Those burning questions…

Just a quickie from me today… I know you’re bound to be very busy enjoying the summer break. Whatever you’re up to (travelling, working, just chilling out…) I hope you’re having a great time!

Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about those burning questions (if anything else is burning, you should probably see a doctor…).

Imagine this: you have the undivided attention of a PR professional who, less than 24 months ago, was sitting in the same type of lecture hall you’re about to return to come September, and now is working in the very industry you’re hoping to break into after graduation.

If you could ask them any career-type question at all, what would it be?

Reason being, as you many know, Raising the Profile is returning with a fresh batch of PR professionals to answer those burning questions in October.

So, while I’m in the process of putting the interview questions together, I thought I’d ask you, what do you REALLYwant to know about working in PR and what can you do to help yourself take the first step on the career ladder of marketing communications?

Of course, there is always the Twitter chat (first one kicks off on Wednesday 8th October at 7pm) to ask these types of questions yourself, but the chances are if you’ve got a burning question, the likelihood is someone shares the same one too.

So get in touch and let me know what it is you’d like to find out from this year’s Raising the Profile lot, and I’ll do all I can to include your questions in my interview with each and every PR professional.

Either comment below or tweet me – @AM_Bailey. Look forward to hearing from you soon!

Apologies for the disruption folks!

When I was a student at university, networking with PR professionals, one thing they always told me was how fast-paced working in the communications industry was. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how fast-paced things would be until I got my feet under the table at my very first job.

And while everything changes (sometimes so quickly, it’s happens in a bit of a whirlwind, and it takes a little while to fully get your head around what has just happened), some things remain the same…

So to quote one of my favourite films (Dirty Dancing if you didn’t know): “Apologies for the disruption folks!

In my last post, I told you that Raising the Profile would be making a comeback, and while there has been a slight delay, I can assure you that behind the scenes things are rocking and rolling to make sure that by the time you return (or perhaps even start if you’re a newbie to the PR student scene) to university in September, a fresh batch of PR professionals will be on hand to share with you their pearls of wisdom about how they found their first job in public relations and marketing communications.

So why the delay?

Well… within a couple of days of my last post, I was approached by an integrated brand communications consultancy called r//evolution, to join the team as their PR manager.

Of course, I jumped at the chance – what a great opportunity! So over the past few months, I’ve been busy getting to know the team, familiarising myself with clients and growing the PR offering of the business, as well as spending some time at the University of Sunderland giving a couple of guest lectures (more on that in a later post).

Enough about me though. What do you need to know about the return of Raising the Profile?

The first of the interviews will be posted to my blog on Monday 6th October 2014 – that should give you all enough to time to get over the summer break (read: hangover!) and back into the swing of studying – and the first Twitter chat will take place on Wednesday 8th October at 7pm.

This time round, the subjects of the interview (and people sharing their pearls of wisdom) will be my fellow cohort of post-grad students, who graduated alongside me back in 2012 from the CIPR accredited MA Public Relations degree, at the University of Sunderland.

I hope you’ll be as excited as I am about the return of Raising the Profile. If I say so myself (then again, I am probably a little bias), this is a great opportunity for you to pick the brains of PR professionals who were in your shoes only a few months ago. Ask questions, network, and find out how you too can land your first job in PR!

I hope you’ll pop back on Monday 6th October (of course, it would be lovely if you stopped by my blog before then) to check out the first of the interviews, and I look forward to chatting with you on Wednesday 8th October across Twitter too. Until then, have a great summer!

A cardinal sin. . .

I’m about to commit a cardinal sin.  To you and the PR Lords that be, I am truly sorry.

One of my pet-peeves is when after a period of radio silence, a blogger posts a post apologising for said radio silence.  That is what I’m about to do (with good reason I assure you). . .

The last time I checked in, I was living and working in Manchester at Smoking Gun PR as an account executive.  Since then, a lot has changed.  I’ve made the move back across the Pennines to my native North East and am now working as a senior account executive at Admiral PR & Marketing.

Throw into the mix (on top of a promotion, adapting to life in a different agency and getting to grips with new clients), my lovely boyfriend fiancé, Liam, proposed and we bought our first home together.  Only one or two major life events in a short space of time but I’m sure you’ll agree . . . I’ve been pretty busy!

Anyway, enough of me and back to the point of this post.

I wanted to share some exciting news with you . . . Raising the Profile is back (albeit with a slight twist).

You may remember last time, I interviewed a number of established PR pros about the qualities they looked for in graduates when recruiting.  A couple of days later, I hosted a Twitter chat using the hashtag #raisingtheprofile whereby students, soon-to-be graduates and job hunters alike could ask the PR pros their own career advice questions.

This time round, the format will be the same (blog post interview and career advice Twitter chat) but for this series of #raisingtheprofile, I’ll be speaking with my ex-classmates.

The reason? Who better to give you job hunting hints and tips than the people who were in your shoes just a matter of months ago and have since found employment in the PR industry.

The first interview won’t be going live until the first week of March and this is where you come in.  I’d love you to get in touch and let me know the type of career-advice questions you’d like me to ask the new set of PR pros.

Remember, this is your chance to ask those burning questions and get real, honest advice straight from the horse’s mouth.

It’s easy to get in touch – either leave a comment below or send me a tweet.  You can follow me @AM_Bailey.

Hope to hear from you soon.

#raisingtheprofile with Caroline Holmes

The observant among you may have noticed #raisingtheprofile has been a little quiet recently.

With finishing the post graduate element of my Masters Degree (only the dissertation to go now), relocating to Manchester and starting a new job, I’ve been pretty strapped for time of late.

Anyway, enough about me!  #raisingtheprofile is back . . . and with one or two changes.

Due to my now ‘grown up’ commitments (eeeeeeeeek!), unlike before, I’ll only be posting on my blog and holding the Twitter chats once a month.  The post will be published on the last Monday of every month with the Twitter chat happening the following Wednesday.

So, now we’re all up to speed, without further ado it is my great pleasure to introduce to you this month’s PR pro . . .

Caroline Holmes is a senior communications officer at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) – the UK’s leading road safety charity. After joining the IAM in 2009 as a communications and marketing assistant (her first job), she was promoted to communications officer in 2010, before being promoted again in September of 2011 to senior communications officer.  Caroline then went on to win the PRCA ‘Young Communicator of the Year’ award last November.

Potential Employee Profile:

Small in-house team seeks competent writer with a willingness to learn. Must be prepared to participate in out-of-hours press duty.”

Five Quick-Fire Questions:

In your opinion, what’s the best (and maybe even worst) bit about working in PR?

Seeing work I’ve done get out into the public domain. Seeing my advice in print, backing up the campaign messages and hopefully making a difference, is a brilliant feeling.

With this goes the responsibility of what you’ve said being printed, and that could be anything you’ve said, rather than what you’ve given as your quote. On one occasion I was asked why white cars had got so popular again, for a feature. I got some thoughts from one of our experts and sent it across. The only thing they printed from me was “White is fashionable right now”. I felt it made me look rather shallow.

How did you first get your foot on the ladder of a career in PR?

I was a member of the IAM before I joined, having passed my advanced driving test in 2007. I graduated in 2009, and handed my CV to our HR director at the conference that October. Fortunately the communications and marketing assistant position had just become vacant, so I got an interview.

Having a personal interest in a subject is a good ‘in’. PR is a popular industry, but most organisations will have a PR department. As well as searching job sites etc, keep an eye on the companies in the sector you’re most interested/have most experience in.

If you were a PR student about to graduate, what would you be doing to raise your profile and ensure you’re noticed by potential employer? 

In hindsight, working on my CV and cover-letter writing skills. Although they take longer, application forms which ask for a covering letter/supporting information as well as a CV put you in a much better position to get an interview. You can demonstrate how you would be able to support each of the key specifications in theory, whether or not you have the specific work experience in practice.

For example, instead of stating ‘I have good project management skills’, give an example using STAR. If uni is your only experience, use a major project you did as part of your course.

Situation: What was the situation?

Task:       What did you have to achieve?

Action:     What did you do to deal with this task?

Result:     What was the outcome.

In the Potential Employee Profile, you told us about the type of graduate you would want to recruit, but what’s a big ‘turn-off’ for you in a potential employee?

Somebody that is clearly just looking for a job, rather than the one I’m recruiting for. We know graduates are applying for anything they can, but everybody likes to feel wanted. Do your research on the company, and have a think about what you’ll say when asked the inevitable “So why do you want this job?

And finally, any last minute words of wisdom or advice you’d like to share?

Don’t underestimate the skills you can learn in a smaller organisation. There are generally more opportunities to take on tasks outside of your immediate area of responsibility. No social media strategy? Think about how you could implement some. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but if you can show you’re successfully adding something your employer will be thrilled, and it gives you a great thing to talk about at interviews.

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And there you have it!  Some fantastic advice from someone who has ‘been there and done that’ only very recently.  If our careers take off like Caroline’s, I wonder where we’ll all be in three years time?

Many thanks to Caroline for giving up her time and agreeing to take part – I really appreciate it.

And now like in previous posts, it’s over to you.  Have a read through Caroline’s answers and formulate some questions of your own.

Then join us on Wednesday 27th June at 7pm for the Twitter chat using the hashtag #raisingtheprofile.

Don’t forget to follow me [@AM_Bailey] and Caroline [@kisscasholmes] – we look forward to chatting with you then.

Lesson learned: #raisingtheprofile with Gem Griffiths

Last week’s #raisingtheprofile conversation was rather a quiet one . . . I think most people were in a beer garden somewhere soaking up the last of the day’s sun rather than being indoors and glued to a laptop!  Nevertheless, I (and a few others) had a really insightful conversation with Gemma Griffiths.

Perhaps the Tweet of the night that resonated most with me was this . . .

Gem then turned the question back on me.  What did I look for in a potential employer and how did I get a feel for them in interview?

Well, I completely agreed with Gemma; an interview is a two-way street.  I think finding a job is not just as case of what can I do for that particular organisation, but what can they also do for me?

Think about it . . . you spend a massive chunk of your life at work.  Bit depressing but still, it’s a fact!  And so you need to make sure that you’re going to be happy, content, fulfilled, challenged [enter any other descriptive word/phrase to suit] . . .

Personally, I need to know that a company I work for is going to help me to develop and grow.  I don’t want to be stuck in the corner of an office doing the same thing day in, day out for the rest of my days.  I want to grow as a professional, rise to the challenges, learn from my mistakes and I need to know that the culture/environment of the organisation will not only allow, but help and support me to do this.

It’s a case of are they the right fit for me as much as I am a right fit for them.

And so how do you approach this in an interview?  The answer is simple . . . ask!  One thing I’ve learned from hosting the #raisingtheprofile Twitter chats is that interview preparation is vital (and more than on PR pro has gone on to use the dating analogy) so do your homework first.

Find out about the organisation, their culture, their continued professional development plan in advance – you usually find at least some of this stuff mentioned in the job description/role and responsibilities bit of the job advert.  Then, in interview you can bring these points up, ask further questions about them and hey presto . . . you interview isn’t so much a Q&A but more of a two-way conversation.

The end result, not only do you come across really well as you’ve bothered to do some research, but you have the answers you need to make an informed decision about whether or not the role is right for you.

Once again, my sincere thanks to Gemma for giving up her time to take part #raisingtheprofile – some really great advice!

#raisingtheprofile with Gem Griffiths

We’ve had a whole host of PR pros taking part in the Raising the Profile focus series blog posts and subsequent #raisingtheprofile Twitter chats over the past month or so.  This week, it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to this week’s expert  . . .

Gem Griffiths (or GemGriff as she is known online) has over eight years experience in public relations. She started out as an intern at a well-known technology PR consultancy, Firefly Communications, before moving on to Racepoint Group where she rose through the ranks to become client director. Last year Gem took the bold step of setting up her own PR consultancy The Crowd &I.

The Crowd &I enjoyed a stellar first year in business. It opened an office in Angel, London, and now boasts three high growth start-ups as clients; all of which were featured in Wired UK’s magazine ‘Hottest start-ups in Europe ’ feature in 2011.

Gem is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) social media advisory panel and is also a presenter on CIPR TV, a monthly live TV show aired on www.cipr.co.uk.

Potential Employee Profile:

Vibrant public relations consultancy seeks a bright, hard-working, results focused individual who will go above and beyond to delight clients. Must be a team player, open, honest and transparent at all times.

Five Quick-Fire Questions:

In your opinion, what’s the best (and maybe even worst) bit about working in PR?

No one week is ever the same in PR; I love that. The worst bit for me is definitely working in a profession that has such a bad reputation. Convincing clients of the value of PR and explaining we are not all spin and manipulation artists is my least favourite thing to do.

How did you first get your foot on the ladder of a career in PR? 

By luck not design. I took business studies at university and we had to spend the third year of our course doing an internship. My favourite module was marketing and PR. When the time came to apply for a job only one advert caught my eye. It was for a PR consultancy called Firefly Communications. I checked it out and its modus operandi matched mine. I applied, got the job, and my career in PR began.

If you were a PR student about to graduate, what would you be doing to raise your profile and ensure you’re noticed by potential employers?

I’d ditch my CV and write a feature (and include images and quotes from previous employers) about my work experience and life so far. A feature about yourself sounds a bit narcissistic but I think it would be more entertaining for an employer than a list of achievements on a CV. Also, writing an opinion piece or feature would showcase your writing skills and ability to tell and illustrate a story. I’d have a physical copy available but also adapt it for my online site. It is good to show you can adapt content for different types of media.

In the Potential Employee Profile, you told us about the type of graduate you would want to recruit, but what’s a big ‘turn-off’ for you in a potential employee?

Cliché answers during an interview. When I asked “what are your weaknesses” during a recent round of interviews, nine out of ten people responded “I’m a perfectionist” and turned their weakness into a strength. There were a few points for bridging to an answer they wanted to give but I would have preferred pure honesty. Everyone has weaknesses and the best way to handle them is to be aware and open about them. Being upfront about them during the interview phase will go in your favour not against you.

And finally, any last minute words of wisdom or advice you’d like to share?

Value your skills and time. Most graduates have spent time and money on further education. Don’t dilute your brand by working for zero payment for long periods of time. If you are looking to gain experience and all that is available is an unpaid internship then only stay for a short period of time and agree with your employer what you will get out of it before you start.

And there you have it – some fantastic advice!  In fact, I think I can hear the tapping away of laptops as students start writing their ‘about me’ feature – definitely a different approach that could work on so many levels!

My sincere thanks to Gemma for taking the time to put together her answers and sharing those nuggets of wisdom – some really thought provoking stuff.

And now it’s over to you . . .

Read through what Gemma has said and think about some further questions you’d like to ask.  Then join us on Thursday 24th May at 7pm for the #raisingtheprofile chat.

Follow me (@AM_Bailey) and Gemma (@gemgriff) on Twitter – we look forward to chatting with you then.

Lessons learned through #raisingtheprofile: Mark Grainger shares his thoughts

Mark Grainger is one of my Sunderland University classmates (and all round good-guy usually with a pun or witty joke at hand) also studying for a Master of Arts in Public Relations.  As well as being a fellow #prsund student, Mark asked some really interesting questions during last week’s #raisingtheprofile Twitter chat, and so I asked him to share with us some of the lessons he had learned.

* * * * *

Despite what could be inferred from my Twitter Bio, I wasn’t always an aspiring PR man. In fact for a number of years now I’ve had a little sideline (and indeed an undergraduate degree) in light, mostly opinionated journalism.

For me, the decision to move into PR wasn’t taken lightly but a large part of it was born from the idea that, as a journalism graduate, I would have a certain amount of transferable skills.

Now obviously I’ve since learned an awful lot about PR – it’s  not all about writing  press releases as I first suspected – but now that I’m hurtling towards having qualifications I was still interested to know how much my prior experiences and training could help me in the workplace.

Thankfully, Kari Owers of OPR, an award winning PR agency who happen to be based in my native Newcastle was on hand for the latest #raisingtheprofile web chat and cleared up any lingering doubts that I may have had about my prior media experience and the skills I had learned prior to my PR training.

Kari wrote that “certain skills sets are universal” adding “varied work exp (is) big gold star. It shows you’ve tried things out and thought about your career path”

It would seem then that a more considered decision to practice PR is encouraged but not only that, when I asked about what she and her company look for in an applicant, she reiterated the importance of a wide range of experience amongst other things: “someone who has gained varied work exp, confidence, asks great questions, does their homework, connected”

Kari’s checklist also serves to highlight an incredibly important factor about jobs and job prospects in PR; it’s all about building and maintaining relationships. Being connected and doing your research will help prove to an employer that not only do you know what is expected of you, but that you also want to be there working alongside them and their team.

And don’t forget “an email or tweet to thank employers for their time after interview.” Afterall, you won’t build any relationships without being polite.

So then, a brief recap of what I learned on Wednesday from Kari:

1) You need to have a grasp of the basic skills but also having a niche interest (that you’re good at) will help you stand out.

2) Previous life experiences, especially relating to PR and associated industries is nothing but a plus point as far as finding a PR job is concerned.

3) Enthusiasm, initiative and personability are key to showing yourself and your abilities in the best possible light.

So on that note, I would like to thank Kari for her advice and Anne-Marie for hosting both the webchat and these ramblings. Cheers!

* * * * *

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Mark – a great blog post with a lot of food for thought!

There’s been a slight re-jig of timings for this week’s #raisingtheprofile, so please check back here later today for more information.

See you then and look forward to chatting with you all again soon!