubt we will all do as well as we hope.

Remember to keep yourself safe and well, your university lecturers are always there to help and guide you if you’re struggling so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask questions.

Kayla Collins is a final year BSc in Communication Management and PR student at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin.

Events, Meetings and Membership: My Year as CIPR Student Representative

Events, Meetings and Membership: My Year as CIPR Student Representative

November 2019: cool evenings and pre COVID-19. At the time I was a second-year student at Ulster University (UU) waiting for an interview. The interview was to become the next Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) representative. My name is Lottie Kelly, and I was a CIPR student ambassador for UU 2019-2020.  

If you are unaware of CIPR, it is an governing body which provides a central hub for public relations (PR) practitioners across the United Kingdom. It offers resources for training, qualifications and networking. I held an interest and PR and thought that being a representative (or ‘rep’) would provide insight on a potential career in PR. As a representative, I soon became acquainted with the new responsibilities and opportunities available to me through CIPR. 

A great event for students, the CIPR/UU Student Conference. 20 February 2019, Mandatory Credit ©Press Eye/Darren Kidd

First I should note that my role and experience as CIPR rep was affected by COVID-19. Like many other industries, events were cancelled or moved online and work was carried out from home. Fortunately my role was transferred online with only minimal adjustments, such as ZOOM meetings. 

Not all work is in an office. In February I attended a CIPR meeting at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. ©Wyndham Hotels

Attending meetings is an essential responsibility for the CIPR rep. The Northern Irish CIPR members attend monthly meetings and talk through its agenda (an itinerary of topics concerning the governing body). These meetings create a space for members to to discuss CIPR membership and issues effecting the PR industry. From attending these meetings I became knowledgeable to working through agendas, recording minutes and group discussion of ideas for events and campaigns. These skills were also valuable to me in applying for placements and work experience.

For a student, it can feel intimidating attending meetings in which members are discussing sometimes unfamiliar topics. Whilst you may not be an PR expert, having a student perspective is still valuable to CIPR. Your opinions and point of view are unique and thus salient in promoting students to get involved.

Another key feature of the CIPR rep role is attending events, a popular method of promotion in PR. CIPR holds many events annually, such as the CIPR Annual Conference. This is an experiential event where PR practitioners from across Northern Ireland gather to discuss current issues and skills for succeeding in PR. Guest speakers also join the conference, offering guidance in live Q & A sessions. 

Another event, the CIPR PRide awards celebrates top PR campaigns of the year. (©CIPR Newsroom 2019). 

The biggest event and opportunity for the CIPR rep is the CIPR/UU Student showcase. Held at the Ulster University campus, award winning PR campaigns are presented by their teams to UU students. This event invites students to understand how PR campaigns are built and delivered. Likewise, it portrays the wealth of PR talent available locally in Northern Ireland. Outside of events and meetings, I also found that a rep needs to brainstorm ideas for student engagement including methods for encouraging young people to get interested in PR

If you are considering applying for this role and are unsure, my best advice is to just apply. Even if you have a limited knowledge and/or experience of PR, everyone can personal skills to bring to the role. If you are interested in PR and possess an open mind to learning, there’s plenty to be taken from the experience. 

 My work from home set up for CIPR meetings online. 

I also must recommend to anyone studying a university course related to PR to become a CIPR member. Even had I not become a rep, CIPR hosts a gallery of education resources available to members. There is a fee (for students, £35 for 12 months) but a beneficial qualification for those pursuing a career in PR. Again, from my perceptive, being a university representative for a governing body is a very advantageous merit for my CV. Moreover, it was manageable to work with CIPR along with my studies.  

I simply cannot recommend this role enough. 

Lottie Kelly is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She will soon start her placement year at AV Browne, an integrated communications agency in Belfast. Lottie was a student member of the CIPR Northern Ireland committee on 2019-20. She can be found at: LinkedIn and Twitter. Lottie’s personal blog is here.

Career Path Overload…

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

Choosing a Career

At the age of 6 I wanted to be a fire fighter, 9 a forensic scientist, 15 a journalist and now at the age of 21 I feel I can now answer that dreaded question- “what do you want to be when you grow up”? after years of uncertainty it took 21 years of ruling many different jobs out in order to find the place where I feel most me. After experiencing numerous work environments and feeling like a lost sheep in most of them, I was totally filled with dread that I would have to settle for a job that I didn’t find purpose or fulfilment in. It took 21 years of life experiences and 3 years of university to finally find a role where I can be the best version of me. From a young age, I have always been pushed towards higher education. My parents saw it as the only option for me, they saw it as an opportunity to make something of myself. Neither of my parents continued with their education after the age of 17 and always say how it is one of their biggest regrets in their lives. My father has had every job under the sun, you name it he’s done it, he has never felt a proper sense of security in any of his jobs and if I’m being totally honest, that scares me. I’ve seen struggle first hand which has prompted me to get to where I am today. My aim from a very young age was to obtain a career that want to get out of bed for every morning, have financial security and to achieve a sense of comfort and purpose in my chosen career path.  the big question for me for so long was, ‘what career will it be’? I can happily say after one of the hardest years of my life, I’ve finally found it.

 

Why public relations?

There are many reasons why anyone would want to work in public relations. Whether it be Endless variety, the not so shabby salary or the chance to become a globe trotter doing what you love for a living. Public relations is seen as a very desirable job, one I was oblivious too for a long time.Before I chose a university course I done a test online to find the ‘perfect job for me’ it asked me various questions about my likes, dislikes and wants in a job- the result was unanimous, Public relations. from here I began to research what all was involved in the role of a public relations professional and I couldn’t have been more enthralled.it all just seemed too good to be true, so what were the main points that initially attracted me to PR? Media-I like discovery and experimenting with new media tools such as social media as it was one of the reasons I discovered public relations. Another is the variety that comes with a public relation role. In the words of Jane Johnston and Clara Zawawi, there are over 20 potential roles and areas that you can specialise in the PR industry (Johnston & Zawawi 2004, p. 8). Finding something I was passionate about was an important factor when choosing a degree, the variety component instantly led me to CMPR.  And lastly communication, I am a very people- driven person, being in a job that gave me countless opportunities to build relationships was a huge driving factor, I loved the idea of creating a positive impact on my community and thought through public relations I could achieve this goal.

 

A career in Public Relations

Incorporating Public relations into my chosen career path will be an attractive feature that not many other candidates in the teaching world will obtain and I will use it to my full advantage. as you may have gathered my chosen career path is to teach. Preferably in a secondary school as a business studies teacher.For the past two years, I’ve worked in my local secondary school as a learning support assistant and it has been the best two years of my life, before this I’ve never considered teaching as a career. I then went on to consider if my degree and teaching could go hand in hand with each other and discovered the skills I’ve gained over my past three years of university could be transferred into my life as a teacher. So, how do public relations relate to teaching? Now that we are in the 21st century and the Age of Information, a school district needs a communications professional to manage communication strategies that are proactive for a school district, instead of reactive. School districts must make a choice to be an active player in their community, not a passive one of the past. (Marsha Chappelow, Ph.D.https://www.nspra.org/getting_started,. ) As a public relation graduate I could provide support and a professional insight into how to Communicate with internal and external publics, help as a Community relations liaison and take different actions to ensure the schools continued success. I would do this with the help of Public relations research such as polls and surveys, I could also conduct research that will help determine the publics opinion on the school itself as a base to set an action plan in place. I will use all components of my degree to help in and out of the classroom.

 

Incorporating public relations into the school environment

From my time in university I’ve become familiar with the use of SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This would help evaluate the internal and external factors of the school. I would then highlight in on certain factors, these factors could be used on multiple publics. I would also use them in the classroom environment as public relations is a huge component of the business studies course.

 Attract the customer– Firstly recognise who the customer is, in this environment it is the school employees, the students and their parents and the members of the community. Each customer requires different needs for example school employees need to feel valued, the better an employee is treated, the better they will perform, also to ensure a high level of employee retention.

Ensuring school website is “with the times”– never judge a book by its cover, right? Well in this case, this is exactly what potential students and their parents will do. By ensuring the content is of high quality and up to date, this is a high potential selling point for the school if done correctly. You are trying to sell the school to potential customers and If a website isn’t attractive, those customers may make the decision to go elsewhere, based on appearance alone.

Stories:I know you’re probably thinking, story telling seriously. From my own experience story telling has been a factor of public relations that immediately grabs my attention every time. This is because People want to hear success stories to help ensure they are making the right decision. Stories move people. A good story can convince parents that entrusting their children into your hands is a smart choice—or that spending their resources, both time and money, on the school will be an investment in their child’s future. As Terry Tempest Williams wrote “story telling is the oldest form of education.” (Terry Tempest Williams (1984). “Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland”, p.4, UNM Press). Just recently I was asked by the principal of the secondary school I used to attend if I would write a short article for the newspaper as it was the schools 60thanniversary. She simply wanted my thoughts on the school and my most fond memories of my time there. This is a great example of how public relations is being used to its highest accord. Getting past pupils to share their fondest memories in a 6-page spread, will highlight to potential students/parents, the surrounding the community and competitors of their continued success.

Social media-I am a strong believer that social media sells. Years ago, it may have been difficult to measure your public relations success. Social media is unique in the sense that you can adequately assess your relationships with your key audiences by measuring the number of shares, comments and likes to see what they enjoy seeing most and using that to provide your audience with content that is of interest to them. The social media platform also allows you to measure the number of people who are viewing each post. These are useful tools to ensure that you can measure the amount of recognition the school is receiving from the targeted publics. All these components are indicators of how good public relations can build strong relationships through good communication.

 

Conclusion

To conclude I believe that public relations has been a detrimental factor in my chosen career path. As you can see from above I’ve already began to plan different techniques of how to improve public relations within the school environment by mentioning some of the approaches I find most effective and interesting. By being equipped with my knowledge of public relations and clear goals of what I aim to achieve I hope this will set me aside from other competitors. I hope to implement these both within the classroom itself and throughout the school community. Public relations has shaped a huge part of the way I think and see things, it has allowed me to think outside of the box, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

 

Rachel Magee is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelmagee98 and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-magee-52328016b/

Defying the Stereotype!

In today’s society, people are told they can be who they want to be, but is this true? Growing up, like every little girl I wanted to be a princess, then a doctor or vet; but when it came time to decide what I wanted to do with my life I didn’t know. So, I thought about what I enjoyed doing. When I thought about it, I realised that I wasn’t the typical “girly girl”, I like building things, looking at cars and fixing them, going to lorry shows and car shows. This led me to think, why not become a builder but this was not normal for a girl to do so I was told to pick a more practical career goal. This was probably the right decision to make and stick to a career I could fit into, but I decide not to just fit in. 

When choosing my GCSE subjects, I chose to go with technology and design and then again at A-Level I chose construction and ICT. These decisions were questioned by both my family and by my teachers as I was the only female in these classes. I worked hard to prove them wrong, that girls were able to fit into the construction world. After the 4 years of building, designing, creating and even learning the laws around building and development I came top in my class with an A* and two marks off getting 100%. I was the first student at my school to every receive this grade. At the age of 18 receiving this grade I was smug and proud to be proving everyone wrong. 

Following into my university stage, I applied for Engineering Management. I studied this for a year only to realise that it would result in staying in an office working through paperwork and not becoming a practical job. It was also extremely difficult, and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be who I wanted to be. I gave up. I questioned whether the stereotype was right and only men belonged in this world. I wasn’t ready to give on a career though. So, before finishing with the engineering course I thought about what else I was interested in. 

 I found myself always interested in how social media influencers promoted products through their Instagram. They would be sent products to wear and use and then have to post pictures or create short videos in their stories and review the products. This grabbed my attention even more as it grew more popular. This is when I decided to apply for the Communication Management and Public Relations (CMPR) course. 

Throughout this course i have learned a lot about how the marketing world works. I have also learned a lot about how this world works and how society is changing. Women are more expected now to do things out of the ordinary. There was a time when even advertising showed that women couldn’t buy a snickers bar through their television adverts. Women are now taking on more “masculin” roles in society. They have now abandoned the stereotype and strived to do what they want. More women are becoming CEO’s of companies, building their own companies, becoming lorries drivers and other male dominated job roles. This has taught me to do what makes me happy and leave the stereotype behind. 

Although, this also applies to men. Men can be nurses, hairdressers and stay-at-home dads. These aren’t simply female job roles anymore. We are turning our back on a stereotypical job role and not turning away the opposite sex simply for not being the “correct gender” for the role that they have applied for. 

This has encouraged me to continue with pursuing what I want to do with my career. The drive and mindset that other women have has encourage me to be who I want to be and not conform to what certain parts of society think a woman should be doing. Once I finish my degree in CMPR, I have decided to complete and mechanicing course and possibly obtain my HGV license. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I will continue on to do so. We are all equal, which means we can all do equal jobs. 

We must continue to be true to ourselves and defy the stereotype. That is why I would encourage everyone to be who they want to be and not listen to the judgement that we go through when we are striving to become who we want to be. 

 Hollie Walls is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/hollie-walls-565716198/ and Instagram – @holliewallss

How I chose to Study CMPR

Throwing it back to May 2016, when I was awaiting my Nursing application to change to a conditional offer on my UCAS page … which never came. Instead, I was greeted with the lovely sight of all 5 of my nursing applications being rejected following my interview. I knew that nursing was a very hard course to get into and was told to prepare for not getting in on the first year and having to wait till the next year to reapply. However, once I was rejected, I could feel that that was not the path for me at that time in my life. I was not ready for the commitment that a nursing course requires, and decided that maybe sometime later in my life, if I still wanted, I could always go back and do a nursing degree, but now was not the time.

So when results day came (which was on my birthday I must add), and I seen that I got the results I would have need for the nursing course, it was a bitter sweet moment. 

However, I had just recently discovered that a girl from my town had a blog, which I started to read and realised that she was blogging about the course she was doing at university in Liverpool, which was a PR related course. I was so fascinated with her blogs and began to get very interested in the topics she was talking about. So this was my first introduction to the world of PR, and I was heavily interested in it. I began to look up similar courses in universities at home as I did not want to go away for uni, and I found the Communication Management and Public Relations course at Ulster University. However, I hadn’t applied for this course within my first 5 choices, so I was stuck on what to do now. 

I had the results necessary to get in to this course, so on results day I thought I would have a look at the ‘clearing’ option on UCAS. But unfortunately for me, this course was not on clearing. But I wasn’t giving up that fast! I rang the course director and basically begged for a place. 

I had to wait a few days to find out if I was going to be offered a place on the course…these days were the longest, most stressful days ever. But finally I got the notification offering me a place on the course, to which I confirmed. 

I am now in final year and I can definitely say that I made the right choice for my career. I am so happy that I picked this course, I have been so interested in the topics I have been studying over the years and can see how this career path will be suited to me. 

 

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