The top three WORST things you can do as a PR graduate

People can be their own worst enemies sometimes, and new grads are no exception. In fact, I believe new graduates can be very hard on themselves. After finally getting over the stress of your final year at university, you’ve now ticked that academic box of (hopefully!) success and have been firmly thrust into a dauntingly big pond. *Hint: You are the little fish.

There’s an awful lot of competition out there and everyone is vying for attention; so, rather than adding to the swathes of articles/blogs/columns touting what you *should* be doing, I have made a list of the top three worst things a grad can do to damage their chances and nailing that sought-after role.
1) Assume you have nothing left to learn

This is key. Don’t be arrogant and assume that now you’ve graduated or attended a prestigious school that you’ve got nothing left to learn. PR degrees have become increasingly popular over the last few years and although some of them are very good (I like to think my MSc was), you don’t need one to start a career in PR.  In fact, you don’t need a degree at all.

Yes, you’ve earned that certificate saying you know about your subject but knowing the theory for why something works doesn’t always translate into being able to do absolutely everything entailed in a role.That often only comes with hard graft and experience.

Employment is a learning curve but common areas for personal growth once in a PR role include:

  • Phone skills and ‘selling in’ to journalists.
  • Email Etiquette for different stakeholders depending on your/your agency/client’s relationship with the recipient.
  • Technological capabilities – There is a HUGE number of programs and tools out there that you won’t have had access to whilst as a student.
  • Client management
  • Confidence in your abilities – This is something that comes with time but being a new hire and a new entrant to the industry understandably comes with a bit of insecurity and if you’re like me that means you might overthink things on occasion. Trust in yourself and and don’t be afraid to ask for help/support/a second pair of eyes.

2) Sell yourself short

That being said, don’t let yourself feel that you need a degree from a prestigious college to be successful, or that you need to live up to your peers’ achievements or that you need to have all these skills going in. Without sounding trite, everyone has their own journey and although yes it might feel frustrating to feel like you’re struggling, good employers will make a point to support new hires in building these skills. After all, it’s a win-win.

It’s a balancing act of acknowledging your areas for improvement and demonstrating the confidence, initiative and passion for the industry you want to succeed in. A lot of the time it’ll really come down to being willing to learn so have confidence in yourself and go in to interviews with a positive mindset.

 

3) Disengage from your personal brand 

This is something I will openly admit that I personally struggled with once I started working. Managing all of my personal branding and research on top of a jam-packed professional day was difficult to adjust to, particularly given that I was also battling long commutes and a landlord with a vendetta against modern technology…

Seriously… no wifi?! How is a girl supposed to connect with the world?!

It should come as no surprise that my mobile data plan was wiped out within days…

The first tip for countering this is to try taking some time out of your weekend to write. Depending on what you can juggle around, you can either write a post a week just giving updates or you can write a few posts and then schedule them to be published during the week whilst you’re at work – the latter being more successful in practice for us PR folks I think.

As for my second tip, it isn’t really what I’d call a tip but more of a tool.

*Disclaimer: If you haven’t come across ‘If this, Then that‘, prepare to have your mind blown!

IFTTT (as it’s more commonly known) is an online and mobile app that connects your platforms to each other and basically does what it says on the tin with very little in terms of faffing.

Once you’ve set up your preferences the way you like, the app will automatically respond to you doing ‘this’- ‘this’ being anything from uploading a picture to Instagram or posting a Tweet – by doing ‘that’ whether its sharing that photo on your blog (*See below) or sharing a blog post to Facebook.

It’s a great way to make sure you integrate all your online platforms so that your online profile is consistent and up to date.

Getting your proverbial ‘ducks’ in a row is really very simple with a little bit of planning and once you’ve managed it, it’s even easier to fire off those CVs, wow the recruiters, and nail that all important interview.

If you’d like to look at a more comprehensive list that relates to both senior and junior professionals, I highly recommed Edelman’s latest post.

 

 

 

Day in the life

Making that transition from education into professional life can often be a struggle. Suddenly, you’re expected to hit the ground running and put all that theory into practice with often only the support of your colleagues and online career advice to guide you.

That being said, it’s important to get an idea of what you’re jumping into as an Account Executive so – taking into consideration that no day is really the same in PR – I thought I’d grant you all a small exposé as to what a normal day at London’s Houston PR (the agency which gave me my ‘break’ into the world of professional public relations) would involve.

6am – My first alarm which (unsurprisingly) I would snooze… repeatedly. Suffice to say, I’m not a morning person.

7.10am – Leave for the bus, usually running because I’d rather do that than spend an extra second standing out in the cold/wet.

7.30am – The bus arrives. It’s supposed to be an hours journey by (perhaps typically for the London rush hour) it never is; luckily I’m early enough on the route to regularly manage to get a seat for the majority of the journey.

8.40am – Arrive in central London and buy coffee no. 1 of the day as well as a bagel or small salmon baguette. The baristas in both Pret and Cafe Nero know me on sight, but Cafe Nero wins the morning coffee slot with their extra shot – something I definitely need.

8.45am – Arrive at the office (just around the corner) and check national news websites, my to-do list for the day and my inbox (both in-case of something urgent that needs attending to and also in case I’ve heard back from any journalists).

9.10am – Weekly staff meeting to discuss updates on all clients as well as where we are within our new business pipeline.

9.40am – Quick briefing with my direct superior to go over my notes and discuss direct actionables for the week which I add to my to-do list in order of priority. I also provide an update on the progress of the bi-weekly insight sessions I currently run on social management and analytical tools.

9.50am – Check keywords for whether any coverage has been achieved overnight and (after verifying them) add any new pieces to the clients’ cuttings files and coverage documents alongside their respective details. We have a couple of clients who prefer daily updates so this is a common (and relatively simple) task for when I first get into the office.

10.10am –  A few responses have come in from a couple well-known magazines requesting more information about a client’s product line. There are also one or two blogger requests for items to review. I check their circulation; one has a high enough reach to be suitable so I fire off an email checking how the client would prefer it handled in terms of logistics.

10.30am – Called into an impromptu meeting by an Account Manager to discuss a new client whose meeting they want me to sit in on later today.

11am – Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. And I finally get the chance to eat the breakfast I’ve been picking at for the last two hours.

11.15am – Back at my desk and client has called in needing a list of all major technology publications so I start going through our online databases pulling out titles that are appropriate for their market, outlining their circulation as well as contact information for the most appropriate journalist, and collating them within a report to mail over.

12pm – A call comes in from a client requesting feedback on something I have been involved in but not directly enough to be able to help. She sounds stressed and expresses that it’s needed within the next day or two. I make a note of her request and forward it to the appropriate colleague with an offer to handle it if needed; they’re in meetings for most of the day but will most likely be checking email periodically. I also make a point to reassure the client and give a fair estimate of when she can expect to hear from us. I’m hoping that after a month or so of emails, she might remember me – she doesn’t, but she sounds a lot more positive by the end of the call so I hope she will do soon.

12.10pm – Back to trawling databases for leads. I’m now cross-referencing the list I’ve compiled against publications’ reach and the names of journalists with whom I know our agency has a pre-existing relationship. It’s always nice to skip the introduction stage after all.

12.30pm – Proof and make edits to a press release that is due to go out. It needs bulking out with more facts and/or quotes so I trawl through the hivemind of Google for something appropriate and tweak it before sending it back to my colleague to go out.

1pm – The coverage report I sent out for one of my clients was missing a couple of items that didn’t show up on our media monitoring. The client noticed the omission and – given that its the second time in as many weeks that our cuttings service hasn’t picked up everything it should – understandably they’re pissed and (because they know it’s not an oversight on our end) I’m tasked to recify the issue and liase with the media monitoring agency to try and find out where the gap is in their scope.

1.20pm – Lunchtime! Due to living in a glorified box without kitchen facilities, this is my main meal of the day so I take my leave of the office for a short walk and some “me” time (often used to plan these blog posts) before making a choice on what to eat… working on the Strand means the options are endless so today I swing by Koshari Street (an Egyptian street food cafe on St Martin’s Lane) for a Lentil and Swiss Chard soup.

2.20pm – Social media is an important and essential tool for both our clients and our business. To keep ourselves up to date with the myriad of tools and tricks out there, I host a bi-weekly insight session on key tools that would benefit specific clients but this means taking the time to research and assess their relevance before adding the relevant details to the powerpoint I’m designing.

3.30pm – I sit in on a client meeting with a manager and the MD. We have a couple of international clients so despite the difficulty of juggling timezones, regular conference calls allow us to better understand their needs and expectations as well as making sure they appreciate our role and where we are within their campaign.

4.30pm – The meeting took longer than expected so I start finishing up today’s To-Do list and make my final calls to journalists following up on coverage or pitches.

5pm – Before I leave, I tidy my desk space and write up the key actionables for tomorrow morning.

5.30pm – Leave the office and grab a sandwich or soup before I get to the bus stop. I can already see that the traffic is insane and – as more people leave the office – I know it’s only going to get worse.

7.15pm – Home. Finally.

7.30pm – Shower

8pm – Blog and skype my family and friends.

9.30pm – Put on a film and try to relax. More often than not I end up scrolling through Twitter and industry news sites.

11pm – Sleep.

Not so much baby steps as diving in with both feet.

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Quick selfie after arriving early at the office #keenbean

Starting a new job is always a bit of a daunting prospect. A new office, new colleagues, and new clients – each with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies; it’s a lot to take in and adapt to, particularly when you’re making the jump from academia to working life.

The last week or so has been jam packed with firsts for me as I’ve not only started a fab new role at Houston PR, but I’ve also made the jump from Leicester to the BIG CITY i.e. London.

*Note: the streets are paved with chewing gum not gold. I know… I was disappointed too.

What wasn’t disappointing (in fact the complete opposite) was my job. Despite being *almost* pee-my-pants nervous on my first day – which wasn’t helped by experiencing London rush hour traffic for the first time (despite leaving an hour early for a very short journey, I was still pushed for time) – I’m loving every minute.

Its still early days of course, but fitting into the team has felt completely natural – it still freaks me out that I only started on Monday; it feels so much longer!!! – and I’ve got some really interesting clients to work on. I’m even being given the opportunity to help towards the pitches for two potential new clients (my favourite part of the week so far), and have been asked my opinion on the effectiveness and capabilities of several systems and processes.

Overall, I’d say this week has taught me four key things:

  • Working in PR is very different from studying it and you’re expected to learn fast..
  • Being able to put what you know into practice is the best feeling.
  • Having done internships and gained experience beyond academic life makes things so much easier.
  • Finding the right agency/role for you is so important and, despite the risk of moving to the most expensive capital in the world, I know I made the right decision by joining Hamish and the team at Houston PR, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

The 7 Top Tips for a #PRstudent to get their first graduate job!

neesonSo, it’s that time of year again where summer is almost over and we’re slowly coming to terms with the looming reality of returning to university or *gasp* facing the daunting prospect of needing to get a job.

Now, if – like me – the prospect of becoming a fully-fledged adult (complete with taxes and commuting) has a tendency to give you heart palpitations, I thought I’d make things a little less stressful and give my top seven tips for getting that all important graduate job.

1.  Experience is (almost) everything!

Public relations – and, for that matter, most creative industries – is notoriously competitive to get into. This competitivity is even more pronounced at junior levels where swathes of new grads are fighting it out for the attention of increasingly discerning employers. One of the best ways to get their attention (and those elusive job offers) therefore, is to show whoever is potentially hiring you that you know your way around an office and the positions you are looking to fill.

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Whether it is an internship, a collaborative project like Stephen Waddington’s #PRStack, writing for communities such as that built by Behind the Spin or volunteering your abilities within/for a not-for-profit, all experience is readily seen as good experience and, as such, does wonders for not only showing an employer you won’t crumble in the job, but also helps you gain confidence in your skillset and your ability in applying your academic knowledge to a professional context and environment.

2.  Figure out what makes you special and own it!

Now anyone who knows me knows I have a wide and arguably uncommon variety of interests (from WWE to politics to rats to blogging on a regular basis). As an undergraduate, I believed that being seen as ‘weird’ would put agencies and employers off but the more I’ve explored the industry and built connections within it, the more I’ve noticed that in fact the opposite is proving true.

Being ‘weird’ and having seemingly ‘quirky’ interests has been a godsend during interviews as I genuinely feel that it has been one of the key aspects that has ‘set me apart’ and led to my applications being memorable – something that is all to important when you know the person hiring has umpteen CVs to go through where every CV is going to look basically the same.

3.  Know where to look.

There are thousands of job sites across the Internet. Some are great, while others are riddled with spam, so finding the most helpful sites for what you’re looking for can be a mammoth process. The best course of action is to of course browse job boards that specialise in public relations like the handy list provided below:

4.  Stand out on social media!WORKING

I know. I know. Breaking through the noise and standing out online (particularly in a positive manner) is much easier said than done. But networking online across all the commonly used platforms is one of the key ways in which to get your name out there and your profile known.

Additionally, social media also is a great way to find job ads and stand out to employers. Indeed, I have recently gained a graduate role myself through securing an interview with Hamish Thompson, MD of London’s Houston PR, via Twitter based on his reading my blog and discovering a few of my quirkier interests – particularly my love of stationary (something that is shared within his team already).

5.  When it comes to applying/interviewing, Research. Research. Research.

Social media however, is not the be all and end all for getting a graduate job. Keeping up-to-date and being knowledgeable about your industry as well as the agencies you’d like to work for is so important in making a good impression. Interviews test your ability, skills and character but an interviewer is often looking for more. Stand out by commenting on campaigns the agency has been involved in, content they have posted or their client’s industries.

6.  Be gracious (in both success and defeat).

It’s amazing how many people don’t follow up an interview by sending a quick note to say thank you.

DO NOT LET YOURSELF BECOME ONE OF THEM.

Show your appreciation to anyone and everyone who helps you out (and even the people who don’t). It leaves such a positive impression and will pay off in the long run. After all, PR is a surprisingly small industry, and you never know who you might end up at an event with (or even working with) in the future.

Most importantly though is number 7. Keep a cool head and don’t let the slog get you down!!! Stay positive, keep a balance, hang out with your mates, and you’ll get there eventually.

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Don’t just take my word for it though! Leave a comment below and let me know what you think! Are there any tips you want to share?

Hootsuite Certification: What? Why? and How?

So last weekend, I took the plunge and – in between bouts of frantically revising for my final research exam this Monday (which I really shouldn’t have bothered stressing about as it was super straightforward) – I finally got around to completing my Hootsuite Professional Certification. YAY! With that in mind, I thought it might be an idea to give a bit of a breakdown as to what Hootsuite is and what value a certification in it might (or might not) have within a creative career.

Hootsuite Certified Professional

So what IS Hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a social media management system that collates the feeds of all your social media profiles, such as Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, WordPress, Reddit etc.), and integrates them all within one handy dashboard.

Whether its your Twitter ‘mentions’, your Facebook comments, or your Instagram feed, you can have multiple streams that are personalised to whatever areas you are interested in keeping on top of. Plus, when you upgrade to Hootsuite Pro, you’ll also get access to ‘Bulk upload’ features, the ability to filter your feed by your user’s Klout score, AND the ability to analyse your data to give you the info on how to increase your followers, your content’s reach and your engagement with your community.

How do you get certified?

Honestly? It’s pretty simple. All you need to do is upgrade to Hootsuite Pro, Sign up to Hootsuite university (which is free with the Pro setup, go through the video lessons in ‘Getting started’ and ‘Advanced Tactics’, and then take the 40 question, multiple-choice exam. Super straightforward and super easy!

Why bother?

Although I am without doubt more than a bit of a social media addict, and (to be perfectly honest) this certification is incredibly easy to pass (in part because half the questions seemed a tad too ‘self-congratulatory’ about their work), I wanted to be certified in part because A) it gave me the opportunity to learn how to apply the professional features of a REALLY commonly used tool in PR, Advertising and Marketing, and B) it gave me the reassurance that I was using the software properly.

Would I recommend?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: It depends.

On the one hand, if you’re already working in a professional role where using Hootsuite is a daily part of your role, then getting professionally certified might be a bit of an overkill as you’re most likely going to pick up what you need to know merely through doing your job.

On the other hand though, if you’re still a student, or are yet to secure a job where social media plays a part, its always good to have another skill box to tick – especially when you can take advantage of the free trial to get it done. The (only) downside of this however, is that once you downgrade/stop paying for Hootsuite Pro, you lose your place within their ‘Certified Professionals’ database. Whether this is an issue for you however is up to you. For me, I’d hope my work would demonstrate my knowledge more than having my name in a database – though admittedly that is nice to have.

Expanding the boundaries of my content

Earlier today I was browsing this blog (reminiscing as you do) and I realised something…

For all my posts on strategic branding, or the way a bikini can help explain brand integrity, or the multitude of cheat sheets (like this one and this one) I’ve created, I’d forgotten one important thing; I wasn’t really showing my readers all of my interests. Or at the very least, (barring politics) I wasn’t showing them clearly enough.

I mean sure, people might be able to guess from my post on The Rock’s personal branding strategy that I’m into wrestling (and WWE in particular) and the personas that garner so much screaming attention.

They might even have twigged from my using rats to talk about reputation management that I have two grabby-handed monsters of my own (though the picture probably helped).

But they – by which I really mean You – might not realise how interested I am in:

  • creative design (particularly when it comes to architecture, typography and modern art),
Reverse graffiti is amazing!!!

                                    Reverse graffiti is amazing!!!

  • science & tech (because with the advancements and discoveries we are currently making how could anyone not be?)

189701-This-Week-In-Science-13th-19th-July-2015

  • animals,
  • and food (and not just because the animals make the food).

I also have a penchant for stationary (perhaps because of my interest in typology?) and a love of cafes – there’s just something about sitting in a quiet corner with the hustle and bustle going on around you, isn’t there?

Don’t mistake me, I know all too well the importance of “having a niche” when blogging. I’m sure we’re all are interested in PR or communications (in some way or another) so of course that is (and always will be) the core of all my content, but to be honest, I don’t fit snugly into any specific niche and neither do my readers.

So, the point of this post is that I’m rectifying that and am considering expanding my content focus a wee bit beyond its current boundaries. Whether it works or not will have to be seen but its going to be an interesting experiement nonetheless.

Let’s get digital (and social) with #MyDigitalCareer

So it’s been almost a week since the end of #MyDigitalCareer 11703358_632840450085757_8939266814298482214_nand I feel its  probably time to put my thoughts to paper (or the online equivalent of paper anyway).

Now for those of you who don’t know – which may well be many of you, the #MyDigitalCareer event (the brainchild of London-based Cloudnine Recruitment) was aimed at providing students and recent graduates with insights into social and digital roles, and advice on how to break into the industry.

At each evening’s talk (as the event lasted five days across a variety of London locations), twenty of the most influential and interesting leaders and practitioners in the Social Media & Digital industries, including: O2 Social Media Manager,1513681_632846740085128_3830231672129821664_n Rachel Kneen; Associate Director at Edelman, James Poulter; Head of Social and Community at The Guardian, Laura Oliver; and Salesforce digital guru, Jeremy Waite, author of “From Survival to Significance” (which I highly recommend by the way), gave us a breakdown of their experiences and insights into what’s important for those looking to follow in their footsteps before taking part in a short Q&A session prior to networking over drinks and nibbles.

I will admit, even before arriving last monday, 11694776_632840490085753_6290195808492707933_nI had high expectations of the event – not least because I knew Ketchum‘s Chief Engagement Officer, Stephen Waddington – who recently judged Behind the Spin‘s National blogging competition (in which I secured joint Second place) – would be one of the guest speakers.

These expectations however were far far surpassed.

As such, I thought it only fair to share with you my top ten key take-homes of the week. So, in no particular order (as they’re all great points to remember):

1) Read! Read journals, read blogs, read up on current affairs within whatever sector peaks your interest. As Jeremy Waite stated on Friday, “It matters most to be informed.”

2) Write; and (perhaps just as importantly) spellcheck. Not only does it demonstrate your interests, your industry knowledge, and your business awareness, but it is also highly regarded by both employers and their clients.

3) Be yourself! Without being loud or obnoxious (I mean how off-putting would that be), be confident enough in your ability to stand in a room and make yourself known for your deeds.

4) That being said, also be very conscious of what aspects of yourself that you present – particularly online where years-old drunken photos and ramblings can rear their ugly heads once more.

5) Pick a path but be ready to move with the times. Knowing what you love and going for it wholeheartedly is admirable after all, but we must not tie ourselves to one way of doing things in case it restricts our future growth. Time always changes things after all.

6) Network. Network. Network. This point in particular hit home for me as almost every speaker stated that every job they’d secured had been recommended to them via their networks.

7) Find a mentor; someone who will support, challenge and prove a helpful sounding board throughout your career.

8) Know that there’s no such thing as a work/life balance.

9) That being said, Learn how to say no, and try to maintain some semblance of one. That, or risk burning out early on in your career.

10) Stay curious. Whether it be about new trends, new tools, or new technology, staying curious will keep your knowledge, industry awareness, and skillset up to date and relevant. It is this (so they claim) that will set us apart.