Dissertation Dilemma

I have just hit my final semester of my final year. Basically, this just got serious. Before I entered my final year of University however, I spent the months preceding suffering mini panic attacks every time I thought about the impending big D.

Dissertation.

However, 4 months in, it’s not AS bad as I worked myself up for it to be. OK, it’s pretty bad, but I expected it to be worst.

I wanted to write a blog post to offer my top tips for fellow students who are approaching and preparing for final year and whom may be feeling the same impending doom I felt this time last year.

Preparation: Obvious, but very important. Preparation is more important than making sure you have a new notebook and ensuring you have the mind-set to work hard. Start thinking now about a topic that interests you and which you might want to spend 9 months writing 12,000 words on.

Research: Part of your preparation will come in the form of Research. I spent the first 2 months of my first semester back at University reading around different topics just to try and pin down my research question. If I had started this research earlier, I probably would have given myself a head start on the mountain of reading needed for my literature review.

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Understand what a dissertation involves: I spent my third year of University on an industrial placement, so had little contact with tutors and the University as a whole during this time. This meant that I really had no idea what a dissertation involved, especially not a literature review – and it took a while to get my head round it before I started writing it. If you can cut out the time it might take you to get your head round everything in the first semester, you can give yourself a head start. This is especially important for students who might be on an industrial placement – ask your tutors all the questions you want to know before you head back.

Prepare your contacts: Whatever your question, it’s pretty inevitable that you will need to call upon your best contacts within the industry for research purposes. Start thinking about who would be best for this to provide the best content and expertise (although it may be difficult if you haven’t decided on your question) but start putting the feelers out as to who would be willing to help you out, to save you time in approaching them later on in the process.

Be prepared to give up your social life: Dissertation will take up most of your life during final year at University and as I’m sure you expect dissertation isn’t the only piece of work you’ll be submitting in final year. So get ready to put those excellent time management (and stress management) skills to the test, and yes, your social life (and other societal commitments) to one side. If you have friends and peers who are not in their final year, make sure they understand that you will not be able to go out and party as much as they will and ensure they respect that you need to spend a strong proportion of your free time working on your dissertation.

Be excited: Probably the last thing you think you might be feeling, but if you ensure that you choose the right topic, a dissertation can actually be a really exciting project. You get to delve deep into one area of your chosen industry, and really understand it and draw new research conclusions that might help future students and practitioners. Ensuring you have a positive mindset will set you on the road to success. Negativity only breeds stress and anxiety, something you definitely do not need in final year.

Good luck!

Digital Discourse: PR life in the digital age

It is no secret to anyone in the industry that digital is flourishing, whilst traditional is trailing far, far behind. To put it into perspective, in the year between February 2011 and 2012, the UK daily newspaper market fell by 5.2%, with newspapers such as The Financial Times witnessing a staggering 17.8% decline. (Four Media, 2012)*

It may come as no surprise then, that PR’s who do not adapt to this trend – and quickly – are heading towards a pretty dim future. There’s a LOT of PR agencies out there, and it is important that each one stays ahead of the trends to survive in this ever changing world. Print media is declining, which in turn suggests that traditional models of public relations are therefore becoming redundant. However, there are many that argue that nothing will ever replace face-to-face interaction and picking up the telephone. Maybe so, but as print media suffers resource and employment cuts, public relations professionals are now outnumbering journalists, meaning that calling with a press release or asking them to cover an event (which normally there is not enough staff for) simply won’t cut it.

In my eyes, there are a few trends and ways of working which I believe are of utmost importance to keep an eye on…

1. Citizen journalism and user-generated content: The phenomenon of citizen journalism in the digital age has witnessed a significant disruption to the main gatekeepers of the news, with the big media losing its monopoly on the news. This has been discussed as one of the main benefactors in the decline of print media, and is a growing trend which must be identified and acknowledged as a serious influence on the professional PR and journalism industry. Regular individuals have defined the breaking and broadcasting of some of the biggest news stories of the decade, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the US Airways flight landing in the Hudson River in 2009. These people have an extremely powerful influence, and thanks to the Internet and social media, have more of a voice than ever before. This can most regularly come in the form of blogs, of which some of the best have have followers of thousands, and gaining coverage on the right blog can now be more powerful than column inches in a relevant magazine. Therefore, blogger relations and new media relations with this empowered 21st century consumer is one of the most important roles of the future public relations practitioner. It is important that these influential people are considered and utilized into future PR campaigns.

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2. Blogger Relations:  Too many PR’s make the mistake of assuming that because bloggers carry content, they work like journalists. They don’t. Although some bloggers may be happy to receive a press release, most bloggers refuse PR pitches of any kind, preferring to discover their own sources of content. This of course poses a challenge for PR practitioners, whom are used to conducting traditional media relations in the form of press releases and PR pitches. In one way it is similar, as you would take time to learn about a journalist – what interests them, what their hobbies are and tailoring your communication towards this, you must learn about a blogger (whom often have one significant and passionate interest of which their blog covers). It is actually easier to find out more about a blogger, as their blog may contain personal information on their likes and dislikes, and their posts will be tailored to their individual interests and opinions.

3. Media Relations: Traditionally one of the most important aspects of day to day work as a PR practitioner, Media Relations has defined our role for decades, and has been described as ‘managing relationships with the media – all the writers, editors and producers who contribute to and control what appears in the print, broadcast and online media.’ Some believe that the advent of social media has allowed media relations to be bypassed, letting the public relations practitioner communicate directly with the consumer, whilst others believe that the Internet is merely offering us a new and closer way to build relationships with journalists, and that media relations is changing.

4. Creativity online: Creativity online is paramount, and key in getting you noticed (and definitely the fun bit!) The most successful campaigns have been viral, but you must ensure that you tap into the target audiences interests, passions and what makes them tick. Posting a boring video on YouTube and making the office watch it does not equal billions of viral views. It is also important that you understand your channels, instead of letting it stagnate in the YouTube digi-sphere. Not only viral videos, but Audio, Video and Digital Branding elements are all vital to ensuring your online presence stands out from all others.

*http://media-news.fournewsletter.com/media-industry-update/717

Max Clifford: A Review

Yesterday saw the eagerly anticipated CIPR Guest Lecture from the man himself, Max Clifford.

Prior to the lecture (and as detailed in my post Lie to me) we had received a suitably convenient pre-Max Clifford lecture on the importance of being honest and ethical as the next generation of PR practitioners. I was inspired by this lecture and the fact that it is my fellow students and I’s duty to represent the industry and be a catalyst for change for the infamous bad reputation of the industry.

As I sat down in my chair (and waited an extra 30 minutes than scheduled for Max to arrive) I was actually somewhat nervous about what he was going to say and how I would actually feel about it. I wanted to keep an open mind, and make sure I heard as much of the lecture with as little bias as possible.

For the first half an hour, Max detailed his journey through PR; from dropping out of school at 15 and becoming a trainee reporter at the local newspaper, to being headhunted by EMI in the early 1960’s to launching The Beatles and travelling the world to promote stars such as The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations.

Throughout this historical journey, and intense envy most students in the room were feeling, Max dropped in some food for thought for the young budding practitioners in the room. Max made a point of noting that back when he started in PR, it was an extremely unknown industry, with no university degrees or anyone to show you the ropes, and was largely about promotion. This, he said, was mainly about “teaching the people I was representing to get the best out of the media, to create the best image for them and image which people can build upon.” He then continued, “but everything has changed today, especially in the music industry, people are forgotten in 10 minutes.”

He continued to build upon the idea of PR being about creating images, saying “the most effective way to create images is to understand the process, work closely with journalists – understand what they need, and what works best for them.” His other nuggets of wisdom for those entering the industry included:

  • Clients and the emphasis of our industry has changed from promotion
  • The media is changing
  • It’s important to understand this ever changing world.

Max was quick to move on from these points, and didn’t tend to give practical examples or advice for the students in the room to learn from.

Max also said something which captured my attention, and I really wanted to find out what he meant by this. He said “All the girls in my office have PR degrees now, but it takes me 5/6 years following graduation for me to build them up to where they need to be.” He said no more on this, and I was surprised that no lecturer in the room asked what he meant, but I would love to know what he meant and his experience and opinion on the value of a PR degree. His parting advice was to “gain as much experience as possible, as nothing is more valuable than practical experience”, which leads me to believe that Max prefers his employees to have a strong set of skills under their belt, rather than a degree.

Ethics and Honesty

With half of the lecture theater full of CIPR members, it wasn’t long before the questions about honesty and ethical standards within his work starting coming thick and fast. I’m sure Max is no stranger to these questions, and he certainly favoured the phrase “Back your own judgement.” By this he meant that if you believe in a situation, and believe that by supporting that situation you will be doing more good than bad, then you should do just that. He also said that you should you use your instinct, common sense and look someone in the eye and talk to them about the situation.

To support this, he explained that he had been offered fortunes to conceal Gary Glitter being exposed as a paedophile, but turned it down and outed him. He also said he represented OJ Simpson as he believed, and still does, that he was innocent.

He quickly disregarded a comment from a CIPR member who claimed that the industry is working hard to be open and honest, to which he replied “Who? Who is trying to be open and honest? Is every journalist you come across honest and ethical? Absolutely not.”

At the end of the day, Max entered the world of PR when no one knew what it was. There was no guidelines, and no one to tell him what was right, what was wrong, or how to ‘do’ PR. He made it up as he went along, did things his way, and that has only seen him achieve success. So why would he ever do anything else? In fact, he summed this up by saying “What I do works for me and I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made.” Max has always been completely honest about his frequent dishonesty within his work.  From this point of view, I can somewhat understand why he does it.

And, for that absolute unapologetic attitude, I kind of like him.

That doesn’t mean to say that I am going back on my word on being ethical and honest in our work, I completely still believe in that. But for Max’s line of work – it seems, to an extent, necessary. But that is his choice, and I choose not to enter into that line of work or represent the people and the scandal he represents on a daily basis. When I finish University and start a job in the field, I will absolutely uphold the ethical and transparent values the CIPR urges us too.

PR might have been a certain way when Max started, but the industry is changing at a rapid pace, and that’s exactly why its so important to uphold those ethical, honest values. The advance of social media is only increasing the need for the PR industry to be more transparent and honest, and giving us the opportunity to do so.

I may be wrong, but it seemed to me Max isn’t much of a social media man. Not only did he categorically deny he has ever had anything to do with a personal Twitter account, but he also offered a closing note saying “The internet has less impact than the front page of a newspaper or a panorama documentary.” I suppose it depends on the clients you work with, but I think we can all agree that is not entirely true. It seems to me that, for someone who represents such high profile celebrities, social media would be one of the most important things to monitor, as it allows for regular individuals to slander his clients and create normally fabricated rumours about his clients on a daily basis.

“In a perfect world, everybody’s perfect – but you need to be realistic.” Max Clifford, 31/10/2012

Ta-ra to Traditional?

Last week, US current affairs magazine Newsweek announced that it would no longer be available in print and was moving entirely online. Described by some as the ‘demise’ and ‘death’ of the publication, it has left others considering whether this may be in fact be the future for print titles.

In the year between August 2011 and 2012, major daily newspapers all witnessed a significant decline in circulation. The Sun recorded a 10.48% decline, The Guardian 15.34% and The Independent a staggering 54.67%*.

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With rapid technological advancements including websites and iPhone apps from all national and regional daily newspapers, coupled with consumer spending cut-backs, more and more people are moving to free-to-view online news.

So what does this mean for Public Relations? Social media is changing the entire scope of the industry, and many are speculating what the future holds for traditional forms of PR. As more and more newspapers start to move only-online, will previous traditional strategies become ineffective and virtually redundant?

Social media is changing the way consumers behave and source information, and, whereas once press releases and feature articles were a form of communicating news and monitoring great coverage, now practitioners must consider blogs, tweets, hashtags and SEO as a way to communicate to their audiences and achieve results for clients.

More than ever, social media is allowing practitioners to communicate, and most importantly work with, their audiences on a much closer level. Before, journalists were the only contact public relations professionals needed to achieve coverage and column inches. Now, PR practitioners have to work hard to build relationships with bloggers, whose influence and reach is sometimes global.

So what are some important things to consider as Public Relations professionals to ensure we are social savvy?

This isn’t a numbers game. It isn’t important how many followers you have on Twitter, or how many friends on Facebook. It is important that you are connecting in the right way, with the right people.

Information can be visible in social media before print. It is important to utilise this to know what is being said about your client or brand before the media does!

Social media puts the public into Public Relations. It is extremely important that you use social media to connect and work closely with the publics that are vital to your brand. They are more powerful than you know.

Go now, or be dragged there later. Many brands and people are frightened of social media, or may not even believe in it. Social media isn’t the future, it’s the now and if we don’t keep up, then we will only be pushed to the bottom of the pile

Be open, transparent and real. PR practitioners can often be perceived as ‘spin doctors’. With the rise of social media, there is more pressure and opportunity now from organisations to be honest and transparent. Be open with your consumers and use the internet to build an honest relationship with them.

I also wrote this post for the Grayling North Blog, please find it here.

Lie to me

Yesterday evening, I was lucky enough to attend a CIPR guest lecture from Deborah Copeland, Chair CIPR Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Group. With years of agency experience, including time at Brahm (now Brass) and Logistik, where she currently resides, I was excited to hear what Deborah had to say. Her lecture was titled ‘Ethics, Reputation and Responsibility’, and provided students with knowledge on the CIPR’s Code of Conduct and complaints procedure.

During the lecture, I was by her comments on the bad reputation of the public relations industry. 

Asking the audience if they had ever had any experience of being deemed a ‘liar’ for being in PR, it was surprising to see how many hands shot up – including my own. Although not many, I have received a few upturned noses and muffled comments about being a ‘sneak’ and a ‘liar’ when I have told people I am in PR (mainly from uncles and long lost cousins at family events).

It is no secret that the PR profession has a bad reputation for lying, or ‘spinning’, or just being damn right annoying. You don’t have to look far and you will find numerous blogs, mainly from journalists, damning our industry and our profession. Take Greenslades blog for example, titled ‘Have you ever been lied to by a PR?’ Although he says he has never been lied to by a PR, we are able to ‘spin negatives into positives with a breathtakingly cavalier attitude towards the reality.’ He also notes that it was ‘much simpler’ back when there were no PR’s around. Food for thought, indeed.

So will the PR profession ever be taken seriously? As a final year student a few months from graduation, and the next generation of the PR profession, I feel it is important for students and young practitioners like myself to be the catalyst for change for this issue.

But how? Firstly, we need to start in the workplace. It is important that as well as generally being a great PR person, and doing all the things great PR people do to achieve results for their clients, we should do all our work honestly, using professional judgement and experience, and with integrity. Of course, we should never knowingly disseminate untrue knowledge and make a conscious effort to discover whether information we have been given is true and correct before disseminating it.

So what about if we witness other people in our profession conducting such malpractice? As an intern, or young graduate starting out in the industry, the last thing we will want to do is stand up and out an employer, colleague, or someone else in the industry. However, the only way we can get PR to the boardroom, and stop it being seen as a ‘spin’ and dishonest industry, is if we do. The best way to do this is to go to through the CIPR complaints procedure anonymously.

It is also important as the next generation of PR professionals, that we take time to create and maintain strong relationships with journalists and understand their needs and wants, as much as they should understand ours. After all, PRs and journalists should have a symbiosis relationship, as we can, and are, mutually beneficial to one another. What can PR professionals do then to improve relationships with journalists?

Know the journalist, audience, publication and relevance of the story What are their interests and more importantly, why would they be interested in your story?  Keep it relevant and personal. Build a rapport and relationship with the journalist before you cold-fire a press release at them.

Do not mass email to media lists These contact details can sometimes be outdated and even if they do make it to their inbox, they probably won’t be read

Be efficient, reliable and timely

Be thoughtful of their busy time schedules and deadlines

Do not annoy Calling journalists about a follow up to press release or pitch they are not expecting or haven’t read doesn’t get you very far, and do not call them on deadline.

Promise less and deliver more Don’t promise them something you cannot provide them with, it will probably make them never want to work with you again.

Don’t lie or spin obviously.

Deborah also commented on the medias constant referral to Max Clifford as a ‘PR Guru’ as one of the reasons for the continued stigma attached to our industry. I am attending a lecture with Max Clifford on 31st October and I am really excited to see what he has to say to students and young practitioners who are paving their way into the industry. Keep  looking out for my blog post following that!

[On the secret of his success in PR] “Confidence… and the ability to lie with conviction.” Max Clifford, 2003

Intern Irritation

It’s quite unbelievable that this is still such a problem in the industry despite years of campaigning, complaints to officials, acres of press coverage and pleas to politicians. However, unpaid internships and the exploitation of students and young professionals is still happening all over the industry – it’s illegal and it makes me mad.

The problem, I believe, stems from the intern. Organisations know we need the experience, and we’re not going to turn a huge company down just because they won’t pay us. In short, they know they can get away with it, and we’re not brave enough to stand up to them.

An article on The Guardian today told of two big name companies paying out more than £2,250 after two interns demanded to be paid the minimum wage for seven months work. They did, but not without saying that the reason for the settlement was due to the fact that the intern had ‘progressed to paid tasks’. In a statement, they said:

“IPC has a very clear policy covering work experience, internships and short-term freelance contracts. The individual undertook what had been understood by both parties to be unpaid work experience but during that time, it appears that she progressed to carrying out tasks for which she was entitled to be paid.

“Once this was brought to our attention, the payment was made through IPC’s payroll.”

What I would like to know is what exactly they deem as tasks which are worthy or not worthy of being paid. From my experience, interns take over tasks that paid employees would be doing themselves if the intern was not there. It’s exploitation, and even if the person states that they are willing to work for free, it’s illegal.

Most companies slap the title of ‘intern’ on someone to seek free labour, even though in the UK we have a minimum wage law which states clearly that employers cannot have someone working for them paid less than the minimum wage (currently £6.08 for over 21) – even if you say you’re willing to work for free.

I still 100% recommend students to undertake work experience and internships, because they equip you with workplace skills within a range of different industries which are valuable to your career upon graduation. I myself have undertaken around 11-12 internships during my time at University, and have only ever been paid for one (which was a 1 year industrial placement, so it was compulsory anyway).

If I’m completely honest, I am usually more than happy to conduct a one/two day a week placement unpaid, especially if I don’t have to travel to far. What I think is intolerable is when companies expect interns to travel on their own money and work full time for weeks or months at a time unpaid. It’s unrealistic and I have lost a lot of money due to this.

There is also an increasingly problem of interns being misled by companies. An internship which I undertook advertised  that all travel expenses would be paid. It was based in London, and as I lived just outside in Kent, this one sentence meant I could actually take up the placement – rather than spend around £200 a week on train, tube, bus and lunch fees.

So, I declined the offer from the company I had just spent a year working with to carry on working with them up until September (I was due to finish in May) and told them I had secured a really great internship I couldn’t turn down. So that’s what I did, but of course when I turned up, I was met with blank faces when they claimed they didn’t pay a penny in expenses and certainly not a penny in wage. With all my options out the window, I stayed for a month, spending around £1,000 of my own savings to travel up and down and across London.

A link within the Guardian article led me to this website http://graduatefog.co.uk/2012/2080/interns-fight-justice-campaign/ which is encouraging interns to step forward, speak up, and change this industry.

Robert Minton Taylor, former director for Burson Marsteller and supervisor at my University with whom I work with closely, only echoes my plea. He sent a strongly worded missive to PRWeek following the exposure of fashion PR agency Modus Publicity for employing up to 20 unpaid interns in which he said he was ‘ashamed’ of his industry peers. He said ‘I’d like to work with the PRCA, for which I have high regard, to devise a code of conduct to rid us of this odious nil pay graduate culture.’

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The Public Relations industry is a powerful one, and it continuously works hard to remove the stigma surrounding it as ‘spin’ and ‘unethical.’ Unpaid internships only halt that hard work, and the companies which continuously exploit individuals only continue to cast a dark shadow over the companies and people within the industry which are fighting hard to stop it.

Super Social

I love this new Google Chrome advert. It’s definitely my favourite TV ad at the moment, take a look:

Why? Well not only is it pretty uplifting and inspirational, but doesn’t it just sum up in one big, happy musical series of images how powerful social media is? It really excites me and is exactly what I will be basing my final year dissertation around (although I am yet to define my question). However, I know for certain that my research question will be exploring in depth how social media is changing the very foundation on which PR is built and how PR practitioners need to adopt these skills to be leaders in changing and developing our profession.

This video sums up my beliefs about how important social media is to the public relations profession and how PR practitioners should bring the skills, ideas and creativity needed to implement social media into their roles. Lets face it, our profession is changing in front of our eyes at incredible speeds and if we don’t keep up, learn and adapt – well, there may be a lot of bodies.

This is what is making me really excited about graduating and entering the fast paced world of social media and PR. I am excited to bring my existing skills and knowledge to help an organisation develop and be a leader in their social media tactics whilst at the same time learning new skills within the role.

The time is now

Hello

Hello, all. It has been approximately 105 days since my last blog post (but who’s counting, right?), so for that, I apologize (mainly to myself.)

The last time I posted I was just finishing my internship at Wildwood PR. I learnt a hell of a lot there and in hindsight even more than I thought I had when I first left. (I would recommend taking a year out of University to spend a year in the workplace to everyone, experience is absolutely vital and I cannot urge everyone enough. If you’re in the process of trying to find a placement at the moment my read my blog with tips to do just that.)

So what have I been up to since? I then went on to spend my summer interning in London at 1883 Magazine as Marketing and Events Executive and Fashion and Marketing Assistant at Love is Boutique. And now I am back at University to finish up my final year! What a whirlwind it has been. But it has also been extremely exciting, and is beginning to get even more so, with our return to University as professional, experienced individuals (placement truly does impact in such a big way) it is clear to see that the time for Public Relations is now.

The time is now: Why PR is so essential today

On this thought, I was lucky enough to attend a guest lecture from Professor Anne Gregory, who, with an entire wealth of qualifications, experience, titles and books to her name, came to share her wisdom about how she views PR today. She believes that organisations need PR leaders now more than ever, and that having the skills of leadership in PR will be our most valuable assets yet.

So, why now has this become so vital? A recent survey by the CIPR found that the biggest area of growth in the next five years will be online reputation, followed by strategic planning. Hardly surprising right? Social media has transformed the relationship that organisations have with their publics and expectations of transparency and honesty are more expected. Not only this, but of course it allows for more negativity and PR’s are needed to defend the reputation of an organisation. Organisations now fear a young spotty teenager sitting behind his or her computer some 2,000 miles away. There is less control over it as the internet has allowed this kind of negative (and positive  communication 24/7, 365 days a year. So how do you handle it? Most CEO’s don’t have a ton of experience in handling social media, and all the new platforms and gizmos and techniques kind of scare them. PR people host the perfect skills to provide buffer elements to defend organisations and manage social media communications effectively.

Social media has also contributed massively to an increase in consumer choice. Consumers now have a louder and stronger voice to choose what they want and when they want it, and they’re not afraid to shout it loud. In this economy, those with the best reputation are going to be ones that succeed. Employing a strong PR division or individual is going to ensure that your product, message or service is going to be heard above all the others constantly bombarding the market today.

In the same CIPR survey, the top three areas of decline over the next five years were sponsorship, event management and branding and marketing. Also, not very surprising. Professor Anne Gregory put it quite bluntly – Marketing is dead. Do I agree? I’m not entirely sure. I agree that marketing is being pushed out and that traditional forms of marketing (flyers, leaflets, posters, store sale promotion) is definitely not as effective. However, I feel that Marketing may have an opportunity to threaten our profession through social media and technology. Marketeers have always been more rigorous in developing and evaluating an online profile, but do they have the communication and reputation management skills with PR’s have to manage social media effectively?

So what skills and elements of PR can we bring to fulfill the needs and expectations of CEO’s today?

PR enables the company to do things. I particularly like the idea that PR IS the company, it is the guardian of values within the organisation, and through evaluating the organisations values, ideas and objectives it can achieve them through decision making, people and communication.

  • Communication is a mechanism by which relationships are secured: Our fantastic communication and relationship building and management skills are vital to any organisation.
  • PR shapes organisational values and give them life to which people can attach: By taking an organisations values and weaving them into the messages and strategic planning that an organisation sends out, people will relate and this will create loyalty. Values shape culture and interaction and are at the heart of authenticity, risk and integrity.
  • Defining and instilling values: As PR people we should hold an organisations values, people, messages, culture, objectives, communications in our hands and use these from within to create messages and defend the reputation of an organisation.

PR is a new management understanding, and organisations are becoming more and more defined by its communications. It is time to grasp this opportunity, and show CEO’s exactly why we are so important. On a final note, I think this video really sums up a PR professionals role today:

Placement Survival Tips

So, in two weeks time my placement will be over. In three months time I will be back at University. There is so much to say about it I am not sure where to start but I will say I can hardly believe I am going to be a full fledged, beans on toast eating, creased clothes wearing student again.

It’s only been (well, just over) a year but my eyes have been truly opened to the world of PR, client management and the day-to-day role of being a PR practitioner and I must say, I love it. I have been given some amazing opportunities, responsibilities, training and have been taught by the best.

Although I was lucky enough to get a placement in an agency who work across international clients and who pride themselves on their dedication to develop their interns, it has taken a lot of hard work, dedication and enthusiasm and I have only had a year to do it. In fact, that is a very important point. If you are heading on to placement as a second year student then always remember – a year is not a long time. At all. Which is why it is so important to make the most of your time there, and here are my tips to do just that:

Embrace it Coming from two years of University, it’s a big change. Even if you have done short term placements during University like I did, it’s still a massive difference (hopefully.) As soon as I begun, I was treated as one of the team and given achievable responsibilities and challenges across a range of clients as any other Account Executive. This may be scary at first and you may start to doubt whether you can do it at all but make sure you embrace the experience and remember why you are there. You have one year to learn as much as you can so make sure you throw yourself into the role and make the opportunity to do just that!

Do the boring stuff Everyone has to do it. It’s what keeps the company ticking over and is the foundation to ensure a client account runs smoothly. Reports, filing, photocopying, scanning, clippings, agendas – they are all part of the daily grind and as much as there will be boring stuff, there will be super exciting stuff too. It is actually really important to learn how to do these tasks effectively so that when you hit a new job, you will know the ins and outs of providing clients with update status reports, agendas and progress reports for meetings and how to generate a solid report for the end of the month.

Don’t be afraid to speak up Or in other words, use your initiative. In most placements, you get as much out of them as you put in so never be afraid to ask for an opportunity or to offer creative input for a client campaign (no matter how silly you may think it is.) Your colleagues are going to be super busy and they can’t, as much as it may be annoying, be thinking about what you are doing all the time. As well as ensuring you are offering full support on Account Managers or Seniors workloads, ask to attend that event or send across creative ideas for a client pitch you overhead the team discussing. What have you got to lose?

As well as having the confidence to do this, make sure you have the confidence to speak up if you feel unhappy. You have the same rights as any other employee and if you feel bullied, exploited or uncomfortable in a task you have been asked to do then never be afraid to talk to your reporting manager. It is in the company’s interest to make sure you are happy, motivated and producing high quality work and at the same time, you do not want to walk away after a year feeling as if you have achieved nothing.

Be professional at all times OK, essentially your a University student. But while your on placement, you are (and should be treated as) an employee and therefore a representation of the company and its practices. If you are offered the opportunity to be client facing on some accounts (talking directly to clients, attending client meetings, working closely with them) then you must ensure that you are professional to keep clients confident that the quality of the work before you started will not be compromised. Make sure you dress appropriately (forget turning up to Uni in trackies, scruffy hair and last nights make up) and if you suffer bad hangovers, do not go out the night before a meeting (you’ll only fuel the stereotype). Until you are confident, watch carefully how other experienced members of the team talk to and manage the client and the press.

Ask questions Again, another thing us interns can sometimes be afraid to do. If you have a load of changes on your press release but no explanation why, ask for feedback and ask how you can improve things next time. It’s time consuming for people to continually change all the press releases you send them so by improving your strengthening your own skills and making life easier for everyone else.

Practice your weaknesses This year is all about gaining as much skills and knowledge as you can to best prepare you for future employment following graduation. If you know you have a lack of experience in event management, explain that and ask to be involved and see the planning and management of event from start to finish. Practice your writing through press releases (with feedback!), or even feature article or case study writing if you haven’t had an opportunity to do this before.

Keep a diary Daily, weekly, monthly – whatever! You will probably have to do a reflective assignment for University throughout the course of your placement so this will be handy to refer back to you and use as an appendices.

Monitor your coverage Remember trying to scrape together some form of coverage for your first year porfolio? Well this year you will not be short, so make sure you keep tabs on everything you write and all the coverage it achieves. It may be a bit of a pain but you most certainly won’t be thinking that when you have a huge portfolio to take to interviews!

Contacts It’s absolutely true that sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. During the course of my placement I have been lucky enough to have been put in front of and develop relationships with some of the top journalists in the industry and it is  important that you keep your relationships with them ‘alive’ and take note of their details so you can utilise these in the future.

Keep in touch Stay in touch with the company – you never know what might happen after graduation! 🙂