Posts

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.

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.

My Time At The Source – What To Expect From Your Work Experience

During my first year of sixth form, it was expected that as a student you would find a week of work experience during the summer term. Initially, I was terrified at the mere thought of spending an entire week in such an alien environment, with complete strangers. Being a typical teenage boy, I had no idea what I wanted to do, let alone where or with whom.

After much thought, I came to the conclusion that to compliment my A-levels: English Language, Fine Art and History, I may want to consider a career in PR or marketing. Not to mention my natural fascination with social media – being a millennial and all.

So I began scouring the internet for an agency near to home that had an interesting mix of local and national clients, and came upon Source PR. The sleek and contemporary aesthetic of their website piqued my interest, and from looking at their clients, I was very impressed. I contacted Source and felt welcomed by their enthusiastic response for work experience.

On arrival, I was made to feel right at home, with everyone at Source being extremely friendly. More importantly, I was made to feel useful, and quickly set about different tasks that were carefully explained to me by the team. One fear I had about work experience was that I would spend my hours making cups of tea or watching someone else do their job. It was a relief that my time at The Source was as engaging and exciting as it was.

I juggled: blogs, media releases, and social media. All tasks were equally valuable, and from going into the week with little to no idea of the inner workings of a PR company, I have ended the week with a new understanding of just how important PR is. Everything today is about reputation and I now know how dependent companies are on PR to help shape their image. Working here I have developed my critical thinking as every tweet or blog is written with perception in mind. How will the client, their customers, and even potential customers perceive the discourse? What effect will this perception have on the company? This idea extends to even the most minute and seemingly insignificant forms of text. Each client has their own tone and representation that they seek to create.

Over the week, I got used to the office environment and felt like a member of the team. Source employees happily answered any questions I had. I would encourage anyone partaking in work experience to be outgoing and to ask lots of questions, as it will make your week much more valuable. Speaking as someone who usually keeps his questions to himself, it is well worth trying to pipe up every now and again… even if it is just from 9-5 each day.  I best thing was that I was even made comfortable putting forward some of my own ideas and opinions – most notably when suggesting campaign ideas or proofreading texts.

The level of feedback I had during my week was exceptional. I was well commended for anything that I did right and constructively steered in the right direction for everything that I perhaps didn’t do as well in. I gladly have taken any feedback into account and encourage anyone to do the same as it will help to further your skills and knowledge – no one expects you to be perfect!

Overall, I had a great time working at Source. Each day was made fresh and interesting and the relaxing environment of the office made me interested in a potential career in PR in the future. “PR not ER” was bounced around a few times and honestly, I think it perfectly captures what my time was like at Source. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am thankful to Louis and the team for granting me the opportunity.

P.S I’d like to expend a special ‘thank you’ to Evie who was fantastic and really helped me during the week.

 

Alex is a 6th form student at West Kirby Grammar School