“I’m ready for a change!” That was what was ringing through my head during second year. Not because I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, but because I wanted a new and exciting challenge and I was desperate to put all the theory and talking into practice and see how PR really works.
Second year PR students will be having talks on placements and probably feeling very confused about what they want to do. It feels like yesterday that I was in exactly the same situation – deciding what to do and where to look.
I know some of them may be debating whether or not to take a placement; it is a hard decision to make, but from my own experiences and those that I have heard from my peers, I would recommend listening to the advice and stories and make a decision from there.
I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard looking for a placement while trying to finish second year, because it was very time-consuming. What was harder was seeing my friends on other courses quite relaxed about their work, while fellow PR students ran around shouting about applications and interviews and where we wanted our lives to go. Amidst all of that stress, I must admit I was very excited for what was around the corner.
Thinking about what you want
While the mad hunt was on for finding and applying for placements I started to think more about where I wanted to be. Many of the PR placements seemed to be in London and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that was where I wanted to be. I looked over a few other options and decided to apply for Marketing Manchester. It scared me to think about moving to Manchester as I knew nothing about the city and knew no-one who lived there, but when I was offered the position I decided to take the chance of a new life in a new city!
Now looking back it was the best decision I have made. Placed in a new environment surrounded by new people created such an exciting year that I am still now feeling the adrenaline. It wasn’t solely about my placement but also about enjoying and exploring a new city with new friends. It was a fresh change from Leeds and I loved every minute of it.
Working in tourism PR
My position was that of Communications Assistant which sat within the Press and PR team. Overall, my team consisted of four people who worked collectively in promoting the city nationally and internationally. The company as a whole had around 50 people.
Our activities involved working closely with travel media, trade media, local businesses and government bodies to develop an awareness of Manchester’s attractiveness for tourists. I also worked with other teams within the company to promote events, venues and other Manchester organisations. We also worked on campaigns which promoted Manchester as a conference destination, where I was also involved in working the Labour Conference and also managing any corporate PR for the city.
I know what you are thinking… was it really that exciting working for a government-funded tourism organisation instead of some glamorous PR agency? All I would say is not to judge a book by its cover, as you may be surprised about what you get out of your experience. I certainly was!
Hard work equals experience
There was never a dull moment in the office from the first day I started until the last. I was never treated like ‘just the placement student’ and became a valued member of the team from day one. Working in a press team is certainly a busy role, but a very fulfilling one.
I gained a lot of writing experience through stakeholder communications, editorial work for external and internal magazines and media listings guides. One main publication that I contributed to was MCR magazine; Manchester’s glossy lifestyle guide for which I wrote full features and conducted interviews with key players in the development of Manchester.
I was also involved in creating and coordinating photo shoots for nightlife features. When I started my placement the magazine was a relatively new idea and only at its second edition; this meant I could get involved at all stages of the publishing cycle from creative planning to proofing. This was a great project to work on as I learnt so much about the procedures of producing printed publications and it’s also extremely rewarding to see your work in print. Writing was a very important part of my role and I had a lot of input in many publications.
One of my main responsibilities was to plan and execute press trips for national and international travel publications.
I was also responsible for running the national women’s magazine campaign to create relationships and coverage in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Closer, SHE and Company to name a few. This linked in with a Coldplay press trip we organised to help promote the city’s venues.
I loved working on this, as it was a great achievement to work on something alone and to be solely responsible for the work achieved. I created close relationships with these magazines and gained some great work for my portfolio.
Getting events experience
One of the major PR projects I was involved in was Manchester Pride festival (supporting the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charities). Our team worked very closely with the event organisers and I was involved in helping to promote the event through press releases, writing interviews for magazines, dealing with any crisis situations and planning the media publicity. This was a project my team dealt with in addition to the tourism work; it became a fantastic events and crisis PR opportunity to be involved in.
During the big weekend I was responsible for looking after and entertaining the media that we invited on the press trip and help with the control of the press pit at the front of the main stage in the evenings. It was certainly great events experience and working alongside the managers was a real highlight. I even got to meet some of the stars (that’s if you class Peter Andre as one!)
Fun at work
Working life isn’t all work and no play; there was a lot of time for fun on this placement. I was asked to go to London one weekend with a colleague to a gala award dinner for a publication we produced and I helped at the Manchester Tourism Awards dinner; both great fun experiences.
There were always a handful of invitations to different events, launches, lunches, evening meals and welcome drinks. Since it was my job to help promote places in the city it was important to experience them first-hand. It also enabled me to meet the key PR contacts within the tourism industry and to establish good relationships with them. There were many of these events throughout the year so it also meant I could get to know all my colleagues in different teams too;’ some weeks I would be totally partied out!
Back to the grind
The whole year has been a fantastic insight into what options can be available and where I could progress my career to. The tourism industry was a sector that I never saw myself entering until I got this position; now, after completing the year, it has opened my eyes to a whole new world. I will even be focusing my dissertation on what I have learnt while on placement, so from thinking about this early I have built up my contacts within the industry and hope to use them whilst conducting the dreaded dissertation research.
I know now that I was not ready for my final year when I was in year two, but I am ready for the hard work with the experience I now have behind me.
Applying to do a placement has not only given me the work experience that I can use within my final year studies, but has also made me realise I can do things that I didn’t think I could a year ago. Rising to opportunities and doing things alone – like moving to a new city – no longer fazes me.