March 26, 2010

Reality check ahead…

Reality check ahead…
This week we have a guest blogger – Harriet Black – who has been with us on work experience. Here, she fills us in on her experience of a real PR agency.
I’ve had a reality check.
Studying a PR degree cannot fully prepare you for working in the PR industry. So, have I just wasted the past three years doing a degree that is of no value? Not at all.

The mixture of theoretical and practical modules on my course had prepared me in a sense. I know about Grunig and Hunt’s four models of PR and the strategies to follow in crisis management. I’ve learnt how to direct a press conference and the process of creating a campaign. However, during my week’s work experience at Orchard PR I’ve had the opportunity to learn things my PR degree could not teach me.

Typing up a pretend news release, for a made-up company who are putting on an imaginary event cannot fully prepare you for the real PR world. Yes, it’s great practice and it’s given me the knowledge of how to write a news release but it’s just not the same!

At Orchard, I’ve done it for real. I’ve written an actual news release, for a real company who have a genuine reason for being published in the media. I’ve also been to photo shoots and met journalists; I’ve heard live radio interviews and been to client meetings. I’ve witnessed the day to day working life of PR professionals and have had hands-on experience in a PR agency and this has made all the difference. I’ve gone from a make-believe PR world to the real one.

So what has this dose of reality taught me?

Well, it’s an exciting time to be starting out in the PR industry. The increasing use of social media means PR is changing and this is where us graduates come in, according to Laura Oliphant in PR Week.

“They’ve grown up in a digital world so they’re comfortable using the latest technology to dig for insights and with building relationships with complete strangers.”

Timing is everything in PR. This isn’t just about being on time for a meeting but knowing how the media and your client’s days are planned out. Knowing what time a certain paper will be put to bed or a journalist’s deadline for an article is vital information and can make all the difference.

This is not your average 9-5 desk job. During the day you could have a number of client meetings, business launches or photo opportunities. You may also have to send a number of e-mails, make phone-calls and write news releases. You need to have one eye on the media at all times. No work day is the same and this is why I chose to learn about PR and hopefully work in the industry.

Finally, the motto for any PR person should be ‘Be Prepared.’ Always have a spare copy of the press release and always double check on locations, times and dates. These are standard organisation skills; however, what they don’t tell you in your PR degree is that this includes being prepared for pretty much anything! I learnt this the hard way on a photo shoot at the beach. Rocks and high heels do not go together…and I am not the most graceful of people. Needless to say a pair of flat boots were in the car the next morning…just incase.

So I leave the Orchard with the realisation that my PR degree may not give me all the tools for working in the PR industry, but that it’s certainly given me a head start. Through work experience I’ve had invaluable practice and gained a clearer understanding of how the industry works. I’ve learned that good preparation and timing is vital to be successful in this 24/7 career and that being creative online is a challenge the PR industry is facing as I start my career, but one I feel as a graduate I’m well prepared for.

Posted by Harriet.

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