Why does a career in Public Relations interest me?

Why does a career in Public Relations interest me?

The journey from a creative to a creative PR professional

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

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

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

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

What does Public Relations mean to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Global Pop Star to Public Relations Practitioner… CAREER GOALS

From Global Pop Star to Public Relations Practitioner… CAREER GOALS

“What are you going to be when you grow up?” A question that has undoubtedly puzzled the minds of all children and indeed some adults. Initially, my career drawing board held a predictable prospect, I was going to be a singer, like Hannah Montana specifically. Reach for the stars they say!

I highly doubt you will find a 10-year-old with a career aspiration in Public Relations (PR), but then again, with the widespread access to social media and internet these days, who knows?

Discovering Public Relations

During my time at school, I recall becoming increasingly concerned that I did not have a career path set in stone. “What do you want to do?” “Where do you see yourself in the future?” “What are your interests?” – all normal questions to ask an adolescent, but when you are that 16-year-old, with no clear answers and little career guidance, it is very daunting.

I am a planner. I thrive on organisation and my lack of career preparation helped shape a very anxious teen. Determined to discover my destined career aspirations, I scoured the internet, listing my qualities, interests and aptitudes, completed an abundance of ‘What career suits you?’ questionnaires and participated in countless career workshop sessions.

Public Relations.

Through online self-evaluation, I discovered that my skills and interests paired me with the world of PR, something brand new to me, yet so very familiar.

Communication and PR – A Match Made in Heaven

With my newfound blossoming interest in mind, I chose to pursue Business Studies at A Level. I was immediately engrossed in the PR element of the subject, however, one element of Business Studies I was not so keen on was the equations and mathematical modules. My dislike for solving equations assisted me in resolving another matter, Business Studies was not the degree for me. This revelation narrowed my subject search, leading me to a course that seemed to roll all my interests into one: Communication Management and Public Relations. I firmly believe that studying Communication alongside PR will be tremendously advantageous throughout my career. Communication is key in the PR industry and being able to put my academic learnings into practice will be invaluable.

Personally, I believe I am an effective communicator and recognise I possess the capability and skills to successfully develop professional relationships with others and promote myself in a confident, friendly and formal manner. Throughout my professional career, I have been granted the opportunity to implement in practice the theoretical learnings I have obtained at university.

During my time on placement at the Irish News, I was privileged to play a predominant role in organising successful PR campaigns, briefing clients/customers and organising large-scale public events. This experience will benefit my future career in PR considerably. According to Petrison and Wang (1993), open-minded organisations are moving away from mass marketing and are placing a heightened importance on building relationships with their customers and potential clients. In this way, organisations reach potential consumers/clients on a more personal, focused level.

PR is an extremely wide-ranging industry. The ever-changing environment provides new challenges, hasty deadlines and fresh experiences each day. I am fortunate that I thrive under pressure, I endeavour to maintain a high level of organisation at all times, while multi-tasking and making effective decisions.

Building a Professional Portfolio

A career in PR provides an abundance of networking opportunities through cross-organisation events and campaigns. These experiences play a pivotal role in the development of one’s professional reputation. A particularly unique and advantageous element of a career in PR is the ability to develop your own professional portfolio. Through sharing my career highpoints on professional social networking sites, I have been able to enhance my position as a PR professional. Sharing content on LinkedIn and creating informative blog posts on the Ulster PR Student Blog have allowed me to connect with significant figures, putting my name out there, no matter how small it may currently be.

Throughout my placement, I was afforded the opportunity to work with many prestigious entrepreneurs throughout Ireland, directly witnessing how fulfilling a career in PR can potentially be. This was a highly motivational experience for me, enhancing my enthusiasm and reinforcing my ambition to strive for success in my final year at Ulster University, strengthening my vision to ultimately achieve employment in this exhilarating field.

Event Management

An area of PR that I particularly enjoy is event management. During my time at the Irish News, I had the pleasure of organising multiple large-scale events, working with countless professional organisations. Successful management of these events involved meticulous planning, working as part of a team as well as independently, in a fast-paced, pressurised environment. The exciting anticipation of devising a project to capture the interest of a target audience, followed by the satisfaction experienced when the project is received, strengthens my belief that PR is the appropriate career path for me, spurring on my passion for the next venture.

Post COVID-19 Public Relations

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the professional world has changed dramatically, with remote work escalating, organisations closing, and public events being cancelled. Luckily, the PR industry is adaptable to change, making it extremely valuable at present as we plan to rectify the damage that COVID-19 has left behind. The ability to adapt to change in a rapidly evolving industry increases the appeal to follow my career aspirations. PR will be a considerable asset to organisations, applying crisis management, assisting in recuperation and supporting the adaption to online implementation, all of which excites me.

As the world familiarises itself with the ‘new normal’, social media relations have become extremely important. Although negative connotations have been associated with social media, I believe having grown up in the new digital era, I am able to identify and harness the positive aspects of social media to enhance my effectiveness in my chosen career path in the PR industry. Indeed, I have a fundamental and comprehensive understanding of the influence a successful social media campaign can provide. Moreover, through professional experience I have developed the skills to implement an effective PR campaign for an organisation with a view to increasing their exposure and making a positive impact on their reputation. 

Social media is saturated with communication. In order to maintain a competitive edge, organisations must create an original, stand-out social campaign, to avoid getting left behind. Through my experience to date, I now see this is where I can excel.

As a consumer, I place huge importance on an organisation’s social media presence when purchasing a product or service. I have always maintained a passion for creativity, and I commend organisations on the originality of their online presence. Therefore, I believe this is an area that I would thrive in, allowing me to showcase my knowledge and opinions, in order to produce an engaging campaign that will influence consumers.

Job Prospects

Finally, job prospects are uncertain at present, with many industries having a lack of job opportunities due to the collapsing economy and impact of COVID-19. Nonetheless, social media is an area of PR that I believe will thrive post-pandemic due to the continuing social consciousness of society. Fortunately, social media is the area of PR that particularly interests me and is the route I intend to pursue as a graduate.

Irrespective of the extent of potential demand in the future, I am certain that my degree and acquired knowledge and expertise will aid me in finding suitable employment locally, nationally or in the international field. I am confident however that the increasing popularity and consistent evolution in the industry will undoubtedly create a variety of future job opportunities. This combination of my degree and my professional experience should enhance my post-university PR career prospects, although the future will be a particularly challenging time for graduates.

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

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

Why Does a Career in Public Relations Interest Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does a career in PR interest me?

Why does a career in PR interest me?

Flashback to 2015, I had just finished school in upper six and had just applied for a Media studies degree. Patiently waiting to hear back from UCAS in the coming weeks. To be frankly honest, I knew in my heart it wasn’t the course I wanted to do, it was just something my teacher had encouraged you to apply for as it was the ‘known’ thing to do, and after all, one of my A levels was in Media Studies, it seemed the right thing to do.  Skip a short while later and I decided a year out was the best option for me, as I wasn’t quite sure what direction I wanted to go in, so I started applying for every job going.

Skip along another year and after a year working in Tesco, I knew I wanted to go back to studying but just had no idea what. An email had come through to me about an information open night in Ulster University about 3 courses that seemed interesting to me. These were, CAM, CMPR and Advertising. A representative from each course had stood up and talked about their experience from each course and by the end of it I knew in my heart CMPR was the one for me. The clue being in the name with ‘public relations’ on the end. After speaking to Kerry-Ann course director at the end of the presentation she had explained that with the grades I achieved in my A-Levels, being 3 Cs, that I would not be accepted for the course. As I was walking out with my head held low, she ran after me and explained about the part-time option and I would be able to complete the course over a longer period and achieve the same degree at the end. I felt this was a sign and knew this was the beginning of my PR journey.

Apart from imagining in my head what the PR industry was like, being luxurious and glamourous or as Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.13) describe as ‘involve lunches, receptions, events and parties which include many different people at a range of different locations.’ I knew it involved building relationships and meeting new people regularly and being a ‘social butterfly’ as my mum would call me, that this was the job for me.  Actually, it sounded too good to be true!  From learning the basics of PR in first and second year of my course, it was not until final year that I really started to dig deeper. My lecturer Conor has a massive role to play in this as his enthusiasm about the subject really inspires me and allows me to develop my own opinions on the subject and not just what you are taught through curriculum.

I would not say that I am an overly confident person when it comes to speaking in front of other people but to describe my personality I would say I am a bubbly person and love meeting new people and this is one of the reasons a PR career interests me. For example, in my workplace I am not afraid to say when I think a situation is being handled wrongly, however, when I’m in a classroom environment I do feel nervous quite easily and put a lot of pressure on myself.  This is where I need to adapt the skills of giving my opinion more freely when asked, just as I would in a one to one situation with a manager for example. However, learning from other PR practitioners has helped me develop some of these skills. For example, Ella Minty a well-recognised lecturer/leader/adviser runs sessions on Twitter weekly giving advice and the opportunity to give your opinion on a variety of topics. I think this is a great way to not only develop new skills but also take on board other PR practitioner’s opinions which I think is a very valuable asset for a career in PR.

Which brings me to my next point, I love how much variety there is to be offered within a PR career. No one day is the same, and constantly learning on the job. I do not have a lot experience in the PR area with doing part time in the course I did not have the opportunity to do a placement year, however, I run a social media account for a dance school I teach in which allows the parents to keep up with everything their kids are up to on a weekly basis. Whether this be a press release or a simple image it allows me to experiment with different styles and ideas that work and those that don’t so that I will keep my audience entertained and informed.

I personally believe that PR is at the heart of all things in communication sector and holds the key to the future to all things media related. By consuming the media and being social savvy is another great way to pursue your passion and career path around PR. I would say I have always been interested in all aspects of the media, growing up in an era of the smart phone revolution I had to quickly adapt to having the up to date social media platforms where information about anything and everything spreads like wildfire and as Sophie Chadwick, 2020 says ‘it’s important to note that social media has already changed the course of public relations, almost beyond recognition.’ With the mass media still playing a crucial role in society and around PR it is important to recognise the pros of social media and how it can be used effectively within a PR career as well as sometimes causing crises.

Practice makes perfect. Throughout the course of my PR module in final year, Conor has kept on at us to practice being in the midst of what we are learning. So, whether it be a press release or a blog, practice being in the moment as there is “no time like the present”. This is how I knew I also wanted a career in PR. Nothing satisfies me more than having a diary and being organised for months ahead, or having an idea in my head and grabbing my laptop to write it all down in the hope that it might be a useful idea to come in handy someday. And like any job you cannot know everything from day one so this creative mind mapping and thinking of ideas in my head that may be useful in the future is another asset that would be ideal for a career in PR.

Although there are many great opportunities within PR and how I would love a career in it the future, I know it could be an extremely pressurised environment to work in.  I think that even though there would be many rewarding parts of working in PR, there would also be times when there is a lot of pressure on staff to meet deadlines and work long hours to get a campaign finished on time.  I feel that even though I would describe myself as someone who works well under pressure, at times I might let things get to me and may feel overwhelmed as I someone who likes to get things right and would put a lot of pressure on myself.  I also know that I would have other team members around me and we could work together to overcome any challenges we might face using the skills each of us has gained.  Eventually, I know I would become a key individual in a workplace by working within a team and becoming a valued team member which other organisations would recognise and possibly want to employ.

Like in any career, eg fireman, doctor or astronaut, I believe you can do anything when you put your mind to it. I want to try and get more experience before I begin my career in PR or whatever direction I take in the future. This involves understanding myself more as a person and projecting this in a respectable way to employers to relate and understand that I am right for the job role in PR. By keeping up to date with ongoing movement in PR is also crucial, for example on social media platforms such as Twitter where updates are being put up hourly about what is trending in PR circles. Finally, by practicing my writing when and where I can eg. writing a blog and posting it or setting myself goals to practice things I am not so confident at, such as public speaking. The drive and enthusiasm aspects that come with the career and how it matches to my personality makes me excited for the future and I hope this reflects on why I want a career in Public Relations.

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.

Why does a career in public relations interest me?

Why does a career in public relations interest me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The PR strategy consists of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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