GET INVOLVED in blogging! Behind the Spin’s #BestPRBlogs competition launches for a third year!

Blog yourself a job!

Autumn has officially hit and the new academic year is about to launch itself in earnest, bringing with it all the lectures, seminars and assignments that become the staple features of our lives as we strive towards the best possible grades we can manage – after all, its those grades which are going to be the deciding factor in getting us a graduate job….aren’t they?

I’d actually argue that its in fact the ‘extra-curriculars’ which set you apart from your peers and get you that all important foot in the PR door.

Don’t mistake my meaning; securing a decent qualification (especially one that you’ve invested a considerable amount of money and time in) is of course important in showing people that you know what you’re talking about. But, saying that, in my job-hunting experience at least, my grades (despite being good) were always only a MINOR part of what grabbed employers’ attention when it came to my applications.

Instead I discovered (admittedly to my shock) that it was my social media presence and in particular my blog that secured me my interviews and, eventually, my role at London-based agency, Houston PR. I know that my position at Houston in particular was gained in this manner as I was invited to interview via Twitter after Managing Director, Hamish Thompson, read through some of my posts.

However, what my interviewers and employers may not know is that without Behind the Spin‘s annual ‘Best PR Student Blogger’ Competition, I might never have stuck with my blog long enough to fall in love with writing and appreciate the ways that my own unique ‘voice’ can break through the noise.

My love for blogging is by no means unique however, as last year’s winner, Livi Wilkes (whose blog ‘Live, Love, Laugh PR‘ was commended for its “honest and engaging” writing style) shared this love claiming that:

“I blog because I love it’… …’ being recognised so highly for something I love doing is such a lovely feeling!”

So what IS #BestPRblogs?

Offering aspiring PR students the opportunity to learn, practice, build their networks, and promote their expertise within a lively community, Behind the Spin’s contest now enters its third year of highlighting the best blog posts written by UK-based PR student bloggers.

Keep in mind:

  • It doesn’t matter if your blog has all the fancy bells and whistles that make it visually perfect.
  • It doesn’t matter if your posts are written as an assignment or in response to something topical you’ve seen or read.
  • It doesn’t even really matter if you don’t manage to write something each week (though the more you post, the more chances you have of being chosen as a weekly winner.

The important thing is that you are interested in what you’re writing about; that you have proofed your work before publishing (Typos never look good); that you use social platforms to promote and try to build a community around your work; that you reference the source your images/videos if they’re not ones you’ve taken yourself; that you use relevant hyperlinks when appropriate; and (without sounding ridiculously cheesy) that you have fun – after all, it’s enjoying the experience that makes it easier to type out the cacophany of brilliance in your head.

WORKING

Each week, PR academic and Behind the Spin‘s Editor, Richard Bailey, will browse the #bestPRblogs and #PRstudent hashtags, and collate a selection of the best blog posts written by UK-based PR students (plus the best photo taken by a PR student (usually taken from Instagram)).

Weekly winners will be recorded in an ongoing leaderboard which will determine the final shortlist of talented writers announced next April. These five bloggers will then be given just four weeks to polish, edit and impress the discerning and digitally-savvy, Michael White (Associate Editor for Behind the Spin and Digital Account Manager for Lansons), who will go through each of their blogs with a fine comb before announcing Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger 2016!!!

There are plenty of blogs out there you can use for inspiration such as:

If you’re still really stuck on where to start after reading all those though, you can always read: How to write a blog post, which outlines all the basic things you should be paying attention to.

Happy Blogging!!!

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So…. Was it worth it?

scribblepenNow that I am drawing towards the end of my Masters studies and am facing the inevitable leap back into the graduate pool (albeit with considerably more awareness and experience than after my undergrad), I feel it’s important to finally take a step back and answer the recurring question I keep being asked…

Was it actually worth it?

Admittedly, I can understand where my friends, colleagues and family were coming from last summer when they expressed concern about my returning to academia after a year out in the ‘real world’? After all, I had one degree already, not to mention a fair amount of (sadly unpaid) experience in public relations. What could returning to De Montfort University for ANOTHER year of study really offer me? Other than another load of debt to shoulder, I mean.

Additionally, PR tends to get the subtle reaction of ‘eh?’ when described. I wouldn’t think it’s that hard to understand. After all, its all about helping to shape and maintain the image of a company, organisation or individual whilst marketing its products/services via third party endorsers.

Doing a Masters didn’t just allow me another year of burying myself in fascinating areas of contemporary research though (Don’t judge me; I’m a nerd!), it in fact opened doors for me that I’d been hammering on for a while – not to mention a few that I didn’t even realise had been closed.

Don’t get me wrong. Graduating with a 2:1 in International Relations and Journalism from a fairly well-respected university gave me options. However upon realising in my third and final year that despite being a dab hand at editioral copy and being skilled in meeting short and changeable deadlines, I didn’t just want to report on campaigns that did (or didn’t) do well; I wanted to work with clients to help build and shape these innovative campaigns that justified being reported on. I knew that turning to the ‘dark side’ (or at least pursuing it enough that I could sit on the fence and juggle the two) was something that would not only be rewarding to my professional and personal growth, but also was pretty inevitable.

Although I’d thrown myself into the deep end and gained a range of experiences across sectors, I felt that undertaking a MSc qualification would provide that added sense of ‘confidence’ and ‘sureity’ in my knowledge and skills that I felt I was lacking in my job-search, whilst also demonstrating to potential employers how determined and dedicated I was (and am) to seriously pursuing PR as a career.

Saying that though, I won’t deny having second thoughts. Everybody does.insomnia

The niggling doubts whispering that taking out a PCDL on top of a student loan was ‘irresponsible’ and that I should have just pulled on my big girl pants and gotten a job were pervasive and despite being irrational, were always at the back of my mind until perhaps mid-way through my second term.

Sometime during that second term though, I honestly think I had my ‘lightbulb moment’ that this was exactly where I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to be doing.

I’m not sure what set it off… Perhaps it was realising that I do in fact know an awful lot more than I thought I’d known; perhaps it was talking to people who expressed feeling just as much of a duck out of water as I had after graduating; or perhaps it was just the sense of waking up in the morning and actually looking forward to another day of writing about things I really cared about. All I know is that somehow, suddenly, everything just seemed to settle and ‘click’ into place.

My second term ended, and quickly blended into my third; and alongside being shortlisted for a national blogging contest for PR students (in which I subsequently came joint ‘Second/Highly Commended’), I also began being regularly invited to join local BBC radio panel discussions with Ben Jackson talking about aspects of the 2015 General Election – something the political geek in me was THRILLED at.

So… now that I’m truly at the end of my Masters (I handed in my last proper ‘assignment’ today), I thought it was high time to reflect on this last year and the value of the further education I’ve chosen to invest both time and energy into.

I decided that my experience can be summed up in the following key ways:

1) No matter how much education you feel you should ‘have’ before seeking a job, the key thing holding new graduates back is a lack of confidence and awareness of how to translate academia understanding into professional practice.

2) A postgraduate qualification is effectively a piece of paper. A nice piece of paper signposting your ‘knowledge’ in a particular area, but not the be all and end all of an employers analysis of you.

3) Extracurriculars are vital. Whether it’s writing a blog, joining a club/starting a new hobby, or taking part in your local paper/radio etc., having elements such as these on a CV act as a ‘balance’ to academic ability and professional experience, tells the employers your values and priorities and (perhaps bluntly) whether they could put up with sharing an office space with you for more than five minutes.

4) These ‘extra’ curriculars are just that; ‘Extra’. They often do not come as part of an academic course and unless you are *extremely* lucky/wealthy/well-connected, be sure that they will not just “fall into your lap” if you wait long enough. Be proactive.

5) Invest in your personal development and recognise that at the end of the day, in pursuing a Masters qualification in something that expands your skillset and is professionally applicable, that is precisely what you are doing, and keep doing it.

Its like putting a puzzle together without the box for guidance. You flail around a lot to begin with getting flustered and frustrated at both yourself and the world. Then you plan out an in-depth plan of action in solving the ‘challenge’ being faced so that when you finally do make that step and face the daunting prospect of putting that puzzle together, you know that althoguh it may take a little longer, you’ll still get there eventally.. The decision you have to make is how you ‘flail’ and how you approach complex issues in later lfe.

Whether this degree is ‘worth it’, I suppose is yet to be seen – after all, I’ve not found a job yet.

However it is early days and I know that compared to my prior experiences as a new graduate, I am now far more knowledgeable about the industry; far more self-aware about my role and priorities within it for professioanl and/or personal growth; and far more confident in my abitlity to use the skills I’ve learned to positive effect.

So it seems that as I dive back into the fray, I’ve grown as a person. My MSc may or may not have improved my career prospects (I like to think it did), but as I consider the future, I have realised that I’m content.  Not happy per ce, as I’ll miss spending weeks looking into yet aanother niche area of research, but definitely more content about my current situation, the future, and about life in general.

I’m ready to make that step into the job market without fear of rejection. I know I’m ready.

Bring it on!

Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger of the year: SECOND PLACE!!!

What some (but not many of you) may be aware of is that seven lonnnnng months ago, PR Practitioner and Academic, Richard Bailey (who is also the Editor of online PR magazine, Behind the Spin) kicked off this academic year’s #BestPRblogs competition to promote the work of student bloggers (like myself) who are passionate about public relations.

One month ago, Livi Wilkes, Lauren Old, Morta Jablonskaite, Simona Novokova and I were shortlisted. I couldn’t have been more pleased! After all, I’ve only really been blogging properly since last September so to have my work deemed strong enough for the shortlist of a national contest with over fifty talented entrants was a really nice surprise.

Anyway, we had a month to impress Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer for  and regular blogger in his own right (Seriously, check out his blog!), who was judging us based on:

  • Our content,
  • Our effort to build a community
  • Technical competence in the design and function of our blogs

Today, the results were announced and Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger of 2015 was named in a dedicated blog post by Stephen…..

Morta and Simona achieved joint status as runners-up for their blogs Just PR (Morta) and SN’s PR Campaigns blog (Simona), both of which are beautifully designed and contain in-depth insightful content on a wide range of areas.

Me, myself and I? I placed (joint) SECOND/Highly Commended alongside mature student, Lauren, whose blog shares her experiences juggling her studies with being a mum. Her posts often make me smile, particularly her posts (like this one) relating her experiences raising a two year old to aspects of public relations.

Stephen’s feedback was very kind and reinforced areas I know I need to improve. He said:

Ashley’s Comms and Caffeine blog uses the Adele WordPress template. It’s a good portfolio design with links to her social media profiles. She’s a prolific blogger often posting several posts per week. The content is a mix of campaign analysis and insight into areas of practice. Ashley isn’t afraid of controversial subjects; a recent post takes on the Protein World campaign. Her next job is to work on engagement around her content to generate comments and inbound links.

Engagement has always been my weakness and I think my confidence is a strong possible cause for this. So, after my exams finish, I am dedicating (at least part of) my summer to improving the engagement surrounding my content to expand my reach and gain increased exposure for my work.

That only leaves the girl who secured first place and won the title of Best PR Student Blogger of 2015,

LIVI WILKES!!!

I’m so darn happy for Livi as her blog, Live Love Laugh PR, is a personal favourite of mine (I get to admit that now!). The open passion and clear love she demonstrates for PR is something I share wholeheartedly, and I love both the clean simplicity and overall ‘prettiness’ of her blog’s design as well as the down-to-earth tone she takes in her posts.

Overall, its been a pretty wonderful day and I can’t thank Richard enough for running this project over the past seven months and inspiring a new generation of public relations bloggers. Not only has this experience shown me how easy, interesting and FUN blogging is once you get started, it’s also really helped me gain confidence in my own personal ‘voice’.

The only way is up and thanks to Behind the Spin, I’m one step closer to making my mark in the industry.