My top interview tips for PR grads

Interviews can be scary, especially if you haven’t had practise with many before. I’ve certainly had my fair share of interviews, some fun and some frightening. As a recent graduate fighting my way through the competition to get interviews and eventually a job (fingers crossed) I thought I would try and help some people out with tips I have learnt along the way. I hope that this post will settle the score on some interview myths and give some key tips that I wish I had been told.

From my experience there are three types of interviews that companies like to go for;

  1. Good Cop/Bad Cop,
  2. So laid back you could take a nap and,
  3. You’d think you were on The Apprentice (Complete with that annoying rival candidate)

I must say my preferred interview style is the Good Cop/Bad Cop and I’ll explain why.

The Good Cop/Bad Cop is normally held with two interviewers that go through some questions with you in a formal manner but nothing too strict. One interviewer will constantly smile and nod reassuringly at your responses, whilst the other (probably sprouting horns) grunts or exhales heavily to all answers. The good cop will normally ask you whether the journey to the interview was alright and whether you’re enjoying the weather, whilst the baddy will jump straight in for the kill with ‘so why you?’ My advice for this style of interview is to play their game. Smile and show a fun and friendly side with the Good Cop but you need to be able to switch to suit the Bad Cop. Be serious with your answers and keep eye contact, keeping in mind that they’re probably not trying to catch you out but are looking for a professional person. The first interview myth I want to settle is that you are allowed to enjoy it. This interview style enables you to show off your personality as well as your skills so make the most of it.

I personally have only encountered the second style once and it was… unnerving. I always say it’s better to be overdressed for interviews, however, upon arriving in a suit I was certainly shocked to find an almost beachwear attire in the office. It wasn’t even a Friday so Casual Friday was off the cards. Many digital and creative agencies have adopted a fun and relaxed working environment and normally consider smart casual as suitable attire, but I recommend finding out what they expect before attending any interview. The laid back approach to interviews can make you feel more comfortable but my advice is don’t forget why you’re there. You’re there to make a good impression and to sell your skills. If the conversation is informal and you don’t feel like you’re getting the chance to be serious about the role and your interest in working for them then it’s always good to raise a question about the role to keep the conversation in the right direction. The second myth I want to challenge is that there is such a thing as too nice. A survey by blah revealed that the most desirable personality trait wanted from interviewers was being down-to-earth. It’s good to have a bit of a backbone during interviews especially when discussing your expectations from the role. Interviews are very much about seeing if the company is right for you, not just if you’re right for them.

The final interview approach is possibly the worst. This type of interview is usually a group affair and a very competitive experience. Normally you’re set with a team building exercise (how many cups can you stack before it topples, etc) to show if you’re a team player. Sometimes, if they’re really mean they’ll ask candidates to leave after this first stage (don’t be in the team with the toppling cups) and the final stage will be one on one sessions. My advice for this type of interview is be the biggest show off. You’ll be watched all day during the team sessions and the one to ones so make sure you’re on the ball at all times. This sort of interview is the most frightening as the competition can be off putting but show off your skills and remember that you can only do your best. The final interview myth I believe to be irrelevant these days is that you have every right to ask what the salary is. If the interviewer hasn’t mentioned the contract type or salary bracket then you should have the confidence to ask this. It can be an awkward subject to discuss so I wouldn’t suggest firing it out first thing but if the conversation has gone well and you’re asked if you have any questions then this would be a good time to bring it up.

One final point of advice that may seem like an obvious one, it is to me at least, is that at no point should you be on your phone at an interview. Even if you’re waiting a long time (and you’re nearly onto the next level of Candy Crush). It looks unprofessional and gives the impression that you’re bored.

I hope that this advice is useful and wish all graduates good luck with your interviews.

I would love to hear your interview stories, funny or frightening, so leave a comment and let me know what your top interview tip would be.

Feature image: http://wishtraining.com/helpful-stuff/interview-questions/

“Are you lost from your ball pit?” – 3 PR industry health and safety tips

Are you lost from your ball pit?” I was asked this question by a PR professional (I won’t name and shame) after they pointed out how young I am. It didn’t really affect me at the time but it got me thinking about how young PR pros can stand out when entering the industry. Here’s my advice when breaking into the world of working in PR:

found: http://pixgood.com/path-cartoon.html

1. Know what sector you want to work in: Having completed two PR placements in two different sectors last summer I have noticed a considerable difference between how day-to-day PR processes are handled. My first placement, being a creative digital marketing agency, was very laid back and the office was often filled with jokes and banter. In contrast, my second placement, being a corporate and financial consultancy, was more formal and conversations about the news or business scandals were the topic of choice over lunch break. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but to highlight the importance of knowing what sector you want to enter as a PR junior as each is suited for different types of people.

plan-guy

2. Plan and plan and plan again: Planning your career path is the easiest way to work out what your PR dream really is. I created one for my Employability and Work Placement unit last year and what I have realised is that nothing is set. Your plan is yours. It can change at anytime to coincide with your ever-changing dreams. I also realised that even though your plan will most likely change as you grow within the PR industry it is still important to write down your career aims. By doing this you can position yourself within a certain sector or even with a specific organisation and you can prepare yourself for working within that environment.

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3. Dress for the job you want: This may sound a bit obvious but looking presentable is so important when making first impression in the industry. You won’t be taken seriously as a PR professional if you turn up to an interview or networking event in jeans and trainers. I recommend finding out what the dress code is before attending as digital agencies are often laid back have a more smart casual dress code compared to corporate where a suit is necessary.

 

If you’re a student trying to break into the industry then I’m sure you’ve already been told to do these things but I hope I can highlight how important they really are.

Key thing to remember: It might be intimidating to begin with but PR juniors are the future of the industry. Shake off negativity, learn from rejections and make your career the one you want it to be. 

Resolution in Communication: 5 steps to effective negotation resolution

I recently attended a police hostage negotiation workshop that shed light on the extreme circumstances that could require effective negotiation. Two representatives from Hampshire Police gave a talk on their experiences with negotiating in dangerous situations with vulnervable people. The main ‘take-away’ from the workshop was the skill to listen.

A 5 step process was given by the representatives to help understand the key factors that make up effective negotiation.

5 step processThe first step is ‘Emotional Intelligence’, which means understanding the circumstances of the situation you are trying to negotiate.
The second step is ‘Intitial contact’. It is important to use warm welcoming open lines to introduce yourself.
The third step is to build raport with the person through ‘Empathy’.
Fourthly, ‘Trust’ needs to be gained through continuation of the third step.
And finally, the fifth step is to effectively ‘persuade to solve the problem’. Through all the steps listening should be the number one skill used.

This five step process contrasts Saner’s key factors of negotiation (2000), which takes a more aggressive approach:
Coercion: using force, or the threat of force to wrestle concessions from an opponent.
Opening strong: starting out with a position that is higher than what you realistically estimate you can achieve.
Salami tactics: prolonging a negotiation to a painstakingly slow pace, only giving a very small concession to the other side when it can no longer be avoided in order to placate the other side for a little while longer.

Do you think these steps are useful?

What other factors are important for resolving conflict through negotiation?

Negotiation in practice:

Heineken set up a challenge where guys had to convince their girlfriends to purchase stadium seats using the power of negotiation. The result is humorous and show how difficult negotiation can be at times. Have a look and find out if they managed to or not:

What do you think of the video?

Solent PR Graduate Conference

Last Thursday (6th November 2014) was the first ever Solent PR Graduate Conference organised by my course leader Sally Holland. The day consisted of industry expert speeches followed by a networking lunch.

Having just started my third year of university I am being given many opportunities to meet with potential future employers. However, I must say that it is rather scary to be able to attend ‘graduate’ conferences as it feels like first year was only last week. The day began with an introduction from Sally Holland and a brief outline of how the day would run. The keynote speaker was Ilona Hitel, MD and Founder of CommsCo with a talk about how to get and keep a successful career in PR. The main piece of advice that I’m positive most of the students will take away from Ilona’s speech was that ‘It’s all about work experience.’ Ilona also offered tips of how to get noticed by using creative applications, such as a video CV.It was interesting to here how Ilona carried out a Google search of Solent University before coming on the day and found that that latest story was of a drunken Solent student getting her head stuck in a bottle bin. ‘You are only as good as your last google result’ says Ilona when raising the importance of what we have on the internet that potential employers can see. Another piece of advice given from the founder of CommsCo was to know the news agenda and said “Journalists will only respect you if you understand a good story and are not just interested in getting your clients in the press.” ILona’s speech was full of useful advice for all PR students across the 3 years of the course.

Tomasz Dyl, founder of GottaBe Marketing was the next industry expert to share is experiences and advice with the cohort and told the inspiring story of how he started his PR Agency at the age of 17. The agency grew into GottaBe Marketing and Tomasz emphasised the opportunities available through LinkedIn when it comes to future employers. He said that it is important for us as third year students to identify which agencies and/or companies we want to work for after graduating and to start connecting with them via LinkedIn. He also pointed out that it is vital to give the person a reason to accept your connection by telling them a bit about yourself and why you think you would make a good connection for them to have. Tomasz shared with us that the most rewarding part of working within the PR and Marketing industry is seeing your work and the good that it’s doing.

Beth Ansell founder of Lemon Squeezy was up next to deliver her speech about what it’s like being a freelancer. Beth is a graduate from Solent herself and is only four years ahead of the current final year students on the course so it was good to see how much can bee achieved after graduating. The key points that Beth mentioned were being able to have control over your work timing but having the pressure of working until it’s all complete. She pointed out that as a freelancer there isn’t any other employees that will pick up the project and complete it for you. Being a freelancer sounds tiring but Beth pointed out that being your own boss means you can take afternoon naps whenever you like, which i’m sure has convinced many students to potentially take the freelance route.

The next industry expert to speak was Emma Hazan from Hotwire who gave advice about how to stand out and get the job you want. Emma is a great communicator and gave an inspiring presentation giving tips on first impressions and how to sell yourself.  Emma was very confident and it was clear that communicating with others is a key strength of hers and she emphasised the importance of knowing what you’re good at and to build them into a personal brand for ourselves. Own the room was a good piece of advice given from Emma as first impressions are important to future employers.

Mark Stretton, MD, and Michelle Williams, Account Director from Fleet Street Communications were the final industry professionals to speak to the Public Relations students, where they gave inspiring advice about how ‘you can really effect change through trade PR’ (Mark Stretton). Michelle discussed how it’s important to decided which PR path is right for you, however, don’t be afraid to try other paths. Mark told the group how he started Fleet Street Communications four years ago with only 3 people and how it has grown. For many students travelling is a big factor for their career choice and Michelle explained how bigger agencies could often give employees the opportunity to travel abroad to head offices in places like Dubai, Florida, and Hong Kong.

All of the industry professionals provided inspiring stories about their experiences and useful advice tips for us PR students trying to gain graduate job offers. It was good to see the students actively tweeting about the event and using the #PRconference to gain awareness of the first ever Solent PR Graduate Conference. The day was a success and a great opportunity for all of the students that attended. The talks were followed by a networking lunch where students could ask the experts questions and make professional contacts.

Here are some photos from the speeches during the day:

Ilona Hitel, MD and Founder CommsCo

Ilona Hitel, MD and Founder CommsCo

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Beth Ansell, Lemon Squeezy Marketing

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Emma Hazan, UK Deputy MD Hotwire

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Mark Stretton, MD, Michelle Williams, Account Director, Fleet Street Communications

‘Introducing, the Atelier Studios Interns!’

I have previously blogged about my time as a Digital Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Atelier Studios, Southampton. After my 3 weeks were over Atelier wrote a blog post that was posted to their website blog all about my time there, along with fellow intern Sangeeth. Here is what they wrote:

Introducing, the Atelier Studios Interns!
By Andy Clayton On June 3rd, 2014

Over the last three weeks, Atelier Studios have been joined by two second year students from Southampton Solent University as part of a work experience programme. Helen Cummings from the Public Relations course, and Sangeeth Gurudas from Marketing, joined in the beginning of May to come and work alongside the digital marketing team.

Atelier Studios

Atelier Studios

The students have been working on a number of clients projects as well as getting involved with some exciting internal projects. This has seen them engaging with content marketing, search engine optimisation, and public relations as well as the delivery of live client pitches and developing campaign strategies for new and existing clients.

Atelier Studios

Atelier Studios

The introduction of work experience placements comes as part of Atelier Studios plans to maintain close links with the local universities, helping the digital professionals of tomorrow, to stay ahead of the latest developments in the industry and gain more professional experience.

Our Digital Marketing Manager, Matt Treviss, had this to say:

“I’m aware of how difficult it is to study and gain relevant work experience that will land you a job when you graduate. Introducing students to the working agency environment is our way of giving an insight to life after graduation, as well as the opportunity to get involved in real projects where they can use the knowledge and skills they have learnt so far. These interns mark Atelier’s first step into the offering of work experience placements, and it is something we will definitely be continuing with in the future.”

Atelier placement comes to an end, temporarily

I previously posted about the first half of an internship that I was completing at Atelier Studios in Southampton.  Well, last Wednesday was my final day as a PR and Digital Marketing intern with them. The 3 weeks went by quicker than I imagined they would and I’m going to put that down to how much fun I had whilst I was there.

The final half of my time with the agency was spent writing content briefs for a number of different industries, blog post scheduling, and modelling for the new Atelier website (which was more funny than anything else). I also had the opportunity to work on some link building, where I scanned through websites within the industry and aimed to generate back-links to the site. This was a new skill that I learnt during my placement and one that I’m sure will be a desirable skill required by future employers.

As a thank you gesture from the team we all went out to Mangos for tapas followed with Orange Rooms for cocktails. It was a lovely way to end my placement and I’m happy to be able to return  in July to further my placement with Atelier. A huge thanks to everyone that helped me throughout the placement, Dave, Matt, Rachal, Monika, and Sangeeth.

Entering the PR world one baby-intern step at a time

Now that second year is done and dusted I have started my first of two work placements. I started as a Public Relations and Digital Marketing Intern at Atelier Studios, a digital marketing agency in Southampton, on Friday 9th May ’14.

The first day I was thrown right in at the deep end byWhiteboard ideas being given a client brief to work on. I had to generate a 6 month social media strategy plan for Varissa, a car sourcing website. I spent the day working with a fellow intern coming up with ideas. Atelier is a very chilled environment and they have a whiteboard wall where we could note down all of our tactics. It was a fun day getting to know everyone and putting together our ideas. We had to put everything we had come up with into a presentation to pitch to the client on the following Monday.

Day 2 was the client pitch which went really well. I wasn’t too nervous as I have previously pitched for a live client for an assignment on my course, so I was able to relax and pitch confidently. We received positive feedback and praise for our ideas.

For the next 3 days I worked on a number of different projects for clients, which I found very interesting. I started by doing some social media critique for a 3D printing company local to the agency in Southampton called isodo3D. This was fun as I could look into what they could do to enhance their social media presence. I also did some Copy Writing editing for a flooring company, which gave me the chance to show my writing skills. I then moved on to writing content briefs for a number of different websites, such as SPS International; a headhunting company that wanted a content brief about headhunting within the fashion industry. I am not massively knowledgeable about the fashion industry so this gave me the opportunity to research and challenge myself with a new topic. I also wrote briefs for iac acoustics, which is a sound proofing construction company, giving me a chance to research into the building development industry. So far I am enjoying being able to work on many different projects within a range of industry’s as it allows me to see what I am really interested in.

On day 4 I worked on SEO development of a website called Mr Nutcase and it’s adjoining blog called The Real Mr Nutcase. I created meta title tags, meta descriptions, and blog content updates. Meta titles and descriptions is a skill I have learnt from the placement and it was very useful to be able to use what I had learnt with a real project. Atelier is a digital marketing agency, which is giving me the opportunity to stem away from just PR projects and learn more about website development and SEO. The next day I used SproutSocial to schedule content updates to a range of social media platforms for a company called Associated Pallets. Associated Pallets sell wooden and plastic pallets, so I found industry-specific content that could be published. I also did this with the flooring company previously mentioned and researched for content within the flooring industry to be posted. I had never used SproutSocial before so again this is a new skill I have learnt. During the day I also wrote some more content briefs for Associated Pallets.

And that brings us to today… I began the day by learning the basics of running a website health-check audit. This is completely new to me so it is a chance to learn new skills. This afternoon I will go over the health-check in more detail and learn more about SEO development.

I’m half way through my placement now and so far I am really enjoying my time with Atelier Studios and I look forward to working on more projects. Stay tuned for a follow up post about the second half of my placement.

It’s the end of 2nd year, already

The end of term deadline panic is over and along with that the second year of my degree. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about that. I’ve got only one year left and no doubt that will fly by just as quickly due to the non-stop dissertation work I’ll be doing.

It is certainly a relief to have handed in all my assignments so I can now focus on my summer work placements and my part time job. I have already received an assignment grade back and I was very happy to have achieved a 1st for my Solent Creatives freelancing portfolio. I put a lot of hard work and effort into this project so it’s great to have gained another 1st under my belt. Although second year has officially ended, summer has not yet begun (and that’s not due to English weather, for once). I have now started the first of two summer internships within the PR industry. Working longs days on placement mixed with part time shifts in retail is extremely tiring, but the fact I still have the motivation to get up at 7am each morning to gain important experience proves to me that I have chosen the right career choice.

Keep an eye out for my next post to follow, which will be about the experiences I’m gaining and the fun I’m having on placement.

E-book in a day – Solent Success

On wednesday 26th March Solent university students took on the CIPR challenge of creating an engagement themed e-book in a day. The e-book will consist of different chapters that look into different areas of engagement within PR and evaluate how successful the engagement from the day was. The e-books aim is ‘to put the public back into public relations’. This is the first time that anything like this has been attempted and I am very proud to say that I was able to take part of it as a Solent student and become a co-author of the e-book.

A mixture of 2nd and 3rd year students got together on wednesday 26th March 2014 to work in teams that would be managed by a MA student on a mixture of courses. Each team were set to cover a chapter of the e-book each, which were made up of Networking, Crowdsourcing, Co-creation, Gamification, Curation, Visual Mashup, Face-to-face/Voice-to-voice, and Measurement & Evaluation. P2P PR is a new term created for the e-book that stands for Peer to Peer PR, highlighting the aim of generating engagement through all PR people.

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Solent University: Faculty of the Creative Industries

All of the students got the opportunity to pick which chapter they wanted to work on with consideration of what their key skills are. I chose to join the Visual Mashup chapter as I felt I could contribute my social media and networking skills and experience to the team. The goal of the Visual Mashup team was called ‘Life in a day of a PR person’, which meant that we needed a visual representation of what PR meant to people. The teams aim was to generate engagement with PR professionals, agencies, lecturers, and student through social media platforms, such as Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

 

 

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Steve Waddington (CIPR president) giving an opening speech)

After an opening speech from Catherine Sweet and Stephen Waddington (CIPR president) an ice-breaker session started whilst the groups were joining together. From this we moved onto the delegation of roles within the team. Specific members of the team were assigned to manage certain social media platforms, such as I was delegated to work on the @ebookinaday Twitter account alongside Marta García-Urgelés. After each team member had been assigned a platform to manage we got started with generating engagement. Myself and Marta began tweeting PR professionals and agencies through a database of contacts that had been gathered through networking. To begin with we weren’t seeing anybody responding with a photo that sums up PR for them. We received a lot of new followers to the account as well as retweets and favourites but it wasn’t until about an hour in that we started to see agencies start to respond. Ketchum and MSL_Group responded with excellent contributions of their visual representations of PR to them. After these big-name agencies started to engage with the project we saw many others join in as well.

After we had generated an impressive amount of engagement through each social media platform, the team began to work on writing the content for the chapter of the e-book. We had roughly an hour to compile all of our findings from the day into a short chapter that was focused on Visual Mashup as a means of generating engagement. Here is a photo of team Visual Mashup:

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Visual Mashup team photo

The day was a great experience and I am very proud to have worked on such a unique opportunity for Solent students. Below is a video of Steve Waddingtons (CIPR president) conclusion speech with 3 useful tips for the students. (Please forgive the terrible recording quality due to snapping it on my phone)

After the busy day of creating the e-book, many students then participated in Meet The Professionals networking evening at the university. I was pleased to have the opportunity to attend this event and I managed to gain some useful contacts through networking, some of which will be great contacts for my dissertation research. Overall, the day was long and tiring but definitely a great experience and an opportunity I got because of Solent’s efforts towards integrating the students into the industry.

The Start Of The End: Dissertation Prep

Every students nightmare has to be the dreaded dissertation. I am now nearing the end of the second year of the degree at Southampton Solent University and little did I know that I would have to start thinking about my dissertation topic now. Along with the rest of the PR cohort, dissertation proposals, topic choices, and research questions were a distant thought. I suppose it’s a good thing to not leave it all till third year but it is scary to think I have to begin planning it now. Not all courses have a dissertation as a part of the degree, and they’re the lucky ones, however the Public Relations and Communications degree does. 10’000 words of PR-perfect content that is specific to your chosen topic.

Catherine Sweet is the lecturer for the Research and Evaluation unit on the degree and Catherine has been talking us through the first stages of researching our topic choices. As part of this unit I am required to produce a portfolio with 6 entries, 3 of which are focused on my dissertation topic. The 3 entires are a literature search, document analysis, and a content analysis. In order to do these 3 entries I first had to decide upon my topic and form it into my dissertation title. A guest speaker came in to speak to the group about her experience with dissertation writing and doing work placements. She told us the best way to narrow down our topic is to make a mind map called ‘Topic Choice’ where we look at what our ideal job would be, what we are curious about, what our hobbies are, and finally what our secret passion is. Below is my mind map that I used to create my dissertation title.

mind map topic choice

 

From this mind map I worked out that I wanted to write my dissertation on Environmental Issues and the approaches people make to try and make a difference. From this I then researched into activists and narrowed my title down to..

‘How Far Is Too Far? A comparative study into the PR of Greenpeace and WWF to identify effective activist campaigning tactics.’

I have begun to work on the first drafts of my literature search and content analysis with document analysis left to do. I am enjoying doing the research, which is giving me the motivation to write about this topic for my dissertation. There’s no good in choosing a topic that you’re not interested in and then struggling to write 10,000 words about it.

I am looking forward to the third year to really start working on my dissertation topic and learning more about environmental issues and activist tactics. I aim to work on environmental campaigns in the future so my dissertation should help me to achieve this goal.

Below is a prezi presentation I created as part of the Employability and Work Placement unit for this term. The prezi is my Career Development Action Plan of where I wanted to end up after graduating university and how I aim to get there.

If the prezi doesn’t load through the box above try this link instead:

http://prezi.com/ygdmppdhjrek/my-career-development-action-plan/#