Once upon a placement…

In June 2016 I began my placement in The Walt Disney Company EMEA in London as Regional Communications intern for Disney Channels.

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Writing this now it is hard to believe that it has been four months since I have finished my year-long (AMAZING) placement with Disney and as this is my first ever blog post I thought that an insight into the best year and experience of my life would be a great place to start.

This was my first job in PR and in the beginning I had zero confidence and like most people beginning their placement journey I did doubt my ability and was hyper conscious of doing a good job and completing every task to the very best of my ability. I also had the added worry of moving to London, a city where I didn’t have a network of family or friends. Daunted about the prospect of tubes and the size of London when I first arrived I can honestly say it is an amazing city and living in London has made me more independent person. It is a city I am very glad to have called home for a year.

Looking back I am very proud of myself for taking the plunge as it was the best decision I have ever made.

My role was Regional Communication Intern for Disney Channels and I was across franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel.

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The Regional Communications team supports campaigns in Europe, Middle East and Africa. On a day-to-day basis I liaised with PR managers across EMEA – this involved ad hoc requests, distributing assets, setting up phone opportunities with talent, playing a key role in organising asset creation days and talent tours and EMEA coverage reporting.

I was extremely lucky to have such a wonderful team who encouraged me and gave me roles of responsibility throughout my time as an intern. In addition the strong network of interns enhanced the experience even more.

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As the only Irish girl in my department there was a slight language barrier in the beginning and the spelling of my name confused 99.9% of the people I worked with, experiencing more variations on the pronunciation of my name than I can even remember! But my Irish brogue and slang did provide many entertaining moments and laughs I still look back on – explaining an appropriate response to “what’s the craic” being a highlight!

The PR department in Disney is very busy but it is best just to dive right in and learn as much as possible by absorbing all the information you hear and by taking advantage of every experience there is too offer.

My top five placement tips from my time with Disney:disney5

  • Communication

Obvious to start with I know, but good and continuous communication with your managers and supervisors is key to ensure that you complete every task to the best of your ability and to manage your work load.

It is also vital, especially in PR to make contacts and the best way to start that is through effective communication, taking note of who you are communicating with and what you want to achieve.

Throughout this experience I have relied strongly on the ability to communicate effectively whether it be through good interpersonal skills or clarity, focus and accuracy in my writing skills which are the foundations of effective communication in PR.

  • Organisation is key

Without sounding too like Monica in Friends, organisation is Vital. I had my trusty diary and my daily to do list by my side at all times to ensure that I kept up with deadlines and important dates and embargoes. By keeping a diary of key dates and events this ensures that you have a more informed view of what’s happening around you. A placement student that is highly organised with key information on hand stands out.

  • Participate

No idea is ever too small or too silly, as Walt Disney once said, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.”disney3

In the beginning I was hesitant to put forward ideas especially in a group context but as the year progressed I began to understand that no idea is a silly idea and that your managers are eager to hear what we as placement students think. Don’t forget we are the social media generation: we are a useful tool to PR practitioners.

  • It is ok to make mistakes

The age old mantra “you learn from your mistakes”. I found this to be very true. Everyone makes mistakes as long as your correct your mistake and learn from it, as one wise person in Disney once said to me, “its PR not ER”.

  • Lots of tea and treats

My wonderful managers had a slight addiction to tea and throughout my year on placement I found that a cup of tea and a biscuit goes a long way especially on a busy day!

New experiences can be daunting and at times quite beastly but just remember, the beauty is that you get out what you put in.

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Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95

Stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the placement year plunge

I spent a few days looking for inspiration and thinking of topics for my first ever blog post. I scrolled through Twitter and looked at articles in the news to find something interesting and current to write about, and something that people would want to read. But my mind kept floating back to my placement year. I figured it would be fitting for my first piece of writing as a final year PR student to provide a little bit of background information about me, the year that brought me here and provide some context to thoughts I’ll share in future posts. And as for addressing a specific audience… 2nd year PR students this one’s for you.

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I arrived back in Belfast this summer after completing a year’s placement with the UK Publicity team at Warner Bros. Entertainment UK in London. My mum said to me recently that I “left Belfast a student and came back an adult”. After finishing my first two weeks of 4th year with drive and a determination to work hard and ‘hit the ground running’ I feel like she could be right (after all, mums always are).

I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t get the flight to London for my interview that day dreaming of getting the job. I’m a home bird and even moving to Dublin, nevermind London wasn’t really what I had in mind for the year. In fact, it scared the life out of me. I applied for the Warner Bros placement ‘for the experience’ and as practice for the many applications I planned to fill out for the Belfast placements that were due to be advertised in the following weeks. But nevertheless I found myself boarding the first of my many BFS-LDN flights for the assessment day and consequently saying “Yes please” when my soon-to-be boss called to offer me the position.

Moving away from Belfast was a huge deal for me and having never thought I’d even get the job, the prospect of packing up my life and moving to London was incredibly daunting. But I am a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’. I surprised myself and never looked back!

I am very lucky to have been given the amazing opportunities and experiences I had during my time at Warner Bros. I worked on the publicity campaigns for some of 2016 and 2017s’ biggest films, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemWonder Woman and Dunkirk, and learned from the most amazing people in the industry. I worked at premieres and events that many PR students would dream of being part of. It was a rollercoaster and probably the best year of my life (so far)! I never dreamed I’d be a part of such an amazing team or work on the incredible projects I did. But it is true what they say, you only get out of something what you put in and I worked harder than I have ever worked before.

The good times and captured highlights didn’t come without time, energy, late nights, early starts and a new reliance on caffeine (shout out to Café Nero at Holborn station). Photos on a red carpet were only the end product of what was usually weeks of hard work. But nothing worth having comes easy! I learnt more in those 13 months at Warner than I have in all my years of education combined. Hard work, commitment, resilience and initiative are things they can’t teach you at uni.

As for London life, I loved every bit of it (apart from the central line…avoid at all costs)! As one of Belfast’s biggest fans, it turns out that the best thing I ever did was to spend a year away from it. I embraced every opportunity London threw at me and made the most of everyday in what I believe to be one of the best places in the world!

I couldn’t imagine now not having done my placement at Warner, being the Publicity intern or moving to London. It was the scariest thing I have ever done but among the many things I learned along my placement year journey, is the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself and just going for it. You might think something is not for you, but you’ll never know until you try and you may just surprise yourself!

 

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

 

Fighting Placement Panic

Right now I am sitting on a bus surrounded by people who are equally as disappointed in the Wi-Fi service as I am. Let’s hope inspiration really does strike in unlikely places.

I’m travelling towards a placement interview and so excitement (and nerves) are running high. For a career in PR, work experience is essential and so degrees that offer placement years are a must. However, trying to find experience can be a gruelling process and a lot of people have the same opinion of trying to find placement.

I know that I’m definitely not the only one starting to feel the pressures of finding a placement so this post is focused on little tips that may help you if you’re anything like me. Keeping on top of what you’ve already done and trying to find the best placement for you can be difficult. Here are just a few tips that I’ve found useful that may help you calm those frayed nerves!Related image

KEEP A LIST 
This may sound simple and tiresome but I can’t stress how helpful it is to keep a list of placements that you have applied for. Even a simple notebook with a list of placements you’ve applied for and the dates you’ve applied can be really useful when you start to feel overwhelmed or have those worrying thoughts like “Should I have heard back by now?” If you keep a note of the closing dates of these placements, you’ll have a better idea of when you should get a response.

COMPANIES HAVE BLOGS TOO
A great way to find out more about a company before you apply for their placement or even to prepare if you’ve been offered an interview is to check whether they have a blog. Lots of companies nowadays have blogs run by employees, graduates or even current placement students detailing what their role is and a bit more on the company culture. For example, Unilever run a great blog that includes posts from placement students! A resource like this can really help you decide whether or not a placement is the right fit.

SEARCH ALL AVENUES
Most universities have an online resource that you can use to find placements that suit you. While this is a great tool it shouldn’t be the only one you use. Websites like http://www.ratemyplacement.com and http://www.glassdoor.co.uk can also be useful in finding possible placement opportunities. They usually also include a review service so you can see immediately how others have fared with this position.

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
It’s so easy to feel inadequate or disheartened when others around you start getting interviews or even offers and you don’t even feel like you’ve started. While it’s not good to be so picky about placements that you don’t apply for anything, you should never apply for a placement that you wouldn’t accept if you got the chance. If you haven’t found one for you and others have that’s fine. Just keep looking and remember that it’s your job to make sure you get the most out of this opportunity as possible.

Hopefully this will help you keep on top of your placement search. I wish you all the best of luck and happy hunting!

Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-peoples

Event Planning: Tips and Tricks

Merry Christmas everyone! It’s December which means I can officially talk about Christmas without annoying anyone (disregard my last blog post done in November…whoops). I have recently started an internship which I absolutely love and which has also kept me unbelievably busy seeing as a lot of their fundraising is centered around Christmas.

Drawing on this experience, I’ve decided to share some of the tips I’ve learned about how to make your event as successful as possible. So in no particular order let’s get started!

Use Excel

Excel was a godsend for me when it came to managing the actions already carried out by the fundraising team. It was a great way to make sure businesses weren’t contacted twice (unprofessional or what) and also perfect for clearly showing what still had to be done within the team. As long as you have one document with a list of what has to be done, with what has been completed and what has still to be completed clearly marked to share with your team, you can’t go too far wrong.

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It can also be a quick way of updating someone who maybe was off the day before, on what the immediate situation is.

Keep it simple. Maybe make a colour code for certain rows e.g green rows are the activities completed, red still have to be and yellow are ongoing or pending developments.

 

 

When possible, use a phone call

I know that I sound really old-fashioned here but I’m a great fan of just a simple call when contacting businesses for support. Maybe you’d love them to provide donations or prizes for your event. Maybe you just want their help in spreading the word. A lot of people would say “Just drop them an email.” Emails are faster. Emails can be a great way of sending extra information on your event like a leaflet or pictures. Emails are also impersonal, easy for them to ignore and impossible for you to track. A phone-call can be a great way of getting an immediate response from your chosen contact. It is seen as more personal and if you are dealing with a local business, can be a great way to develop a strong foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship in the future. ALWAYS get a name, and then you’ll know who to ask for in the case of organising their involvement.

 

Make use of the other teams as much as you can

Even if you’re only working within a small fundraising team of three or four people don’t ignore the rest of the organisation. It can be easy to be stuck in your little bubble of events planners all working in blissful harmony (apart from the pre-event panic of course) but don’t discount the experience of others. In my case one of the volunteer managers actually had contacts with a local café who catered for her recent volunteer dinner and happened to know they were looking for an opportunity to get more involved with charity. We contacted them and got two prizes to use for our event!

 

It will come together

And last but not least DO NOT PANIC. I know that a few days before the event it can seem like there’s still so much to do and not enough hands or time or patience or anything. Staring at an excel spreadsheet and seeing all reds (downside of the colour code) can make you want to give up. Just take a few deep breaths and think “What can I do and mark off this list right now?” Focus on what you can fix and do it bit by bit and on the day you’ll laugh at yourself and think what was I ever worried about!

 

Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-peoples

A New Chapter

Hi everyone, my name is Alex Slaine and this is my first blog post for the PR Student Blog and I thought I would take this opportunity to explain how I came about deciding to study Communication, Advertising and Marketing at UUJ.

During my GCSE’s I was set on becoming a journalist, ether working for a news broadcaster such as the BBC or simply writing articles for a magazine or newspaper.

However, till this day I will remember the experience I gained from my placement at UTV. Learning that being a journalist is no usual ‘9-5’ job and that the ‘digital age’ is having a dramatic impact in the industry. We as readers/viewers of the news now want to consume the facts in clear and concise snippets, with social media platforms dominating the way in which we access the news. Through my placement at UTV, I learnt that the Journalism and Public Relations industry is under a much broader scope than just newspapers and TV news bulletins.

This enhanced understanding of journalism and the world of public relations, hugely impacted my A-Level choice. I chose subjects that I enjoyed, but more importantly ones that provided me with useful everyday skills which I could utilise in my future career.

My subject choice consisted of Applied Business, Journalism and Performing Arts. Each varied in content but all allowed me to gain and develop my interpersonal communication skills, overall confidence and time keeping. I felt my subject choice for A-Levels not only allowed me to obtain an education, but shaped me as a person.

For my Year 13 work experience I had the opportunity to shadow the Senior Press Officer for our then Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers. This placement confirmed that I wanted to pursue a career in public relations, offering me an insight into what working in this industry would involve.

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During my work placement I had the opportunity to meet Theresa Villiers.

I enjoyed the buzz of the office, working in a time pressured environment, always having to be one step ahead of the media and providing just the right amount of information that was beneficial for the person of focus, but not so much that the facts could be misconstrued by the media. The placement lasted four days and is the main influence as to why I am studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing.

Although I have only been a student of Ulster University for a short period of time, I can confidently say I will enjoy the next four years of my studies- with the CAM course teaching me so much on topics I have a keen interest in.

It is a well known and respected degree, offering students to pursue placements and careers which they have a genuine interest in. From the communication and language module I have learnt that there are a range of different layers between our interactions than just speech. In contrast, modules such as Marketing and Consumer Behaviour have already provided me with an understanding of the process we go through when purchasing products and the strategies marketers will carry out to persuade us to purchase a product.

 

Alex Slaine is a first year CAM student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @alexslainee

3 Things A Year in Industry Taught Me That PR Lectures Couldn’t

As a current final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student, and having recently completed a year’s Regional Communications placement at The Walt Disney Company EMEA in London, I’ve come to appreciate the key inner workings of the PR industry that can only really be discovered outside of the lecture theatre, and on the job.

Increasingly, it seems that your academic achievements can only take you so far in the hunt for a job, with most employers valuing experience above all else, and so it’s more important than ever to get out there and into the nitty-gritty of the industry.

With that in mind, here are 3 things, in my experience, which I learned through my work experience, which my academic studies couldn’t teach me:

  1. NETWORKING IS KEY

The PR industry really is all about who you know! It was only through my work experience that I began to realise how fundamentally social the industry is. Alongside the fact that you’re always working as part of a wider team, networking is a core function of the profession, and occurs not only in the work environment, but at industry events and gatherings and nights out! PR professionals build up relationships with stakeholders and journalists over time, sometimes years, and retain these relationships throughout their careers. Whilst we learn this in theory as part of our university degree, actually witnessing these interactions in real life is essential for budding PR professionals, to develop the skills to form your own relationships with these types of people. Throughout my time with The Walt Disney Company, I met some great people from all over the world – exposure and experience which is very hard to come by so early on in my career. It is essential that we learn how to put ourselves out there and build a personal brand of sorts.

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  1. THIS IS NOT A 9-5 JOB

I hate to break it to you, but PR professionals don’t always live the glamorous life that Samantha Jones portrays in Sex and the City; they work exceptionally hard! With constant deadlines across several projects, it can get a bit overwhelming, but some of the best advice I received was from the intern before me, who told me, “You’ll get out of it what you put in.” Throughout my year I found this to be 100% true. Coming in early and working later than expected is all part of the job, but it’s worth it when the end product finally comes together. The world of PR really is non-stop!

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What people think PR is…
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What PR actually is…

 

3. IT’S A LOT OF FUN

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” – Mary Poppins

Remember I said it wasn’t all glamour and fun? This isn’t necessarily true. During my placement, I got to work on some incredible projects, like the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, numerous press junkets (including one in Milan), and countless events. Whilst I worked hard approaching all of these projects, it made them all the more rewarding to be a part of the final execution, and meant I could enjoy what I was doing. PR professionals work hard, but they play harder!

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Meeting Anthony Daniels at the Star Wars “Fashion Finds The Force” event last year.

 

PR is a really exciting industry for young professionals, and is one I have become truly enthralled with after having been given the chance to see how it really works from an inside perspective. Additionally, in today’s world, PR is an intrinsic operation within every aspect of our surroundings and culture. With its diverse nature, and the ever-changing role of the PR practitioner, PR is set to remain a key part of business, and a growing industry constantly on the hunt for new talent. This being said, a university degree is no longer enough; PR hopefuls must aim to accumulate industry experience throughout their studies, in order to have the best chance of cracking, and succeeding in, this great industry.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94