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!

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!

 

 

Releasing the Professional Inside

It’s crazy how fast my time at university has flown, but it’s true, my time being a (relatively) carefree student is almost over and I have to learn to be a fully-fledged adult. It’s sink or swim and nothing makes that more apparent than realising that I have to start applying for graduate schemes and jobs now if not yesterday!

Luckily, I found a hugely useful resource that informed me of all the possible graduate schemes and internships around in the UK, as well as a couple that I was already aware of and had already applied to.

So, being the generous person I am, I thought I would share this with you to save you some of the leg work and make you are aware of the best opportunities out there. You’ll have to be quick about it though if you’re applying this year. Some of the top agencies, like Edelman, close their graduate schemes mid January, so get prepared and get submitting!

http://prcareers.co.uk/2017-pr-internships-and-graduate-schemes/

All of the grad schemes included in this compilation are for 2017, but if you’re looking for a years time these may be continuous and have 2018 schemes opening this time next year as well.

Get your thinking cap on, edit that CV (check out my other post on how to make your CV the one here: https://goo.gl/J2kT5y ) and goodluck!

May the odds be ever in your favour!

Inspirational Women for Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s day so I thought I’d do a run through of the top 3 inspirational women who have inspired me to be the best I can! 

1) J.K Rowling

Okay, so loads of people will say this lady is inspirational and she truly is. You’d be surprised how few people know the backstory to Rowling and the obstacles she encountered on her path to fame and fortune. By the time the first Harry Potter book was published, J K Rowling had been divorced once and was juggling being a single mum along with being an author. Now if that’s not inspirational enough for you, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by many publishing companies (12 to be precise) before finally being accepted by Bloomsbury . J K Rowling’s perserverance and true grit is a life lesson to anyone who needs motivation; maybe that one last try is the one that will be successful, so always keep trying!

2) Women In PR

This second one is an organisation instead of a specific person, but Women In PR is an organisation that aids (yeah, you guessed it) women in PR and it does this by mentoring them to help them get the best out of themselves, inviting them to networking events and fighting for equality within the work place. Although this organisation mainly targets senior to mid-career women, I feel the causes they are pushing for and are raising awareness will affect the future of my career and every other PR student and graduate. As a result, I think this organisation is truly inspirational, encouraging us to see that through numbers we can achieve more!

3) My Mum

Yes I know, it sounds cliche and cheesy, but it’s true. My mum is the main inspiration in my life. She inspires me to try new things, to push myself that little bit harder and to always believe in myself. Throughout my a-levels and GCSEs I struggled badly with exam anxiety and panic attacks and as a result, even though I worked incredibly hard for them and knew the stuff, I never performed to my try capability. However my mum worked through it with me. She herself struggled occasionally and said she wasn’t as happy as she could be with her university grade, but regardless she has become successful in her field of pharmaceuticals. She is head-hunted by other companies, she is respected by her colleagues but most of all she is doing something she loves and is passionate about. She is successful in her field not only because she’s intelligent and hardworking but because what she does is really important to her and I hope I can find that some day!

Finally, I wanted to remind you all of the PR campaign ‘This Girl Can’, a powerful campaign that aimed to inspire girls in their chosen sports and reduce the gender gap when it came to inequality in sports. By inspiring younger girls to try a new sport and pursue it as far as they possibly can they empowered them and provided them with a whole new confidence. It showed through short videos examples of girls who struggled with certain sports due to bad coordination or balance and taught them that that wasn’t the end of the world, there are still plenty of other sports out there that might be more your cup of tea. They have now joined forces with Sport Relief to raise further awareness and continue to be successful!

So stay inspired! Find those people that encourage you to be the best you can be. Even if you just follow them on Twitter, seeing their achievements and hard work might just make you work that little bit harder yourself. And always remember:

This Girl Can! 💪🏼

Top 5 PR Successes and Fails of 2015

Top Fails:

VW

VW’s crisis management team left a lot to be desired in Autumn 2015 when they proved that lies will get you nowhere. So many companies seem to believe they can get away with denying responsibility when they knew full well what was going on. Its about time they learnt from each other’s mistakes!

SeaWorld

SeaWorld’s slip up on social media last year cost them dearly as they received a huge negative backlash to their #AskSeaWorld campaign. In fact, it inspired several comeback hashtags from anti-SeaWorld Twitter users, including #EmptyTheTanks and #AnswerTheQ. Overall, with a surprising response from celebrities and activists it’s obvious that SeaWorld’s attempt to build a good CSR reputation through this campaign sunk straight to the bottom.

John Lewis
Straying from PR for this one, to the realms of advertising, John Lewis’ highly anticipated Christmas advert fell flat in 2015. It received much ridicule and criticism after many claimed it encouraged not only paedophilia, but also the isolation of the elderly during this family time. The amount spent on producing the advert was also considered hypocritical as viewers believed donating that money to Age UK immediately would have been money better spent. It’s safe to say that John Lewis will try to up its game this year!

Top Successes:

NHS

England’s blood bank engineered a truly inspiring PR campaign this year to raise awareness of the need for certain blood type donations and how necessary they are. The letter A, B and O were removed from many signs around London to show just how vital those letters are, not just on the signs, but also in the blood banks. Waterstone’s, Odeon cinema and even Downing Street all took part in the campaign. Overall, it was thought to have brought it about 200,000 more donators.

Cancer Research and Women’s Aid

Cancer research UK and Women’s Aid both showed their affinity for matters PR with their interactive campaigns in 2015. Cancer Research built a bump into a walkway which grew as people walked past and ignored it and Women’s Aid developed an interactive billboard that depicted a beaten women. As people paid attention to the woman her wounds healed. Both campaigns successfully raised awareness and encouraged the public not to ignore problems like these, whether they affect themselves or others around them.