Thursday, 11 February 2010

Tug-of-war...Public Relations should be given respect as a profession

I made a personal choice when I decided to pursue a master’s degree to study public relations over marketing, and although a vast majority don’t see the difference, I know the difference and every other person who is passionate about this field knows the difference.

I must say that even though I chose public relations over marketing, that does not mean that I don’t respect marketing as a separate profession, it simply means that I am more inclined to practice public relations.

However, of all the marketing professionals that I have met, only about two respect public relations as a profession in itself. They always seem quick to point out that it is “controversially” a tiny subset of marketing that really doesn’t deserve any real status.

Honestly, I am getting tired of hearing: “Is that just like marketing”, when I tell people what I am studying. And unfortunately, this is the general consensus on public relations.

Nevertheless, this has not prevented the growth and expansion of public relations practice: with thousands of established public relations agencies and practitioners existing in the UK alone.

But why is public relations seen in this way? Is the practice of public relations fully understood?

Does the public know how many of the stories in the newspaper are taken from well-written press releases issued from public relations officers? Do they know how many times their way of thinking has been influenced by the hard work of a public relations practitioner? It is an indefinable number, so let's follow a campaign that we all know.

Think about the concept of recycling and its recent history. Vast amounts of people now recycle and the overall importance of recycling or being eco-friendly is well-known, but how do you think those ideas were made reality? A well-prepared public relations campaign that stretched over a number of years!

Someone had an idea, and through good communications management, those ideas were filtered to the press, posters were made, flyers were distributed, press releases written, announcements were made... and the list goes on!

However, the general public is unaware of the behind-the scenes activity needed to distribute this information. They simply receive the message. All of that is PR!

There are so many public relations practitioners out there who genuinely get excited and are passionate about their work, and I have been privileged to come into contact with a few of them, and this has sparked not only an interest but an eagerness to fully immerse myself in the field.

I am personally excited about the field of public relations, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging and exciting career choice.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Life On Mars-My public relations work experience

After completing a four week work placement at the Phoenix Partners, an integrated marketing and communications company, I can only describe my experience as unforgettable.

My work placement, which was to be completed as one of my course requirements, has given me an in-depth understanding of the life of a Public Relations Officer. I was fully integrated into the day-to-day duties of the Public Relations Manager as well as other office duties, but as a Barbadian working for the first time in the UK, it was somewhat of a culture shock.

In terms of experiences that pertained to my course of study, there were several, but the experiences outside of that can’t go without mention.

When I started on the 12th January, I honestly didn’t expect to really be involved in anything significant. I thought it would more have been an initiation where I would be introduced to staff and projects they were working on – generally given some time to settle (especially since I was extremely jet lag as I had just got back from Barbados the night before).

However, on my first day I was given instructions to become fully acquainted with two of their biggest clients via internet, brochures, newspaper articles or through magazine clippings they had collected. Surprisingly, I was then asked for my input into a proposal for one of the clients, details of which I then had to draft into an e-mail for the client’s perusal.

This was followed by phone-calls, the drafting of a press release, a contribution to website content and a very interactive staff meeting.

So after this first day, I decided to prepare myself for extremely busy days, because after all, if the first day was that busy, shouldn’t I expect the same or more for the days to follow?

However, the days following were a mixture of calm and flurry, with some days being much more exciting than others. I was involved in drafting e-mails, contributions to newsletters, compiling media lists, drafting blog posts and of course – press releases.

During my time there, my writing skills have definitely improved, especially after being asked to write, re-write and redraft press releases. That was honestly the hardest part of my placement and at some points it was quite discouraging. In the end, I definitely improved, but it took some time.

Furthermore, I am proud to say that two of my press releases were actually in the Leicester Mercury.

Other than that, I accompanied the PR Manager to a networking meeting as well as a meeting with the editor of a local newspaper. In addition, I was involved in four mail-outs where I folded, stuffed, stuck and packed invitations, letters and newsletters.

Looking at another side of things, I also had to get accustomed to the culture of the organisation: whether it was the constant smoke breaks outside the building or the fact that every staff member makes the tea at least twice during one week. I was even reprimanded at one point for making a single cup of tea for myself.

Overall, I found that everyone worked really well together and everyone always seemed willing to be involved in any task, even the daunting job of mail-outs. At staff meetings the Managing Director was always eager to get input from all staff members and she never hesitated to point out the importance of having a mixture of employees from differing backgrounds to make contributions.

I truly believe that this work placement not only gave me insight into the world of public relations but was also a valuable experience in terms of the culture of a UK organisation.