Welcome to part one of my new series: The PR Students Experience. In this series I talk to students to see how different the PR & comms courses are at universities and their experiences with entering the world of PR.
We delve into modules & topics, course structure, universities’ guidance on how to enter the PR industry, career help, how they’re finding work in the industry and plans for the future.
For my first post in this series I spoke to Nathan Bickerton who has a BA in Business and PR at Liverpool John Moores University and is now studying an MA in Digital Marketing at the same university.
Course structure and modules
His undergrad course was small and consisted of between 16 and 20 people. It’s encouraged on the course to do a placement year but Nathan opted not to do one as he wanted to stay in Liverpool and wasn’t ready to leave his friends.
Nathan has found there to be an overlap and similarities in his two degree courses, progressing from BA Business and PR to MA Digital Marketing. There was a module he did in the third year of his undergrad called Digital Marketing Communications which ran very similarly to a masters module called Digital Marketing Strategy where he developed his own website, a campaign on MailChimp and Google Ads.
As his undergrad degree title was Business and PR, I was interested to see how much of the course was actually PR.
“Quite a lot of it. To be honest I was quite happy with that,” said Nathan.
The course started out with learning business knowledge alongside PR theory. In second and third year the course is heavily weighted on PR with modules such as Creative Media and Strategic Campaign Management. Nathan said third year was where he “really got hooked on PR” as he felt he was learning much more.
His favourite modules included Change Management which entailed planning an office move and helping employees out with the change. He liked Crisis Management and Campaign Management as they were PR heavy through planning their own campaign and doing a crisis press conference.
Nathan went on to do his dissertation in crisis management and said “it’s strange because I enjoyed the negativity that came from crisis because it’s really interesting. Understanding what happens when things go wrong.”
The course doesn’t offer optional modules, but Nathan didn’t mind this as he was happy with the modules that he had. He went on to say “the course leaders are respectable people so I trust their judgement on the modules we should be learning, we’ve been built up ready for the industry.”
How up to date is the course?
Nathan said this is one of the reasons he wanted to get involved in this series. “I cannot speak highly enough of the course, everything we get taught is current,” said Nathan.
As well as his undergrad course, he mentioned that his MA in Digital Marketing is in it’s first year of being a full 180 credit masters programme at Liverpool John Moores, so the degree structure is up to date.
My next question was about whether there was anything about PR that he wasn’t taught but wishes he had. He said no, which is great to hear. He carried this on by saying anything he needs to know now he will figure out on his own in the future and throughout his career.
PR measurement and its inclusion in the PR course
“We got taught about PR measurement but we also got taught about the limitations,” said Nathan. PR can be hard to measure but we’re embracing new ways to do so.
The course taught them about the basic metrics of measuring PR and that they got taught about links, social media monitoring, Moz and more. But he reiterated that it can’t be truly measured.
University guidance on career development
There are lots of opportunities in the UK to find help in entering the PR industry, from CIPR to the Lockdown Facebook group. But I wanted to find out what help the university gave Nathan over the last few years.
“I want to shout out to my lecturer Keith because he is an amazing bloke,” said Nathan. Keith if you’re reading this, he is very grateful for your support. Keith invited Nathan to help with a project he was working on with his sons and Nathan became involved in the social media for the project.
Nathan said all of the lecturers on his course were supportive all the way through his degree. If people had questions they’d always be happy to help and when they see you’re putting in the effort they will definitely reciprocate that effort.
As well as this he commended the university’s career service for their help with CVs, interviews or just the simplest questions.
Nathan told me a story about a time he asked the careers service for help, “I remember one time I got an interview for my first role in PR and I got told on the Thursday afternoon and the interview was the Friday morning. I emailed Linda from the careers service and she came over from another university building to help me prepare for the interview last minute.”
Nathan has plenty of ideas for what he’d like to do in the future. He’d love to travel and explore the world as he said the world has so much to offer. He also mentioned his aspiration of one day owning his own agency and has some ideas around that already.
Nathan’s dissertation for his masters is focused on Influencer Marketing and is interested in looking at the trust in influencers across different industries. We talked a lot about influencer marketing as it is the topic of my dissertation so it’s amazing to have that connection now so we can help each other throughout the summer.
He also has an exciting internship starting in May with Steven Bartlett. The opportunity came about after Nathan sent a message to Steven showcasing the Wikipedia page he had created for him. Within 10 minutes of speaking to Steven, he had been offered an internship in London for a month. Read more here.
Steven shared the post on LinkedIn saying “I offered this young guy a job ten minutes after he sent me the message. He identified a blind spot I had, created a solution, got it done and sent me a nice message.”
With Nathan’s initiative and drive I’m sure he has a big future ahead of him. We had a great chat, he’s so enthusiastic. It was lovely meeting him and to talk about his university experience and his life going forward in the PR industry.
If you’d like to be involved in The PR Students Experience then feel free to email me at email@example.com or DM me on Twitter! I’d love to talk to students across the country and the world to see what we are taught about PR at university.
In my next post on The PR Students Experience, I talk to Katie Hull who studies an MA in PR at Sunderland University.