How to be a student professional

This is an article by Tom Lay.
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Starting University in September 2008 at the age of 24, I knew that I needed something ‘extra’ to set me apart from the competition when it came to graduation and bagging that all-important PR role I’d longed for.

I’ve always thought ‘out of the box’ and so when my PR tutor told me she wanted to treat us all as professionals, I had a brainwave. Why merely act like a professional, why couldn’t I be one in my own right?

Raw Sunshine

With that, I, along with my course-mates, launched Raw Sunshine PR, Yorkshire’s first student-run PR firm.

My name is Tom Lay and I’m the Accounts Co-ordinator for my own PR firm. That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s a lot more impressive than merely ‘my name is Tom Lay, and I’m studying PR’.

There are thousands of students studying PR, so what makes me special? My initial outline of who and what I am leaves an impression on people when I meet them –  they’re often eager to find out more about me and what this ‘firm’ was I speak about, given I’m relatively young and unknown in the PR industry.

No pain, no gain

I tell them what I’m telling you now – launching a PR firm run entirely by my course-mates and I has not been easy, sometimes it’s not even been pleasant, but it has been immensely rewarding. You see, unlike other PR firms that have been and gone in Yorkshire, we’re different.

We’re different in our approach to the industry because we ask ‘why’, and more to the point, we don’t charge for our services, instead opting to undertake work on an experience-only basis, which in my view, is priceless.

In an age where experience is key to getting that elusive role I mentioned earlier, there is no better way of standing out than to proactively find your own work, for your own company, in your own time and to be solely responsible for it. I could have taken the easy route and worked for a company who will guide me according to their practices, moulding me into the stereotypical student who graduates with a degree and a placement under their belt. That would be too easy though.

Sexual Health Week

When I started Raw Sunshine, I kept things close to home – our first project was publicising Sexual Health Week at the University itself, which was a challenge to say the least given most students’ reactions when you mention ‘Chlamydia’ to them in the canteen. My first ‘real’ achievement was getting my first press release published in the local media.

our first project was publicising Sexual Health Week at the University itself, which was a challenge to say the least given most students’ reactions when you mention ‘Chlamydia’  to them in the canteen

Sure, it’s an everyday thing for you guys sat there in your successful corporations, but to me, it was significant in the fact that someone was interested in what I had to say – they were interested in my PR firm, they were interested in me, they were interested in…..oh, actually they were interested in the glamour model I got on the front page!

Over the past year, I have seen Raw Sunshine go from strength to strength – I have personally had over 15 press releases published for various individuals and organisations. The obstacles I have encountered as a student-professional have at time been frustrating and tiring. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm, my drive and my eagerness to please, and so often it is the case where relying on other people doesn’t come through for me.

I have learnt that if you want something done, do it yourself and do it well.

New challenges ahead

As Raw Sunshine PR ventures into its second year, I’ve decided to raise the bar and set myself a personal challenge – this time, I’m not taking on my local media, I’m going to conquer the UK with my first national campaign, Bad Hair Day (

Bad Hair Day 2009Bad Hair Day 2009 is my response to my mother’s personal struggle with alopecia – it’s a campaign to raise awareness of the condition, and will see people up and down the UK go out into the world with bad hair on 29 September this year.

I was warned by someone wiser than me that these things have a tendency to snowball out of control if they catch on, but if anything, this excites me and leaves me more determined to succeed. Based on a budget of blood, sweat and tears, Bad Hair Day has seen all four predominant alopecia charities in the UK work together under one umbrella for the first time since their inceptions.

I have received phone calls from celebrities and their agents, including Gail Porter, who want to have some sort of involvement in the cause. Media interest has been fantastic, with many health & beauty editors actually wanting to run a feature and not giving me the usual ‘if we’re interested we’ll run it’ story I’ve been accustomed to previously. It’s amazing what you can do with a good idea and some creativity!

I have received phone calls from celebrities and their agents, including Gail Porter, who want to have some sort of involvement in the cause

So, what’s the purpose of this article? Well, from my perspective, I wanted to share my experience with other PR students trying to make their mark in the industry. PR is, as we all know, a highly competitive, yet immensely rewarding career.

My advice for any student wanting a piece of it is: just do it. Don’t wait around for an opportunity, and don’t think you’re not ‘learned’ enough to take on the world – determination, confidence and creativity will win at the end of the day. We are the next generation of PR professionals, and there is no time like the present to start being one – don’t just act professional, live it.

About Raw Sunshine PR

Raw Sunshine was founded in 2008 by Huddersfield University first year PR students. Since inception, Raw Sunshine has worked with major companies including Fireplace warehouse & Raw Sunshine takes on work on a work experience basis, and we are always looking for new opportunities.

About Bad Hair Day

Bad Hair Day 2009 is the UK’s first national day of awareness for the condition Alopecia. Working with Alopecia charities in the UK, September 29th will see thousands of people up and down the country wear bad hair to raise awareness for those whom the term ‘bad hair day’ means something more personal and emotional.

More details can be found at


  1. What a great initiative.

    As someone who used to hire PR people (before becomong an academic), your project stands out

    Well done and good luck.


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