The Importance of Networking

This week has been a whirlwind for me of presentations, volunteering and networking, but despite feeling like I haven’t had a minute to myself I would not change one thing. Each aspect has been and is vital to my future career, but my favourite one that has produced the most results for me has been networking. So many students get the opportunity to network, but don’t recognise them for what they really are. The event I ran in January, Meet The Professionals, is promoted as being an opportunity for students to network, but what happens when those opportunities are missed?

Recently it feels like I’ve been on a lucky streak when it comes to networking, but when it’s all boiled down to the basics it’s just me taking every opportunity possible. It all started at the CIPR Wessex AGM which, admittedly, I hadn’t associated with networking. As my university’s CIPR student representative I thought it would be something interesting to go along to, mainly to find out how it works and what sort of stuff is discussed. The last thing I expected was a networking opportunity that would spark a chain of events!

At this AGM I met Jason MacKenzie, the current President of CIPR, and, after working up the courage during the meeting, I asked if I could talk to him briefly after the meeting had finished and get some advice from him. After having a friendly chat with him about PR and generally putting the world to rights, he gave me some valuable advice, that I should be networking where I want to work, in my case London. Jason even offered me some help, introducing me to a couple of the committee members of CIPR Greater London (something I will always be so grateful for).

From here I attended my first Greater London event, the monthly DrinkNLink. I’m going to be honest, I was terrified. I thought I wasn’t going to know anyone there, that none of the professionals would want to talk to me, a lowly student, and that I would spend the majority of the evening sat in a corner nursing a (large) glass of wine (and possibly a bottle). I could not have been more wrong. Not only did I see Jason there, but I met other students in a similar situation to me and was introduced to professionals that were just as interested in me as I was in them. I had a wonderful time discussing wine, the NHS Missing Type campaign and hearing about one lady’s experience travelling the world for her career, something I now aspire to myself. In university I feel it is constantly suggested that there is this huge gap between academics and the industry, especially when it comes to networking, but I saw no gap on Monday. Everyone was willing to share their advice with me and even help me along the way and now I cannot wait for the next one!

My takeaway from these chain of events?

Take any opportunity you can. You may not realise it as a networking opportunity, but worst case scenario, you learn some new stuff about PR and get the chance to talk to people who have similar interests to you.

Be brave.Do you want to be working in Manchester or London, but you’re studying elsewhere? Be brave and make the trip. It’s more expensive, but if you can make connections with people in the area you want to work you’re increasing your chances of getting a job there! Yes, it’s scary when you don’t know people, but by throwing yourself in the deep end you’re giving yourself a lot of opportunities! Personally I’d suggest you go alone. Yes it’s ten times scarier, but if you’re with a friend you’re more likely to just stick together and not go out and meet new people. There’s a fine line between them supporting you and you staying in your comfort zone.

Take business cards. I’m going to do a whole blog on this, probably next week, but business cards are great way to make yourself memorable. They may seem old fashioned and outdated but they are still a great way of collecting all your contact information in one place. You’ll also receive lots in return, so I’d definitely recommend downloading the CamCard app onto your phone. It’s a way of storing all those business cards you collect in one place. You can even export and save it, just in case!

Be prepared. If possible find out who’s going and read up a bit on their companies. Find out what sort of industries they work in and if it’s relevant to what you want to do. You sound extra smart if you know a successful campaign they’ve worked on and can discuss it.

Know when and where to be. There are so many opportunities out there that you probably just aren’t aware of. Regularly checking the CIPR and PRCA calendars keeps you up to date with any events going on, if they’re relevant to you and if you can go along. These two organisations do a lot to help people, especially students, network and provide that helping hand to get you into the industry. You just need to be aware of it and willing to jump on board and grab the opportunity with both hands!

Use the opportunities! Don’t sit in a corner. Once you take the first step of talking to someone they are likely to introduce to someone else that they may know and so the chain of connections continues! I’m a very shy person when I don’t know someone, so taking that first step for me always feels almost impossible, but once I’ve done it the evening runs away with me and before I know it I’m chatting away and cracking jokes!

Be yourself. People buy people, so be positive and friendly. If you can show your passion for the industry others will notice. Talk about the specific areas of PR you’re interested in and why. Others may have differing opinions, but it’s a chance to learn more. Who knows, they may sway you to their way of thinking!

Ask questions. What sort of campaigns have they worked on? What’s their favourite department and why? How did they get to where they are today? Questions not only show you’re interested, but they also give you more information. Hearing someone talk about an industry that they’re working in that you’ve never considered before may well change your mind! People’s passion is strangely contagious.

Always follow up! Send an email the next day just saying it was lovely to meet them. If you said you’d send your cv send it across, if not, send it anyway! Even if you didn’t connect with them that well add them on LinkedIn. Ask about any opportunities they might have. Grad schemes may seem like the be all and end all but companies aren’t going to turn down a good candidate when they find one, so talk to them about any entry level opportunities they might have (if you haven’t already, of course)!

 

There are so many opportunity to grow your network, you just need to know where to find them, so keep an eye out, don’t be afraid and jump in the deep end. Who knows the connections and opportunities you may discover.

So good luck and happy networking!

A Positive Perspective 

It’s that time again when I decide on a new good habit and fill you in on how the last one went. I have to admit, I really struggled with the meditation, every time I tried to settle down I thought of something I had to do or I was disturbed. However, I will not be defeated and have decided to tackle this habit again in a couple of months, maybe May or June. I really want to keep trying to meditate and learn a way to stop my mind from moving at a million miles a minute, so I refuse to give up.

Anyway, onwards to the next good habit I want to try. Now following on from meditation and my poor attempts to settle my mind, I have decided to try and modify my mindset so I think more positively more of the time. If you know me you know that I’m a very positive person the majority of the time, but with finals approaching and the (possibly demoralising and definitely daunting) task of finding a job or grad scheme I have decided to inject more positivity into my life. How, I hear you say? By picking out 3 things from each day that make me feel inspired or proud or generally happy and satisfied. Whether it’s writing my weekly blog (one of todays, evidently), submitting an assignment or even something simple like eating enough fruit and veg. Reflecting each day on things that have made you feel better is a great way to train your mind focus on the positive aspects of your life. The brain is a muscle after all and the more you train it to think positively, the more it will!

 

This is something I used to do I while ago and I found it really successful, but unfortunately I fell out of the habit. So this is it. Me attempting to retrain my brain again to always look on the bright side of life. Something we should all do more often! 🌞 ☀️ 🌞 ☀️

 

6 Top Tips To Start Your Own Blog

Recently I’ve been asked by several friends of mine how I started my blog, how they could start their own and if I have any advice for them. I told them all the tips and recommendations I had, but I thought it would be useful for me to write a blog about it as well. Hopefully through this post I can encourage others to take the somewhat intimidating leap of starting their own blog!

Here are my top tips on how to create a blog that is sincere, interesting and relevant, so let’s get blogging!

Make It Yours

First of all choose your perspective and the main topics you’ll include. I focus on a range of student life material to PR, all stuff I can relate to on a personal level, but everyone has a different perspective and skill set. Maybe you’re studying abroad, or maybe your a creative writer in your spare time. We all have characteristics and skills that are great to focus blog content on and create a unique blog. People will also notice if you know what you’re talking about, so make sure you’re commenting on a topic that you would feel comfortable answering questions on or talking in more depth about.

Also, make sure you aren’t following in other people’s footsteps and really try and be unique and fresh with your content. People aren’t going to follow or return to a blog where they read the same content 10 other people have posted about. If you’re the first on a breaking topic regularly or are always original in your ideas your following will increase and just keep on growing!

Content Marketing

This is a great way of drawing more readers in and if you’re similar to me and either studying or working in the PR industry you’ll know this is an incredibly useful tool for raising awareness. Basically the idea is that you create or compile content that relates to the ‘product’ that will encourage people to view your page and therefore your product. For example, in my case my product is me, I use my blog to engage with others in the PR industry. To content market myself and encourage PR professionals to view my blog I post about the top PR successes and fails and relevant events I’ve attended, for example the PRCA debate. By sharing relevant and useful content (check out my LinkedIn top tips) and compiling information that otherwise people have to hunt around for, I increase my chances of people checking back in or following my blog.

Also people love a good list. So add a number to the title (obviously only however many points you’ve included, don’t say there are 10 top tips when there are only 5!) and break up your post into key points with subheadings, similar to what I’ve done here.

Images

Always include visual aspects to your blog, but please, please, please make sure they have a high resolution. The amount of times I have seen professionals 10x more experienced than me post a pixelated feature image and it just makes me cringe. There is nothing eye-catching and engaging about a pixelated image, so trash it and find a new one! There are plenty of stock image sites that have free, high resolution images that are perfect for blogs and feature images or even simple and easy ways to create your own!

Timing 

It’s all about the timing. Decide how many times you want to post a month or a week, set a day or days that you’ll post on and do your very best to stick to it, especially when you’re starting out. If people know when your blog will be going live they’re more likely to check back in at the same time each week.

Also, time your blog posts so that they go live when people have the time to check in and actually read them. Posting at 3pm on a Monday obviously isn’t feasible, so think weekends, lunch breaks or evenings around commuting time.

Be Confident

The beginning is always the most nerve-wracking, but have faith in your self and to begin with stick within your comfort zones. Obviously when you start out it’s normal to feel a little nervous, but if you’re writing about a topic that you are worried about posting chances are you shouldn’t be posting about it. Make sure you’re confident in your content. If you have knowledge or an opinion on a topic someone will be interested and may even find it useful then post away! However, if you aren’t very knowledgeable on the subject or it’s likely to offend someone it may be better not to post it. Most people stay away from religion and politics as a rule, but obviously use your common sense and stay away from anything that may offend others.

Share It

Finally, always share your content, especially when you’re starting and not many people know you’re blogging. I tend to share my content on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even on my LinkedIn. Sharing at the beginning is what gets you your views. People will follow your blog, but how can they follow it if they don’t know it’s there. Regularly sharing your content on social media and linking back to older posts when you get a chance is a great way to raise awareness of your blog.

 

So give it a go! Use your common sense and trust in yourself. Who knows, you may be the next best blogger! If you have any more questions for me, please get in touch and let me know how you’re blogging goes. I’d love to have a read!

 

Industry Vs Academics: PRCA Debate

Last Thursday I set off on a small adventure to London to attend the Industry Vs Academics PRCA debate. I had never really realised the division between the two sides before or at least I’d never considered it a divide. I’ve always seen the PR industry as one that is hugely diverse that you can join from almost any background and that’s one of the elements that I believe makes it fun to work in. Everyone has different experience and has a different approach to briefs, which is definitely refreshing.

Although I’ve only worked in the industry for a short time, part-time alongside university, everyone I worked with had a different history. Some had studied English literature, others had studied music promotion and others had studied journalism. The truth is that because PR covers every sector there’s room for everyone.

So what does having a degree in PR mean for me?

I believe it’s through experience and studying PR that you learn the most effective and successful ways to tackle different problems. People who join from other backgrounds may have the know-how of the sector, if that’s what they’ve studied before, but do they know the best way to engage with their audience via social media? Do they know how to structure and produce a press release?

I’d argue that for me now, after studying PR for almost three years and with around a years worth of experience in the industry, that a substantial amount of PR procedures have become common sense to me. Why wouldn’t you use social media to promote when it’s free and worldwide? Why wouldn’t you involve bloggers, celebrities and influencers (PewDiePie is another topic) to endorse your product or service?

This is where there’s a difference between PR students and other students. I have been specially ‘trained’ if you like, through live client briefs at university, work experience placements and employment in the industry, to know how to handle the stress of a career in PR, to understand that clients often need 24/7 care, to monitor media using tools including google alerts to ensure that I am on top of everything going on with clients. I have been taught all this to ensure that when I start my PR career after university I can hit the ground running. Something that students of other degrees may not be able to do.

However, although PR students may be better equipped when they first enter the industry others will soon catch up and that’s what we need. PR is one of the most diverse industries when it comes to previous experience and education, which is a good thing! It’s through a diverse mindset that we can achieve more. Everyone needs a devils advocate every now and again to point out the flaws and what could go wrong with a campaign and for that you need to have different expertise, experience or just a different mindset. PR students may have the advantage and training to begin with, but without other degrees and other expertise the PR industry would not be where it is now!

Good Habit Number 2

As you may have read in one of my previous posts (https://thejourneyofaprgirl.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/in-a-bid-to-be-different/) I have tossed New Year’s resolutions aside for 2017 and decided to try something new and hopefully more effective.

Apart from this week, my first good habit of posting a new blog post each week has been successful. I am inspired now more than ever to continue posting regularly, so *fingers crossed* this is a good habit that will stick!

So, onwards and upwards to my next good habit for February. My apologies for this already being two weeks behind, but let’s begin anyway!

This month I want to begin practicing meditation or at least focused breathing. This is something I’ve always struggled with. I have a very active mind and I am easily distracted if my mind isn’t being put to use and challenged. However, after all of the positive things I have heard about meditation and the effects it has on your mental state and stress levels I am determined to give this a go.

To aid me along my way I will be using a FitBit Charge 2 (a Christmas present) that has a preset focused breathing feature. Using this feature, I aim to meditate for 5 minutes (we’ll start small and work our way up) every day.

I will report back at the end of February on how this month has gone and what my next good habit will be. Let’s get meditating and find that tranquility!

Meet The Professionals 2017

As some of you who know me personally may be aware, I am currently the CIPR student representative for SSU. Alongside the opportunities for meeting other student representatives and professional members in the industry, this job role entails me organising and (hopefully successfully) running an annual event known as….. *drumroll, please* …… Meet The Professionals.

This event aims to bring together PR students and provide them with an opportunity to network with relatively local professionals who are currently in the industry. As a student who has benefitted from this event over the past couple of years it felt so good to be able to give back by hosting the event. Through my attendance last year I found somewhere for my summer work experience placement, an agency which later offered me a part-time job! The opportunities there are endless, whether the students are looking for future placements or just advice on how to get into the industry, who better to hear it from than professionals who have done it themselves!

I am so proud to be able to say that this years event has been our best yet, bringing together students from multiple courses, including advertising, marketing and, of course, PR. Around 30 professionals attended on the night with an innumerable turn out of students who kept them busy the whole time!

This, being the first event I have ever organised and run on my own, has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve taken on this year, but I’ve loved every second. Balancing organising Meet The Professionals alongside a part-time job and university work wasn’t easy, but I’m reaping in the benefits of the hard work! It has provided me with opportunities to network with so many different professionals in a wide range of agencies, even if they couldn’t attend the actual event, and it has taught me how to enthuse students about an event where there isn’t any free food. However, when you can encourage students to see the benefits of building a network of connections and making an impression in an agency before you’ve even applied for a job or placement, it becomes much easier.

Of course Meet The Professionals wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a few people, especially an alumni of my university. She previously ran the event last year and shared her expertise with me on how to achieve the best results possible. There were many other PR-based students who helped with the set up on the day and there is no way the event would have been as successful as it was without everyone’s help. Finally, if there’s even the smallest chance that one of the professionals is reading this, I want to thank all of you as well for dedicating your time to the next generation of PRs and passing along your hard earned knowledge!

So that’s it. Another skill added to my repertoire and one I cannot wait to refine it with my next event!

mtp-2017

5 Ways To Make Your LinkedIn Profile Star Quality

At some point everyone should have a LinkedIn profile, it’s a great opportunity to broadcast all your experience, give plenty of detail on what you’ve done and even share pieces of your work. With a LinkedIn profile you can share with your potential employer so much more than you can share with a CV, especially if you’re going for the minimalistic but eye-catching approach.

Despite the opportunities on LinkedIn, there are so many profiles out there that have so much potential, yet aren’t given the time and love they need to shine and stand out from the crowd. Everyone’s been there though! When I first started my profile I had nothing on there apart from my name, my photo and my university and course.

Then, over the past couple of years I’ve slowly started to dedicate more time to it and as a result it has grown and I have built up a network of contacts. I’m going to share with you a few of the tips I learnt over the time I’ve built it up, so that hopefully you can make your profile star quality in half the time!

Add Everything….

….Within reason, of course. If you are looking for a job in communications and you’ve worked in retail, add it in! You’ve built up customer service skills. If you’re looking to go into business and you worked at the local Fairtrade shop, you may have picked up management skills and book-keeping. If you picked up any transferable skills along the way, whether it’s touch typing, learning how to manage accounts or even another language add it all in, because it shows you are aware of how these placements and experiences have benefitted you and what you’ve gained from them.

Give Details

So many accounts will just list their job title, place of work and dates, but LinkedIn gives you a whole text box completely free to add in any details you want. Give examples of briefs you’ve worked on, what skills you built in that placement and a little bit about your role there. Others will engage with you and your profile 10x better if they can get a sense of what you’ve actually done and who you are. Think of it more as a conversation. If someone asked what you did while you worked somewhere, what would you say? It’s also a great opportunity to add in all those extra details that might not fit on a CV.

Get Recommendations

You probably know this already, but you should always try and get a recommendation from any placements. If you’ve only been there a week they may be reluctant, but anything over a month you should get a recommendation from. LinkedIn has a great feature which lets other users, in this case your boss, post a recommendation on your profile. These are great because they are easy to find and read and you immediately know who’s written and what their qualifications are. If you get the opportunity always ask for their recommendation to be posted on LinkedIn and you can always copy it down from there. There’s also a brilliant little feature that lets you ask for a recommendation, so get asking soon after you’ve finished your placements, while you’re still fresh in their memory!

Add Everyone

This is again within reason, but whether you only briefly met them at a networking event, or you spoke to them on the phone, pretty much anywhere where you’ve spoken to someone in your industry and mentioned your name, add them on LinkedIn, especially if you’re a student. LinkedIn is a great way to build a network of connections for when you graduate or for in the future whenever you’re looking for experience or a job. People often advertise jobs on there so connecting with anyone you’ve met in your industry is obviously a bonus. If you want to make more of an impression I would also recommend sending them a message, even if it’s just ‘Hi, thank you for connecting with me’. You can ask if they have any tips about getting into the industry, what their company does (or if you’ve researched you could comment on what their company does and if you’re interested in joining). There are so many opportunities to build your network and surround yourself with connections who may prove helpful in the future.

Finally, Share Your Content

I used to only promote my blog posts over Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus (a great SEO opportunity I will go into in more detail in another post) and what a mistake that was. Posting over LinkedIn may not give you as many views as you get through Facebook and Twitter but it’s a great opportunity to share your content with like-minded people and prove your writing skills to potential employers. Obviously if you’re going into economics or something mathsy then proving your writing skills isn’t as important, but if you’re going into communications it’s vital. Through LinkedIn you can not only include a link to your blog in your experience, but you can also share each of your new posts and draw in potential employers, showing an interest in the  industry and showcasing those spectacular writing skills.

So give your profile that extra little bit of TLC and you’ll be a shining star amongst all the other profiles. Don’t let those contacts pass you by!