The successful PR student is curious, passionate and persuasive. They have a natural instinct for understanding the motivations and interests of their audience and understand how to use these. They also understand what results their client desires and expects and is able to meet these. The only way that you can achieve this successfully is through staying informed.
When beginning a course in PR you will quickly learn that being informed is very important. In seminars and lectures you will be expected to be aware of current news and affairs and how these relate to PR. This can be a daunting prospect, there is so much news out there, how can you possibly stay informed?
Eight tips for staying informed
1) Social Media
I am a self-confessed Twitter addict, I check it when I wake, when I sleep and multiple times in between. However there are great benefits to using Twitter for staying informed, by following news accounts and PR professionals you can learn so much information. The knowledge I have gained through Twitter has even awarded me a box of chocolates following a class quiz!
Twitter also gives you a great idea of what people are talking about. Following Trending Topics and other hashtags can give you a great idea of what is capturing people’s interest at any time. For example, earlier this year in March #Kony2012 took over Twitter and other social media sites, this is the sort of thing that PR students need to know about.
Blogs are another great source of information, I use Bloglovin’ to keep up-to-date with my favourite blogs, and I have learnt so much from them. Everything from new trends in PR to current issues in the news.
2) News Websites
BBC News is my homepage, and lets me quickly get an idea of the latest news stories. There are many other news sites out there which will give you great up to date information and opinion on news. You can follow news directly from News Agencies such as Reuters, or even from press releases on sites such as PR Newswire if you are keen!
3) Broadcast Media
As a future practitioner you need to understand all types of media from new to traditional. I get a lot of my news from the radio. At times I believe I have a middle aged mind in the body of a twenty-something! Radio 4 is my station of preference, and there is a lot to be said to waking up to the morning news. There are also so many great current affairs programmes, and if you do not want to tune your radio, then they are available via iPlayer.
Understanding the types of news and stories that the radio broadcast is also vital in your career as a PR practitioner when you need to get a client coverage.
The TV is also a great resource, I love watching TV News and current issue programmes. If these are not your preference there is a lot to be said for keeping up to date with Soaps and Reality TV. As long as you understand how you can use these types of TV in PR then they are a useful resource.
You will frequently be told to read newspapers, but this can be inconvenient. I get a lot of my news from online newspaper sites, but it is very important to understand that this is not the same as reading a printed paper. The Daily Mail is targeting a very different audience online to the one they target in print.
I would recommend making an effort to buy one newspaper a week, this will allow you to get an idea of how articles are written, where they are published within the newspaper and what interests the paper’s audience. Vary the newspaper you buy from local to national, tabloid to broadband.
Free newspapers are brilliant as well, imagine how many people read the Metro or the Evening Standard each day on their commutes.
5) Celebrity News
Understanding the importance of celebrity in marketing communications is important. As a result it is useful to keep up to date with what celebrities are doing, what products they are releasing, or what they are currently promoting. Understanding their personal preferences and beliefs can be beneficial if you have a relevant product you need them to promote in the future.
It may not be fashionable to be interested in politics, but this affects you lives and job roles so it is useful to understand what is happening in the political world. If you are passionate and opinionated it may even be worth getting involved with student politics and your university will have societies to meet most political interests.
7) PR Specific News
You need to be aware of changes in the PR industry. It is a vibrant, innovative industry and as such issues such as measurement, definitions and communications tactics being regularly discussed. You can follow such news on relevant industry blogs (see my Blogroll for suggestions) and also by following websites such as Brand Republic, PR Week and The Drum.
It is also good to keep an eye on current PR campaigns, I cut out information about my favourite ones and collect them in a book. This is useful when needing to understand relevant campaigns.
8 ) Sector News
If you have a good idea of what sector you want to work in you need to understand current issues in that area. For example, if you like fashion you want to know the latest trends. I have an interest in Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals and as such websites like Pharma Times can keep me updated on relevant news issues.
Anyone starting a PR degree, you have chosen well, you are about to start a journey learning about one of the most exciting industries! To get the best out of your experience take opportunities to learn in and outside of the classroom.
This is where I live now (annescountrygallery.co.uk)
Around the country many of my fellow PR students will be tottering off nervously, excitedly, even confidently into offices to begin their placements years. I love writing about employability, and have looked at the subject of placement years numerous times, so I am very excited to be currently pursuing my own.
We all have our own personal reasons for choosing to take a year out of studying and undertake a placement year, so I wanted to share with you some of the qualities and experiences I hope to gain over the next year.
To become a better writer. There is always room to improve your writing, and this is something I am passionate about. Writing has been an outlet to me since I was able to craft words on a page. In my life I write down everything, from ideas, to lists, to emotions. The real skill in writing is learning to create work designed for a specific audience and succeeding in getting your message across. During my placement year I want to work hard on really refining my writing in order to develop the most effective form for my company.
To understand PR. This by no means translates as my course having been poor so far, but I do still feel I need to understand more about the role PR plays in the business world. A combination of short-term placements and academic theory have given me glimpses but in the next year I want to learn more about the importance of effective PR. By the end of the year I hope to be confidently defending the necessity of PR to any doubters.
Experience the environment. It is not possible to replicate the working atmosphere at university, so this year gives me a chance to enjoy the business environment and be able to get involved in all aspects of working life.
Know my dissertation! The dreaded D word! I am hoping that a year in industry will help me develop my PR interests and hopefully out of this will come a dissertation subject that will keep me interested throughout the assignment period.
Prepare for final year. Dissertation is simply one part of final year, and I believe a placement year will equip me with the skills and knowledge to help advance me during my final years, hopefully resulting in a satisfactory outcome at the end of my degree.
Ignite a love for the outdoors. Random one? Not really, my placement has seen me relocate from my city locations to a rural village in the South East. Being such a foreign environment my hope is that I embrace the access to the outdoors and get more involved with the walking, cycling and other outdoor activities I enjoy but neglect while in the city.
In a year’s time I will be sure to update you on whether I realised my hopes and wishes for the year. In the meantime I will be working hard to ensure I get the best experience from my placement year.
So, what do you want to gain from your placement year? Please leave your comments below.
My Public Relations course contains a lot of great modules, but one thing that I feel it has lacked so far is the development of maths skills. This may sound like a slightly bizarre desire considering my course does not inspire images of studying numbers. Perhaps it is explained by understanding that I am the daughter of not one, but two maths teachers. I never took maths past GCSE level, preferring to concentrate humanity and media subjects but I have always had a soft spot for maths.
In my previous job my maths skills came in handy almost constantly, from checking payroll to designing spreadsheets. Undeniably maths is a useful skill in life, ensure that you are getting the best value for money at the supermarket and not being ripped off by dubious offers, cooking the required quantity of food, even in planning your day a good understanding of numbers can be beneficial. But I ask myself, where does the value of maths lie in the world of PR?
It would be lovely to imagine there is a pool of endless resources out there, but there are not. Budgeting plays a vital role in any PR professional’s life. Being able to offer cost-effective strategies to create a good return on investment, or even the dreaded AVE. I have been picked up on my tendency to bring budgeting and finance into my university projects, from our first PR campaign assignment the finance was at the forefront of my mind.
Back to ROI and AVE (you may not like it, but it is still used), being able to measure the success of a campaign is essential. Having a good understanding of numbers can only help in this case.
You will not always have the opportunity to pay for your research to be analysed and therefore having a good grasp of mathematics is required to understand and rationalise research required.
We may not like it, but administration involves itself in many roles. My previous experience of admin has involved me needing a great understanding of maths. While it is not always necessary, it is endlessly beneficial.
I would be interested to hear other examples where maths skills have benefited you during your PR career.
We were tasked with writing a letter to London Mayor, Boris Johnson, analysing the damage caused by the London riots and financial crisis in relation to the London Olympics, we were then required to suggest strategies to improve London’s reputation.
I am particularly proud to be associated with my fellow winners, Lauren Sizer who won first place and Adele Roberts who took joint second.
My second new year’s resolution involved obtaining some great placements. Much of the emphasis of my course is based upon being able to demonstrate practical ability within a PR/Communications environment and the best way to do this is through placements. I have written numerous times about the importance of experience and placements, I have even written about ways of applying. What I have not yet written about is the educational benefits acquired from the search and application process.
Job hunting is a very exciting yet daunting activity. It takes physical and emotional energy, requires skills such as being able to sell yourself as well as a dose of good fortune. There can be heartbreak, you may lose out on the placement you wanted the most and there can be celebration when you grab the role that suits you the best. Overall it is a period of time when you learn an awful lot.
I was once in conversation with apprentice candidates, fresh out of school, full of energy and optimism. Asking them about their greatest learning experience a surprising number of them mentioned the during job-seeking they had learnt the most. At a young age we often have a naive impression of the job market, assuming that there will be the job that we desire waiting for us, but as we grow older and more experienced this vision is shattered as we come to face the reality of the world. It is tough to get the job you want. Perhaps I should not have been surprised by the number who identified job-seeking as educational, from my own experience it was a time in my life where I learnt a lot about business, about my ambitions and my personality.
I am continuing to learn, and through the last few months hunting for various placements have been particularly educational. I have been able to develop my skills in being recruited, learning about selling myself, my experience, personality and knowledge to an employer. Allowing the employer to see where I would fit into their organisation and how I would solve their problems and requirements. I have faced rejections and difficult questions but overall I have learnt so much and this has increased my confidence and ability.
Placement hunting has also taught me about what career I want to pursue. When I undertook a degree in PR I opened up the door to a huge industry encompassing many areas of business. Looking at the roles available to a candidate on my course I was able to identify what areas of PR I enjoy and at which I excel. While this has been a long term process, placement hunting made it easier to identify.
One of the greatest things about life is the lessons we can learn when we do not expect them. I have no doubt that my experience placement hunting will be beneficial to me when I graduate and need to pursue that precious graduate job. Looking at life as an education is also beneficial for the less successful endeavors, sometimes the best method can be to learn from your failures.
It is not a secret that experience is key to boosting employability. In a society where degrees are increasingly common, relevant experience now is not a bonus but rather a necessity for job seeking graduates.
Having met with PR students studying at rival institutions I became interested in the idea of compulsory placements. My degree course encourages us to seek placements from our first year, however other courses take it a step further and require students to complete a designated minimum time of industrial experience to pass the each level. Some courses require a 42 week placement year to be able to gain the degree. Fail to get a year placement, fail to get a degree!
When graduate jobs are competitive and many low level jobs require a years previous experience, by ensuring graduates have a good number of placements on their CV means they increase their likelihood of finding a great job.
Compulsory placements also support the movement of PR towards becoming a profession, a popular movement in some PR circles. Many professions, such as teaching and nursing, involve placements during training. Even dismissing the PR profession debate, can a graduate really be ready for an industry if they have never experienced it first hand?
On the other hand it would be hard to find a PR academic who does not encourage gaining work experience. Even while it may not be deemed compulsory most institutions will direct students towards gaining placements while studying. University is not about spoonfeeding students, it is a place for independent learning and research, supported by classroom theory. Motivated students will actively seek placements without being forced into doing so, these are the students who will graduate with the strongest degrees.
Another issue that could arise from compulsory work experience is the issue of unpaid placements. While I have previously supported such schemes, they do have a time and place. I do not feel easy with the idea of a PR student undertaking a year’s unpaid internship because otherwise they will fail their course.
I would be interested to hear your opinion on compulsory work experience. Good or bad?
Welcome to 2012! If we believe the Mayans then we may witness the end of the world, or otherwise we may just live another of many years to come. Either way if 2011 is anything to go by this could be another dramatic, heartbreaking, interesting, amazing, educational year.
2011 was a brilliant year; I learnt a lot, met fascinating people and have experienced amazing things.
I’ve chosen three new year resolutions to share with you to ensure 2012 is an absolutely brilliant year.
Read more books. I love reading a lot, from books, to newspapers, magazines and even the back of a cereal packet. There is rarely a moment where I am not reading, however I am reading a lot less books these days which I feel is a shame. So my first resolution is to read a lot more from books. I love crime thrillers and satirical fiction so if anyone can recommend great books in these genres it would be great. Also I’d love to read more industry related books so if anyone has recommendations I would also appreciate that and might even review them on this blog.
Obtain some great placements. I am currently looking for short term PR placements and a placement year opportunity beginning from this summer. It is a little bit daunting but more than anything it is extremely exciting. This year I want to get some great placements particularly looking at Healthcare, B2B and Internal Communications. Hopefully I will be able to bring you news about some great placements on this blog.
Improve my Ultimate Frisbee skills. I have made no secret of my involvement in my university’s Ultimate Frisbee team and my house is testament to this with numerous discs and trails of mud leading to well used boots. However the reality is I’m shamefully bad at playing the game. Up to now I have used multiple excuses from being too busy to an old ankle fracture but I now have physio treatment and my list of excuses is disappearing quickly. 2012 is my Frisbee year! Through a combination of nutrition, fitness and determination I hope that by the end of this year I will no longer be embarrassed to admit I am not a beginner at the sport. I also hope to play in Leeds varsity and show those Uni boys that they no longer dominate the sport!
Undoubtedly I will continue to update my blog with the developments of my resolutions. I would also be really interested in hearing from my readers what their resolutions are. Are you doing something crazy like jumping out a plane? Or is this year going to be the year you take up running? I would love to know.
I am an advocate of apprenticeship schemes and believe that the introduction of PR apprentice schemes can only be beneficial for the industry. It would seem I am not the only fan with this year’s PRWeek census reporting 94% of agency MDs wanting such a scheme and a staggering 92% saying they would consider employing an apprentice.
They are completely right in their thinking, apprenticeship schemes enable organisations to employ low cost workers and train them to be suit the needs of an organisation, this is instead of paying for a more expensive graduate from university who will still need to adapt to your organisation.
With the option of an apprenticeship the length of a standard PR degree it makes university seem a dramatically less appealing option. With the choice of being paid to gain the skills and experience the industry demands or amassing considerable debt to obtain a degree with which you may still be unemployable, the better option should be obvious.
Is this a threat to PR degrees then? There are a number of very well designed, developed and respected PR degree courses in the UK and I highly doubt that an apprenticeship scheme would kill these off, however I do think it is important for degree courses to ensure that they are offering students employability skills, particularly in light of Marshall Manson’s recent comments on PR degrees.
Another issue is how current PR undergraduates should react, should we be concerned? Perhaps, apprentices are initially significantly cheaper with the advantage of learning organisation specific skills. This should simply encourage undergraduates to work harder to gain a range of transferable skills which can be utilised over a number of organisations.
Overall I think this is another important development in the PR industry. Many PR professionals are former journalists, but with journalism being an increasingly difficult career path younger PR professionals come from different routes such as studying PR as their main discipline or graduate schemes. Apprenticeships are simply another development in entry routes into the PR industry, and one I would say is very positive.
What is your opinion on PR apprenticeships? Do they pose a threat to the PR degree?
This October I will be taking my novice running legs and challenging myself to the Great South Run, 10 miles of the biggest challenge of my life. All money raised will be going to Children with Cancer. Click the photo below to sponsor my group. Thanks for all donations, they will help spur me on to complete my challenge.