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Top Tips For Smashing Your ‘Virtual’ PR Placements

Written by our PR intern and university student Bridie Buckingham

To say that Covid has impacted our lives in more ways than one would be an understatement. Just one of the (many) groups to be affected by ongoing restrictions is college and university students. Many will have been planning on embarking on placements this summer and last, but due to restrictions, many of these will have been cancelled or moved online. Below, with my experience, I’m going to go over my top tips on smashing your virtual PR placements, which can still give you some top tier industry experience.

Benefits of ‘virtual PR placements’

Placements are important for students because they provide a learning experience that cannot be taught in the classroom. Summer placements or even ‘year in industry’ placements offer students a glance into the real world. What will life be like after graduation? It’s crucial that students get this opportunity to dip their toes into the world of work before their time in education is up, as going into a career without an inkling of what it is like in real life could be a devastating reality check for some.

Not to mention, job hunting without experience is a nightmare!

With that being said, most placements have gone virtual to allow students to get that valuable experience safely during this period. For me, my internship at The Source also moved online for a period. When the Covid-19 restrictions came into play, I was no longer commuting to the office and sitting at my desk surrounded by our team, instead I was working from my bed, the sofa, the floor… Basically any quiet place I could find that day!

I was communicating with the team via email, WhatsApp, and voice notes.

It was an adjustment, to say the least, but after a few weeks of trial and error, I finally got into a rhythm that worked for me. With summer placements on the horizon, I thought now would be a good time to pass on some tips for smashing your virtual PR placements.

Tips For Virtual PR Placements

Designate a workspace

Whilst many of you will have probably been sat at a desk during your virtual PR placements, that can be difficult to do from home unless you have a home office. Even then, that space may be occupied by others living in your house. In this case, set up an area of your house to use as a workspace. Sitting down in this space sends a clear signal to your brain that it’s time to focus. This is really helpful for productivity but it’s also good for creating a good work-life balance, so you’re not working in the same place that you’re spending your free time.

Take the time to go about your normal morning routine

Eat breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed for the day. Designate some work clothes, even if it’s just a loungewear set. Try to avoid remaining in your pyjamas all day, trust me, it only makes you sleepy. If you prefer to do your hair and makeup, then go for it, looking good makes you feel good right?

Make a to-do list

Perhaps one of the most important tips for managing your virtual PR placements! If your emails are piling up with assignments, write them down. Either generate a digital schedule (Asana is a great online organisation tool) or jot it down with pen and paper and stick it in a visible place. If you’re particularly organised, you could even come up with a detailed to-do list that’s broken down into categories based on importance. Regardless, this list will be your best friend as well as your arch-nemesis. After a long day, looking at all the tasks I have completed gives me a little boost whilst also allowing me to schedule the things I didn’t manage to get through today for tomorrow, so they don’t get lost in the next morning’s influx of emails.

asana

This is the Asana project management tool (credit: Asana)

Collaborate with your team

Sharing ideas with each other will improve your projects and you can make new friends in the process. Most companies will set you up with a way of contacting the team, whether it’s via teams, zoom or even WhatsApp so there’s no excuse! At Source, we use Google Hangouts as well as email and of course, picking up the phone, to communicate – but different channels will work for different teams and people.

Communication is key

Remember that. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You are there to learn (and work) and they are there to help. By asking questions you not only gain extra knowledge, but you also gain the skills and information needed to complete the task. Just because you can’t ask questions face to face, doesn’t mean you should put them off. The experience gained from PR work experience is often invaluable when it comes to finding work as a postgraduate, so don’t be afraid to ask anything and everything.

Behave as you would in the office

Last but not least, don’t treat your virtual PR placements any differently than an in-person placement. You should always be timely and productive. Maintain that professional mentality.

Hopefully these tips help someone, and whilst working from home during this time may not be what you planned, you can still make the most of it. Get that experience and put it towards your future. You won’t regret it.

Which Degree Is Best For A Career In PR?

Written by our PR intern and university student Bridie Buckingham

Most of us understand the pressure of choosing the right degree. It can be stressful figuring out what career path you want to take, and when you add all the possible degree options there are available nowadays – it can become very overwhelming. We all want to pick the right degree for us; one that will give us a head start in our chosen field for sure, but one we know that we will enjoy. However, with multiple routes into the world of PR it can be confusing to know which degree to choose.

PR is a complex industry and there are many aspects to it. So, as you can probably imagine, there are a broad range of degrees for you to choose from that will give you a helping hand when it comes to getting the job you want. I hope that from my experience I can shed some light onto the best options for you if you are thinking about a career in PR and take away some of that stress.

More Arts, Less STEM

You don’t have to have studied PR or marketing, to enter the PR industry. In fact, many people working in PR don’t even have degrees. Having said that, the transition out of education and into the workplace is likely to be easier and less bumpy for those who took subjects focused on communicating. Traditionally, subjects like Politics, History, English, Philosophy and even Foreign Languages tend to produce graduates better suited for PR than those with STEM degrees, for example. Although, given our growing reliance on technology, these degrees still absolutely play an important role in the evolving nature of communications too. If you have a passion for storytelling and communicating, then there’s likely a role in PR for you – no matter your educational background.

Which Degree Is Best For PR?

PR (Public Relations)

With PR degrees, the risk is that – in this fast-evolving industry – the course content can become out-of-date quite quickly. Another risk is that students may enter the workplace only to find that the working reality is VERY different from the theory. This is why I believe that PR work experience or a year in industry is essential for any PR degree. If you’re looking to go down this route, do make sure you look at courses with a placement year. Equally, try and line up lots of work experience either in-agency or in-house whilst studying; most universities will encourage and even assist you with getting relevant experience. If you’d like to learn more about how to gain PR work experience, you can read my blog on this by clicking here.

Arts & Business

Courses like Creative Writing or Art can help students develop their creative and compelling storytelling skills; something that is highly valued in PR. A creative brain produces innovative ideas and can become a highly valuable asset to a team when brainstorming strategies and avoiding repetition. Additionally, anyone who studies a business degree will understand the importance of marketing as a whole. As well as this, they will be masters at forward-thinking and possess great strategic knowledge that provides creatives with the commercial vision they need to improve performance.

Journalism

Journalism courses tend to teach students how to write all styles of articles, edit using multiple programs and curate content for multiple media outlets. They provide a kind of flexibility that other courses struggle to when it comes to specialising. Courses like this also aid in building communicative skills. Experience is also key here, and even PR experience is considered valid for a journalism degree. Many of those who have studied or worked in journalism move over to the PR industry, and their skills are invaluable to our practice.

English Language & Literature

As PR is all about understanding audiences’ behaviour and harnessing creativity, courses like English, Psychology and Journalism may give graduates a head start. English can also be paired with a variety of subjects with many relevant links, so do look into joint-honours degrees. With a BA in English, you will develop excellent written and oral communication skills, making you perfect for PR. Crucially, you’ll also learn to write well. This not only includes proper grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation, it means learning to write in a manner that is engaging and effective. Many courses may focus on writing but none to the extent of an English degree that allows you to hone your skills as a writer and communicator. You’ll also learn to read analytically. Being able to take in information and understand it before reframing this information so it can be understood by others, is a skill that is necessary for a successful career in PR.

At Source PR, our staff hold a mixed bag of degrees, including English Literature, Business & PR and Geography. PR is as about personality, imagination, creation, people skills and application. As long as you have these skills you are sure to succeed, regardless of your choice of university degree. Don’t stress and make sure to explore all your options. Happy hunting!

FINDING WORK EXPERIENCE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

Written by our PR intern and university student Bridie Buckingham

Work experience is something we’ve all heard of. Whether at high school or university level, every teacher I’ve ever had has stressed the importance of ascertaining some sort of experience before I graduate.

Being able to detail relevant work experience on your CV will help you stand out when applying for graduate jobs. It’s a real selling point to employers if you can show that you have experience in your field or have been able to hold down a steady job whilst studying.

Any sort of experience is better than none and luckily, there’s an abundance of ways to step on the ladder.

What Kinds Of Work Experience Is There?

Internships

For those wanting to take their first steps into the working world, an internship is a great way to start.

Internships are usually the first port of call when it comes to giving your CV an emphatic boost and can be very helpful in helping you navigate your chosen field. As well as this, internships can also be invaluable in deciding whether your chosen profession really is the career path for you.

Internships are also often very flexible in terms of duration with some lasting only a few days and others a whole year. What is perhaps worth considering is that in all cases, is that it’s best to start early, as the competition can be tough.

Summer/Part-Time Jobs

Perhaps one of the best things about university is the way in which you can introduce yourself to the working world at a leisurely pace.

Internships are not for everyone, however, there is something incredibly rewarding about getting a job to help with finances and experience.

If you don’t wish to commit to an internship, then what about a part time job for work experience?

Hospitality work is obviously the go-to industry in many instances, but anything goes. It all counts as experience and it looks far better on your CV than blank space. You can even squeeze these jobs into the summer holiday if working during semester time is too stressful for you.

Societies

Often overlooked, being part of a society can work wonders for your career prospects and give you some great work experience. It can offer you the opportunity to test your skills of organisation, delegation, events creation, finance management and more importantly, interpersonal relationship building.

You don’t even need to be high up in the ranks.

Simply taking up a role within a society shows a willingness to work together with others. It will hone your ability to work towards a common goal and help you network with others you might not otherwise have the chance to interact with on campus.

Volunteering

A combination of both the easiest and hardest thing to do, volunteering can provide many benefits to a future career (with the added feel-good bonus that comes from helping others).

It can be tricky getting a foot in the door initially – however it is worth the time and effort.

At the same time, volunteering can often be a far more exciting option than a paid placement – sometimes even leading to travel across the globe.

Put simply, volunteering your time can be an incredibly rewarding work experience in terms of personal and professional growth.

However, I know this isn’t for everyone as it wasn’t for me either. With financial situations as they are it can sometimes be hard to justify an unpaid placement over a steady income.

At the end of the day, experience is experience so don’t feel pressured to do the one that ‘looks better’ because any path you take you’ll be one step closer to that dream graduate job.

Whatever you decide, the bottom line is this: all forms of work experience are beneficial. I really valued my work experience, I met some great people and got to experience first-hand just what it was like to work in the PR industry.

In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to stay on and here I am 18 months later.

LIFE AS A STUDENT AND INTERN DURING A PANDEMIC

Written by our PR intern and university student Bridie Buckingham

I think it is safe to say that this past year has not been kind to us. Staying at home, working from home, studying from home: they’re taking their toll. It is not always easy to adjust to a ‘new normal’ but never has it been more necessary.

For someone who has always struggled with time-management, this new normal has really given me the push I needed to stay ahead of the game. Balancing work, student and home life has always been a demanding task, but now that they are all crowded within the same four walls, it can seem a bit overwhelming at times.

It is all too easy to allow yourself to get bogged down with the negativity, but those anxious feelings are never going to dissipate unless you adopt a more positive mindset. I struggled a lot, as I’m sure we all did, during the first lockdown but as time has gone on my outlook has changed. Whether you have used this period for self-improvement, or you’ve simply taken a step back to recharge, both are valid. There is no need to force productivity, it only fuels negativity. A healthy mind is the most important asset to have right now and if that comes from spending time with family and putting work on the backburner then finding a healthy balance is essential.

This is something I wrestled with in the first lockdown, juggling being a university student, work and home life seemed impossible at times yet now I sense big tops in my future. I am lucky that the team at Source PR are so accommodating, allowing me to work around my online classes. Without their help I don’t think I would have been so fortunate. It is strange not being able to see them each week, only communicating via email or WhatsApp, it makes me miss the office, but I know we will be back one day. For now I am enjoying life as an intern, each week is different, allowing me to explore the world of PR whilst also gaining valuable work experience in the field.

When it comes to studying from home, I was sceptical at first, but it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. All my lectures have been delivered seamlessly and on time, with help available at every turn. Delivered via teams, the seminars are still as interactive as ever, in fact I think the delivery is advantageous as many people who were too shy to give input in face-to-face seminars have gained confidence from the comfort of their own home.

With my family also working from home, bandwidth problems are a reoccurring nightmare in our house, with several of us trying to access classes via teams at the same time, we sometimes struggle to get a clear connection. As a student, the work sometimes piles up but with regular half-terms and reading weeks it is easy to catch up. Overall, I think my second-year experience has been the best it could’ve been considering the circumstances; however I can’t say the same for first years.

To add to the mayhem, I also challenged myself to learn a language this year. In a joint venture with my sister we decided to teach ourselves Korean as we have always wanted to visit South Korea. I have dreamed of living abroad and being able to speak another language fluently since I was little, so I thought if now isn’t a good time to start, when is? With my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) end of year module coming up in just a few short weeks, I hope I will get to put my new skills to good use and take myself across the globe, Covid permitting of course.

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