Undergraduate takes on PR placement

English Literature and History of Art student Lucy undertakes a two week placement

As a student going into third year, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I never have a solid answer for when somebody asks me what I want to do when I leave University. What I do know though is that I want to pursue a career that lets me engage with all kinds of people, with something new and different to do every day. PR is an industry that certainly allows that.

Having never done anything PR related before, I was unsure as to how I would take to it and walking towards the company on Monday morning, my feelings were mixed. I was excited and nervous all at once. These nerves vanished as soon as I walked through the Kinetic front door. As soon as I arrived, everyone made me feel so welcome –  I remember Angela even offering me a crumpet! With a cup of tea promptly in hand, I very quickly felt right at home in the friendly Kinetic environment.

In only two weeks, I feel as though I have learnt so much about PR. What was so great is that I wasn’t just sent out on errands all the time, I was actually given responsibilities and work to do that they could use. It made me feel fully immersed in the company as well as making me endeavor to do the work well that I was set. I was able to get a feel for many aspects of PR with a wide range of tasks, including writing press releases and case studies, making media lists, media calendars and forward features lists, besides much more. This was all new to me and it was a brilliant experience to see what life in the PR world could be like.

Many people will only do what they are comfortable doing and for me, this placement has forced me to take a leap of faith out of my comfort zone. Some would probably describe me as a creature of habit, but I know that in the real world I’m going to have to learn to cope with new and challenging situations. That’s life.

As a student studying English Literature and History of Art, writing is when I feel most comfortable, but I’ve got a confession to make. When I first arrived at Kinetic I had a major phone phobia! On my second day I was thrown in the deep end and although initially very daunting, by the end of the second week my confidence had grown and I was able to do sell-ins. That’s exactly what a work placement is for and I’ll forever be in Kinetic’s debt for helping me get over that phobia – thanks guys!

My advice to anyone thinking of doing work experience at a PR company is to embrace it and lap up the challenge. You only get a few chances to experience a working environment before being thrown into it and work experience is invaluable in helping you gain the much needed qualities that all employers want to see.

It’s only been a short amount of time, but I already know that I will miss the whole Kinetic team.  After this experience I definitely have a more solid answer for when people ask me what I want to do when I head into the world of ‘jobs’ after I (hopefully!) graduate from the University of Birmingham, next year.  Pursuing a career in PR is definitely for me and this placement was the first step in the right direction to help me reach this goal.

To blog or not to blog – that is the question?

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In an age where almost everything is available at a touch of a button and people are free to comment on anything they have read over the internet, it is no wonder that blogs are again becoming a popular method of communication.

Twitter and Facebook have long held the top spot.  We all want information in short sharp bursts but there are times when this is just not enough.  140 characters are not going to give me the low down on a new mobile phone and a Facebook page is not going to take me through the pros and cons.  These channels started the engagement but I want real-life opinions and only a techie blog will do.

Before I book a holiday, I turn to TripAdvisor or Holiday Watchdog to read the reviews.  Are these blogs?  Not in its purest form but in a sense, yes they are.  Engaging, full of opinion and content, it leaves me with a transparent view of what I am about to book.

It does not stop there though as we don’t read one review, we read the good, the bad and the ugly and then form our own opinion.  It is the same with a blog.

A true blog is written by the person it is claiming to be written by. Yes, it may need to be finessed to ensure it meets a brand’s guideline if it is being posted on a corporate website, but it is not there to expressly sell a good or service – it is an opinion.

However, this alone will not make it stand out. Personality goes a long way in a blog, but it is the content that engages and holds the reader.

When the ‘Chubby Grocer’ aka Waitrose’s managing director Mark Price started blogging in 2007/8 it was not his everyday life we were interested in.  Who he was meeting, how long it had taken him to get to a store was not of interest but turn it into a food blog and one man’s mission to lose weight whilst not compromising his love of food – that is compelling.

It is no different with other social media channels.  When Cheryl Cole and other celebrities started tweeting, we all held our breath as to how the amusing, quick wit of comedians and the potential celebrity gossip from red carpet goddesses would filter through but we were disappointed because they were holding back or hadn’t mastered the art of engaging content.

Blogging is no different.  If you want to blog, be authentic and keep it short.  A question many people ask is whether to blog or not to blog?

The answer is YES, but follow some simple rules:

–          Make it compelling.  Everything has a value to someone, it is about writing it in a style that informs but does not sell.

–          Be transparent.  Don’t make claims you cannot stand by or truly believe.

–          Keep it short(ish).  No more than 250 – 400 words.  I know – I have just broken my own rule.

–          Engage.  You are not going to please everyone.  If you receive negative feedback, it is an opinion. You have to take the positive with the negative.  Move on but if it is offensive or defamatory seek advice.

Lights, Camera, Action – PR and the moving image

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Today, we consume information in many different ways. Technology has thrown out a multitude of digital, social and interactive platforms that help open up a world of content to engage, excite and connect audiences in ways that they have never done before.

Moving image is one of the most rapidly-growing sectors in communications with innovative new content sharing platforms being developed every day.

But helping to bring video skills into the creative domain isn’t just about knowing your Vimeo from your Vine and your YouTube from your Yahoo. It’s about having the ability to produce and share compelling content effectively, giving PR and marketing agencies fresh new ways of breathing life into their messages.

Coming from a film production background, I was a little bit apprehensive about making the transition into PR and communications. Would I be able to step up to the plate when it came to delivering world class video material for Kinetic and our portfolio of clients?

My first task was to produce a new video for the Kinetic website, providing the audience with an insight on how to build reputations you can trust. My mission; to produce a piece of content that is compelling, inspiring and intelligent – to make the website useful for anyone looking to build trust in their reputation and take Kinetic’s video offering up to the next level.

It was a big challenge but, as soon as I got my hands on the camera kit and into the studio, my anxieties melted away and I felt like I was back in my element. Fortunately for me, Angela was a true natural in front of the camera and excelled in delivering her message in an inspiring and engaging way.

So why is it so important to use video to help illustrate your message in PR?

Did you know?

–          Only 20% of web visitors will read the majority of text but 80% will stop to watch a video

–          Videos are 53 times more likely to appear on Google’s first page

–          Cognitive psychology shows that stimulating both auditory and visual senses increases retention by around 58%

–          YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google

–          Adding a video to your website makes it 6 times more likely to convert a browser to a paying customer.

There is no doubt that video is an extremely powerful tool for businesses. Whether you want to say something about your company, promote a new product or service or just make your web presence or YouTube channel more interesting and engaging for your audience – moving image can provide the perfect solution.

Public relations isn’t just about getting column inches and writing media releases. It is about fully integrating communications solutions across traditional and digital new and rich media platforms.

I enjoyed my time working in film because it allowed me to develop a broad range of technical skills across a number of key areas. It was fast-paced, diverse and often unpredictable but the transition into PR has given me that and so much more.

It has allowed me to adapt those skills and apply them into diverse communications plans, helping to bring a fresh new take on each individual client’s message. It’s not just fun, it’s fast, exciting and above all, it’s now.

What can PR professionals can learn from Frozen?

Frozen is one of those films that will go down in Disney history for both its clever storyline and marketing tricks that ensure it is a family favourite – and not just for little girls wishing to be princesses.

But what can the Walt Disney Company teach us about clever marketing and how did they do it so successfully?

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

  1. For the first time in forever

Hans, a prince from the Kingdom of the Southern Isles, brings another dimension to a Disney film and no-one sees it coming. He replaces the wicked step-mother that we are all too familiar with and because of his wickedness, he threatens both leading ladies, Anna and Elsa. Disney are stepping away from the traditional ‘good prince’ plot and turning for something darker.

  1. Love is an open door

Unlike previous Disney films Frozen mocks the ‘love at first sight’ mantra and actually, throughout the film Anna learns to love and her ‘happily ever after’ is with ice-seller Kristoff. Audiences get tired of watching the princess end up with the prince and Disney have played on this.

  1. Let it go

Disney have learnt from previous films like The Princess and the Frog that to make a film into a global franchise, they need to make a movie gender neutral. Boys don’t want to watch a film about princesses – and mentioning ‘princess’ in the title is a big giveaway of what the film is about.

They begin mixing titles up with their 2010 Tangled (replacing ‘Rapunzel’) and this grossed over $600 million at the box office – big, but not as big as Frozen.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen’ it would have been easy for them to adopt the name, but by opting to promote Frozen as gender neutral the title Frozen was created and the rest, they say, is history.

  1. Put me in summer and I’ll be a… happy snowman.

Boys respond to humour so the creation of the talking-snowman Olaf makes the film seem that it isn’t all about two princesses. The marketing of the humorous Olaf is what captured boys, the Queen – who can make and manipulate ice is what bought the girls in, while the moving away from the traditional Disney values is what drew the adults in.

  1. Branching out – what PR professionals can learn

Frozen is the fifth highest grossing film of all time, earning $1.219 billion so far partly because Disney saw a possibility for expansion of a brand. When possible, professionals should strengthen the brands they represent through as many different media outputs as possible.

It’s not just a film – it is a soundtrack as well, and the Oscar-winning ‘Let It Go’ is still at number 27 after 33 weeks in the official Radio 1 chart, proving that both the film and the soundtrack go hand in hand.

The Frozen empire is still expanding, Disney have plans to make another film, a musical, and a new featured ride in the Disney theme parks. American TV series,Once upon a time, will also see Frozen characters come to life. Disney are not resting their brand and instead are extending the films life cycle through brand awareness.

This is a lesson that all PR professionals can learn from. By continuing to promoteFrozen through other mediums Disney has attracted a wide audience for many years to come.

Reputation is key in this business – Disney have already sussed it – and perhaps by doing a little more of what they do, you can to.

Journalism undergraduate gets first taste of PR

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As cliché as it may sound – my two week placement at Kinetic genuinely has flown by! It feels like only yesterday I was walking around the Jewellery Quarter with Google Maps out on my phone trying to navigate my way to the office, meanwhile my stomach doing somersaults due to a combination of nerves and excitement.

Firstly – it has been an amazingly brilliant two weeks, and for every reason you can think of. Above everything else, you want to be able to feel comfortable and welcomed, and Kinetic staff made me feel part of the team within the first couple of hours. They also know how to make a good cuppa, so that was an added bonus!

Joking aside, it was a brilliant experience and I learnt much more than I expected to in such a short space of time. I had a taste of all different aspects of PR, from writing press releases and drawing up social media calendars all the way down to ringing up local and national newspapers and posting leaflets! There was always work to be done, and constantly have bits and pieces to be getting on with is exactly what you want when you go on placement.

I learnt a lot not only about PR, but as a writer as well. Constant advice and feedback was given to me during my time at Kinetic – something I definitely couldn’t have expected beforehand. Going into my third and final year of studying Print Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, it was extremely helpful to have the opportunity to sit down one-to-one with a member of the team, in my case Lina, and discuss the work I had been doing. It gave me the chance to see what was good and where I could improve, as well as gain stylistic advice from a fellow journalism graduate.

For me there were two main things that made the placement what it was. First of all was the challenge of the work. “Once the mind has been stretched, it rarely returns to its original state.” I might be paraphrasing a little, but I heard these wise words from Angela on a few occasions during my time spent there.

Kinetic has a diverse range of clients that specialise in everything, from modular buildings to garden and horticulture products. Getting your head around the different businesses at first can be a bit tricky, but I actually found it an enjoyable challenge and a good test for me to be writing about something I previously did not know much about.

The second was the chemistry of the Kinetic team. The office always had a friendly and positive vibe to it, even when deadlines were looming. Everyone was approachable throughout the two weeks and a pleasure to be around.

My advice for undergraduates who are also considering working towards a career in PR is to go into your placement with an enthusiastic attitude and a willingness to do whatever work you are set. Some parts may not be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done, but by persevering you will demonstrate the important qualities that employers are looking for. By embracing your placement and being positive you will get the most out of your experience, wherever you choose to go!

Hot issues and interesting facts in the PR industry

The typical PR employee: female and in-house. Photo source: guardian.co.uk

Interesting that the recent PRCA survey identified the hot issues for the industry:

•               SEO

•               Online communications

•               Reputation management

•               Communications strategy and development.

 

Two other little interesting facts 40,000 of the 61,000 people who work in PR work in-house.  The Midlands is the largest community outside the South-East with 12%.  The NW and NE and SW each has 6% of the PR population.  PR’s also lost its petticoat profession in that 36% of the profession are now male.

Kinetic helps Vitax at Glee 2011