Working with Stephen Waddington on the COVID-19 UK PR agency startup report

Over the last 3 months I have been working alongside Stephen Waddington at Wadds Inc. to develop a dataset of all of the agencies that started since the January 2020. The aim was to find what the driving motivations behind these COVID-19 agency startups are, to spot any trends, and to understand the specialisms that are becoming popular in PR.

As a newbie in the industry, this project has been an eye-opener for the developments within the industry and has enabled me to look into the future of PR. Not only have I been conducting industry research, I’ve also been introduced to so many agency founders and industry leaders. It was lovely to speak to the eight agencies we interviewed for the report: Second Mountain Communications, BB Partners, Little Mesters, Hard Numbers, Inpulsus, Look After, Happy Yolk and CommsRebel.

Below is an overview of the report with a link at the end to the pdf.

COVID-19 UK Public Relations Agency Startup Report

More than fifty new PR agencies have been founded in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report published today by Wadds Inc. It provides insights into the market and clear direction and inspiration for anyone thinking of starting their own agency. 

The COVID-19 PR Agency Startup report explores why such a large number of agencies have been started in such a relatively short period of time. It includes a list of startup agencies and characterises them by proposition location, funding and the date they were founded. 

The lockdown created new routines and space for practitioners to think about their career and life. Alongside redundancy and furlough this is the primary driver for new agency startups. The report found that two-fifths of agency startups were founded during the first lockdown between February and July.

The UK agency market is saturated with more than 4,500 agencies according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). New agencies launching into such a crowded market need a strong proposition.

Startups recorded in the study are focused on one of three areas of innovation: services, business model or specialism. New agency propositions are focused on data, creativity and lead generation. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), fintech and healthcare are popular markets.

The majority of agency founders have funded their new businesses from savings or lifestyle changes. Alternative approaches include raising funds from family and friends or seeking investment from a complimentary agency partner to help cover overheads.

The report finds that COVID-19 has leveled-up competition for startup agencies. Founders have been able to create content and meet people in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Video calls mean that everyone presents the same in credential and new business meetings.

Everyone interviewed celebrated the support that their launch and new agency has received from the industry. It is a vibrant and supportive community. The UK is a great place to start a public relations business.

“The report is dedicated to anyone who has founded an agency during the COVID-19 pandemic. It celebrates your work. It’s also intended as a source of inspiration for anyone considering setting up their own agency,” said Stephen Waddington, Managing Partner, Wadds Inc.

“The COVID-19 UK public relations agency startup report is an inspiring read. It’s hard not to feel optimistic about the future of our industry after reading the findings. The PR industry has adapted remarkably well to the pandemic and the explosion of new agencies is testament to the strength of our practice,” said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA.

“This is a fascinating, innovative piece of research into the life of any agency from start up. I hope, like the famous TV series Seven Up!, we will get the chance to follow their stories as they grow and evolve,” said Mandy Pearse, President, CIPR. 

The report found that two-thirds of the startups were located in London reflecting the location of their previous employers or personal circumstances. This is despite the fact that the pandemic has shown that there is no need for creative or professional services to be based in London. It may be that we’ll start to see a shift as a second order effect of the pandemic.

The report includes eight startup PR agency profiles: Second Mountain Communications, BB Partners, Little Mesters, Hard Numbers, Inpulsus, Look After, Happy Yolk and CommsRebel.

The 40-page report is available in an electronic format and Adobe PDF. A print edition is also available.

Availability

Report HTML version

PDF download version

Print version – please contact stephen.waddington@wadds.co.uk

The PR Students Experience: Ella McLaren

In this week’s the PR Students Experience, I spoke to Ella McLaren who is just finishing her second year on the PR degree at University of the Arts London. Below I talk about all of the projects Ella has worked on alongside her degree as well as her plans for a future in the music industry.

In The PR Students Experience we delve into past and present PR students’ 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.

Course Structure and Modules

Ella’s favourite topics on her course have been the modules that are more practical. In first semester this year she did a module called Planning PR Campaigns which she said she loved as it is directly related to the work you do in a PR role.

When discussing the structure of her course and module choices, Ella said, “UAL’s PR course is really structured, you get one optional module in first and second year and that’s it for the whole degree.” One of her optional module’s was in podcasting in which she created a 10 minute podcast which you can listen to here.

Ella did say that she doesn’t mind not having many modules to pick. 3 years ago she started a Liberal Arts degree at Leeds University but the freedom to choose all optional modules didn’t work out for her. The structure at UAL has meant that she is being taught the relevant subjects for her future career.

Ella loves studying PR as she thinks it really suits her skillset, she likes talking to people, she loves to write and enjoys planning. At the same time it is also challenging which means it isn’t boring for her.

Is the course up to date and is there anything that’s not included?

Throughout her modules, Ella said that her lecturers will refer to the CIPR, PRCA and any new studies and reports around PR. Her lecturers also pick up on the most recent news with lecturers even changing their lesson plans because of something that happened that week.

The degree touches on relevant topics across the world including Black Lives Matter, the pandemic, museums returning artefacts etc., and relating that to PR.

With a course structure that only allows for 2 optional modules, the UAL course tries to include as much as they can. Ella said she thinks they cover all the bases, but some things they kind of gloss over. She didn’t think they focused enough on writing skills, whether that be for press releases or magazine articles. So, Ella decided to set up a cross-campus magazine at UAL. The magazine, which is called Link, focuses on relevant issues for students, as well as opportunities for students to showcase their work.

She also said that so far her course has felt more theoretical rather than fully preparing for working in PR, which is why she enjoys any practical modules she does have.

Career Development Guidance

Although not a lot of the modules include practical, real-life experiences, her course does have a module called Public Relations Professionalism which includes a placement. So, as that module develops and she goes into final year her opinions on the practical side of things may change.

Ella hasn’t used the careers department much as she knows what she is wanting to do. She wants to work in the music industry, originally she wanted to work in artist management but after working at Mumford & Sons management agency (how cool right?!) she realised she enjoyed the publicity side of things more.

She said that since the pandemic, professional development has become a lot more independent and you as an individual need to make the most of it. For her internships she kept asking multiple places and going and looking for them herself. She said she always tells her friends “if you don’t ask it won’t happen.” Ella has two internships lined up, one with Lucid and one with Satellite 414. After contacting 71 agencies she received 10 replies, and finally 2 internships.

Ella’s future

Ella’s future is in the music industry, but she doesn’t want to box herself in with what she does. She likes a more strategic role, starting at an agency but perhaps working in-house later on.

She is excited about her internships as she’s working both at a music agency, but also an entertainment agency meaning she’ll get a well rounded experience.

As a second year, Ella has a year left of her degree. With many projects on the go and her success in landing internships, I’m sure Ella will have a great year and future ahead. I love her dream of working in the music industry.

Get involved!

If you’d like to be involved in The PR Students Experience then feel free to email me at sophsnextstep@gmail.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 Megan Harris who’s studying Business and PR at Liverpool John Moores University.

Confessions Pages are a PR Nightmare for University Student Societies

As president of a large society at my university, confessions pages are my worst nightmare. There has been a Facebook confessions page for my university for about 2 years now; at first it was fun and exciting but now they just cause havoc.

As a page for anonymous posting, people can have their say on anything and everything. From a PR perspective, this is a nightmare for reputation, there’s not much stopping these people from saying their opinion about a society and as we have learnt from the internet, anonymity heightens trolling.

Below I talk about how to be prepared for confessions posts a society but it can apply to anyone.

PR point of view

So, PR is about reputation- the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you (CIPR). Confessions pages = what others say about you.

Just like company exposé’s, university confessions pages are a place where people reveal the truths about societies, sports teams, departments, lecturers and specific people. These sort of posts affect your reputation, as an individual or as a group.

The scary thing about confessions pages is that they’re posted regularly and unexpectedly. There’s no knowing when the next post about your organisation could be uploaded or what the post will be about. Most of the time the page’s administrator is anonymous too, which means if you have any issues you message the page – hopefully they’re lenient.

Preparedness

You can be as prepared as you want when it comes to these sorts of things, but confessions page’s are unpredictable.

One of my modules this semester included crisis management and we looked at having a crisis management plan. Preparedness means that an organisation can respond quickly, balance different demands that the organisation will be facing, minimise reputational damage, control the narrative (to some extent) and to help recover from any damage caused.

Not everything posted on a confession’s page can be considered as a “crisis” and reputational damage for societies is much different than that of a well known company. Student’s behave differently and react differently. Determining which posts are serious and which are just trolls helps decide what actions you need to take. Are people just posting for bait? or is there an serious accusation?

My tips for being prepared:

  1. Have a generic response that can be personalised for a confession post– sometimes you may think it needs addressing, so prepare a response that represents your society and is professional.
  2. Have plans for certain scenarios– if a serious accusation has been made towards your society or someone in it and it will need to be handled properly, having a plan and knowing your university’s procedures is key in addressing the issue.
  3. Have certain people in charge of handling anything said on a confessions page– societies don’t usually have a role specifically for PR as it’s not really needed, so pick anyone on your executive committee and someone in a communications role (publicity, welfare, engagement officer etc).
  4. Decide whether it’s worth responding to a post– confessions pages are mainly used for click bait and trolling, so not every post needs a response. Some posts are jokes, or some posts are there just to annoy the committee.
  5. Try make your society confession free– this is hard as people will always have something to say, but if there’s nothing bad to be said then you should be fine, right?

Basically, have a plan, determine your approach and know what/who to prioritise.

My experience

There have been a lot of posts about the society that I run and to be honest, the posts are mostly negative. The society I’m a part of is a fundraising society, our main purpose is to organise fundraising events and volunteering so our work has a positive impact on the community. However, the past culture of our society was pretty toxic and that’s the main topic of many confession posts about us.

How I use the above tips in our society:

Tip 1: We used to have a generic post which we comments when posts were less frequent last year. It was along the lines of “Hi OP (original poster), we’re sorry to hear about your experience with our society” then include how as a society we have procedures in place to prevent these sorts of things from happening, and end it with “Please contact *president or welfare officer* and we can discuss this further and work on improving our society”.

Tip 4: However, we don’t use this as often anymore as a lot of the posts are just baiting us as committee and are posted just to provoke a response.

Tip 2: As a society we’ve had some serious situations arise and it has involved more than just a response; working with the original poster to take a situation further and including the student’s union. Unfortunately, people post on confessions pages as it is anonymous and therefore want to keep it that way, meaning it can be difficult to resolve.

In response to some of the confessions, our welfare officer has created anonymous feedback forms and organised discussion groups to improve our society.

Tip 3: With most of the confessions it is usually the welfare officer and I who handle it. We’re aware of the student’s union and university’s procedures so understand how situations need to be handled.

Tip 5: As I previously mentioned, our welfare officer and I are working on ways to improve our society. Along with the rest of our committee, we’re finding ways to forget the past culture of our society and put our society back in a positive light. A lot of the confession’s about our society are based around things that happened in previous years, but they’re connected to our society which is why it affects our reputation now.

Confessions pages are hard, especially when they’re personal and targeted towards certain people. A lot of the time they’re not worth a response and you shouldn’t dwell on them too much. There are many posts and examples of bullying on confessions pages and there are many universities struggling to work out how to handle confession’s pages.

The biggest struggle with them is the unpredictability, something we just have to get used to and manage.

The PR Students Experience: Rhea Mathew

In this week’s the PR Students Experience, we’re going international! I spoke to Rhea Mathew who studied her MA in Communications Studies at Indiana University after graduating from her BA in Communications, English and Psychology. Rhea graduated in 2016 so this is about her experience 5 years ago and things have certainly changed since then.

In The PR Students Experience we delve into past and present PR students’ 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.

Course structure and modules

Rhea’s bachelors degree was a triple major over three years. Communications included all elements of broadcast, PR, radio and journalism. English looked at different specialisms e.g., British literature, English literature and Indian literature. For psychology she studied developmental psychology, industrial psychology, and lots of other areas. Each semester of each year included modules on all three majors and they would progressively get harder with heavier topics.

Unlike here in England, every year of university in America counts towards your grade. This includes first year through to final year and even attendance. At the end of every year you need to have a minimum of 75% attendance.

Assessments in Rhea’s undergrad did include exams which seems to be a norm in American degrees. No one I have spoken to so far has had exams for PR, only assignments. However, she did study english and psychology which contained most of the exams.

Her masters was focused in communications studies and after the 2 years Rhea wrote her thesis on improving communications and social media for a particular institution within her university. Rhea mentioned that her masters involved a lot of the things she was taught during her undergrad, however, her masters degree involved a lot more research.

Gaining experience during university

Rhea’s undergraduate degree was more practical based which included internships during the summer. Her first internship was with a journalism company and her second was with a PR company. These internships also added to her final grade which is a great motivation as you’re gaining experience and getting a good grade.

Was the course up to date?

Rhea said “at the time, my course was up to date. Now, not so much.” She proceeded to say the world has completely changed so a lot of things she learnt are no longer relevant. However, she mentioned that having that foundation of knowledge has been useful. Rhea thinks universities need to get up to date and include new things in their courses, like handling trolls and crisis comms on social media. She didn’t think they were doing enough and that she went looking elsewhere for extra information.

Her university is starting to reinvent the masters courses and have realised students need to learn how to handle today’s topics.

What did Rhea wish she had been taught more about?

Rhea said, “during my undergrad I wish I had been taught more about crises and how to handle a crisis. PR is not this rosey bed of glitz and glamour…but it’s not that, there’s a lot of hard work behind it.”

She wishes she was taught that side of PR more as they were taught to believe it was something it’s not.

Her courses didn’t include PR measurement and Rhea said that in her first job she had no idea how to measure her work.

What Rhea is up to now

When she finished her masters degree, Rhea got her first job pretty quickly at HP as a global communications manager for one year and internal comms for 2 years. After that she decided to try something new and joined a fellowship programme in the US at a global women’s media publishing startup doing social media management.

She used her free time to take online courses to develop her learning and has certificates from Yale and University of Toronto. During the first lockdown Rhea took a digital marketing course which has helped with her work.

Most recently, she has joined Battenhall as a social media manager. She’s enjoying her new role at the agency!

Rhea said that one thing leads to another but her advice would be to never stop learning. Whether that be online courses or go back to university, there’s always room to learn.

Get involved!

If you’d like to be involved in The PR Students Experience then feel free to email me at sophsnextstep@gmail.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 Ella McLaren who’s in her second year of a BA in PR at University of the Arts London.

The PR Students Experience: Babett Kürschner

For this week’s PR Students Experience I had the chance to meet Babett Kürschner and discuss her time at University of the Arts London (UAL). Babett is currently a third year public relations student at UAL and does a lot of extra work alongside her degree.

Babbett is very proactive and you may have seen her on Twitter. She has plenty of experience from internships and freelance work as well as her blog and course Instagram page. Her course sounds different to those I’ve read about as it has a more creative spin on PR. Read on to find out more!

In The PR Students Experience we delve into past and present PR students’ 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.

Course structure and modules

The public relations course at UAL is split into 3 sections: core, contextual and professional. 

Babett named a few core module titles such Media and Communications, Media Relations, Planning PR Campaigns and Investigating Contemporary Communications. She mentioned that these modules can be quite social sciences based. Contextual modules included Reputation Management and Digital PR & Communication. “Modules really build on top of one another, so in second  year we had intro to media relations but in third  year we delve more into the sociological and psychological aspects of that,” said Babbett.

The professional modules at UAL include modules such as Agency Life and Creative PR Practice. She said “Because we are an arts university, a lot of the contextual and professional modules focus on giving us creative skills so we learned to use software  like InDesign andPhotoshop.” The idea behind learning these creative skills is that as a PR professional we will most likely work together with graphic designers or photographers and commission work, so we need to have an understanding of what goes into creating a campaign, from start to finish.

One of her favourite modules was Persuasion and Public Opinion as it applied psychological theory to PR. She also enjoyed all of the practical modules like the Agency Life module which included a competition which entailed giving a pitch to a startup .

Is the course up-to-date and is there anything that’s not included?

Babett said “I think we have a nice mix of modules that include the history of PR but also lecturers using examples that are really current.” Alongside this her lecturers also include recent papers and critical PR research into their modules.

Everything that the course at UAL doesn’t have, students  have been able to initiate  themselves. Babett felt there was an opportunity to build an online community for her course, so alongside her peers she helped develop the Instagram page for her course @lccpublicrelations.

PR measurement

They started out with the different types of measurement so looking at not only output but also outcome. “The planning model does require you to have measurable objectives,” said Babett. She proceeded to say “We did some exercises about differentiating between a strategy and a tactic,which has been burned into my head.”

They were also encouraged to  measure “success” not only by metrics, but focus on outcomes like relationship  building and attitude shifts. They also looked at how you can make sense of these intangible things and how to make them tangible if you were to explain to the C-suite.

Career development guidance

In her second year on the public relations course, Babett did a module called PR Professionalism which covered CV building, cover letter writing and required students  to complete  an internship.

The course holds monthly  industry insight sessions with professionals from outside the university where students  get a chance to talk and connect afterwards. Babett mentioned that 2 out of 3 of the internships she received were from contacts she made through those insight sessions. Sadly they were put on hold  during the pandemic but impressive nevertheless.

The Public Relations degree at UAL is part of the PRCA free student membership which Babett makes the most of as she was a course rep so managed to get a ticket to the PRCA conference which was paid for by her course.

Finding work in the industry

“A lot of it is dependent on how proactive you are,” said Babett.

Before this degree she studied  business law for two years and worked in comms departments at non-profits alongside. Eventually she decided to change degrees to pursue something she was genuinely passionate about: PR. The work she had done during her initial studies meant that she had a bit of work experience going into her degree which made it easier when applying for roles.

She freelanced for a feminist magazine Vagina-nomics which she got from attending an event she knew they would be at and seeking a job opportunity. She mentioned that the people you work for is just as much about whether they’re right for you as you are right for them, so seek out the opportunities you really want.

After her internships were cancelled, Babett started her blog which is how she got recruited for her most recent job as Communications Lead at tech2impact. She reiterated that a lot of opportunities she received was by being She also does it because she enjoys writing and said “I do it because I enjoy it and not because it’s a means to an end. It’s good to be passionate about what you do, getting better at what you do, getting noticed for that and it helps to get the ball rolling.”

Babett’s future

She is doing a masters programme in Communications, Media and Creative Industries at Sciences Po which is 2 years long and she’d really like to do a gap year at the Paris office of L’Oréal, as they offer a masters gap year.

After that she’d like to work at a big agency. She said “I see PR and comms as a really good way to inflict positive change in society, we have also seen a big shift in value at agencies and I want to be a part of that change.”

As an international student who has worked in different countries, Babett would like to move around a bit more and work in different countries. Alongside this she’d also like to learn French.

Get involved!

If you’d like to be involved in The PR Students Experience then feel free to email me at sophsnextstep@gmail.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 Rhea Mathew who studied a BA in Comms, English and Sociology as well as a MA in Communications Studies at Indiana University.

The PR Students Experience: Katie Hull

In the second post for my new series The PR Students Experience, I had a chat with Katie Hull who graduated last year from University of Central Lancashire with a BA in Business and Marketing and is now studying a masters in Public Relations at Sunderland University.

In The PR Students Experience we delve into past and present PR students’ 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.

Choosing to study PR

When studying at UCLan Katie enjoyed learning about public relations and decided she wanted to venture into that industry, however, the university didn’t offer it. She spoke to her personal tutor who tried to put her off the idea by saying it was a “dead industry.”

Katie said that she is very glad that she didn’t listen to his opinions as she’s enjoying her postgrad much more and has really embraced the industry.

Course structure and modules

After logging in to her portal to list the modules, Katie wanted to give a special mention to Public Relations Theory & Practice 1 and 2 as she likes to learn about how much public relations has changed since the different theories were published.

Having studied both marketing and PR, Katie said that she does notice the similarities between the two and understands the confusion from people who haven’t learnt the differences. Even at university one of her modules is called PR & Marketing Communications.

An interesting module that they teach on her course is Public Relations Ethics and Critical Contexts. Katie said she struggled with actually writing for this module because she knows what is right but it was hard to put that into an essay. She did however say that the topics within the module helped with that and that it was an insightful module.

How up-to-date is the course?

Katie said the lecturers and module leaders really help keep the course up-to-date. They encourage keeping an eye on the news and social media and then ask students to bring recent examples to lectures.

She did say that she would’ve liked to learn more about digital PR with examples like SEO and link-building.

I’ve asked everyone about PR measurement and in this case Katie said she hasn’t learnt much about it.

Gaining experience for her CV

Katie’s courses at both universities have given her practical skills that she can talk about when applying for jobs such as presentations to brands and pitching to her tutor.

Alongside university Katie is doing a PR and social media internship for a 3D printing company that print face shields.

If you don’t already, follow Katie on her social media (especially Twitter). She has been so proactive and recently co-hosted #PowerandInfluence with Ella Minty and I. We spoke about being a PR student and our perspectives of PR. Opportunities like these are things that she can discuss on her CV and interviews and will help her stand out.

Katie also has student memberships at CIPR and PRCA and is building her network and knowledge from both. Something her course recommended and her lecturer Deb Sharratt is chair of CIPR North East.

Katie’s Future

Katie’s most excited about creating good, memorable campaigns for businesses. She’d love to work with some big brands!

At the moment she is looking for work and is up for moving anywhere- especially Paris. If anyone knows of any PR jobs in Paris I’m sure she’d love to hear about them.

Get involved!

If you’d like to be involved in The PR Students Experience then feel free to email me at sophsnextstep@gmail.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 Babett Kürschner who studies a BA in PR at University of the Arts London.

Data’s Place in the PR World

It’s time for me to combine my two degrees! After studying maths, and focusing on statistics in my final year, I never thought I’d hear about it in my Media and PR degree. But I guess my undergrad is coming in handy.

Throughout my PR course I’ve heard about how it’s often hard to measure how successful a PR campaign is. However, this has changed. Data can be found anywhere on almost anything. We can now use data for campaigns, crisis management, AI and more.

What I’ve learnt is that having an idea of data, how to collect it and how to analyse it is beneficial for your career. Data is huge and will continue to be for years to come.

How is it useful for campaigns?

Data can help us plan for our campaign from the get go. Knowing your target audience’s demographics, habits and engagement can help prepare for a campaign.

You can conduct primary research to find specific data for your campaign. This can include questions that are more relevant to your business or the campaign and more targeted questions for different audiences. Again, conducting primary research after a campaign can open you up to some insightful information about what worked and what didn’t.

On the other hand, you could source secondary data from sites such as the Office for National Statistics and OFCOM to find more broad data. There are are plenty of tools for different things such as Google Analytics, Google Trends, Keyword Search, Answer the Public and plenty of others (the list is endless).

Social media platforms have integrated several tools for analysing your engagement rates. You can see how well your posts are doing across all platforms, the demographics of the people engaging and how these people are accessing your content. BuzzSumo recently analysed headlines across social media platforms to understand what makes a headline engaging.

Using data to prevent a crisis

Now, this isn’t an easy thing to do, especially now that social media turns a crisis global within an hour. But, we can use data to prevent major setbacks. With tricks such as social listening and big data, we can recognise small problems before they become a nightmare. By keeping an eye on what is being said about a brand, we can respond to any concerns and prevent a serious crisis.

Social media allows to see what is being said about a business in real time. Using this information has enabled us to see what is being said about a brand and when it was said.

The future of data in PR

Data is becoming widely used across the PR industry and has been for some time now. With social media continuing to grow in importance, we can only acknowledge how useful data is in all aspects of PR.

Something that I’ve not really delved into is data and artificial intelligence. This is definitely going to be a large part of the PR industry in the future as it is developed it could be used in different aspects of PR.

As a PR professional or graduate, it is beneficial if you have some background knowledge on data, whether that be through working with data in the past or learning how to code and interpret data. Being able to bring that to the table when applying for jobs can give you that extra leg up. I thought my switch from maths to PR was going to knock me down but I’m now confident I can use it to my advantage.

I could talk a lot about big data, statistics and analysing data. If you would like to read this then do let me know in the comments or on my social media!

Feeling Like You Belong

For this post, I wanted to open up about how I’ve felt these last few months when it comes to my life and my career.

In September I started a new degree, a masters in Media and PR. Having previously studied Maths, I was in a whole new world, I was a newbie. Having this fresh start made me change my perspective of the future, I was determined to work, meet new people and potential employers, and for once, do well. But being new to it was very intimidating, and it got in my head A LOT.

This feeling had me in slumps a lot, especially throughout this third lockdown. I know other people feel it too as I have read many posts from people in PR and others expressing their self-doubt. I came across the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and found that a lot of the characteristics matched up with how I was feeling. I felt like I didn’t belong in the PR world, like people would catch me out for being a newbie and that I will never make it because I’m not an expert.

The main worry I always had was my lack of experience. This, in turn, led me to signing up for anything and everything. I applied for a lot of internships at the end of 2020 and was rejected from the majority. This made me worried even more, like people were seeing through me. I spent a lot of the beginning of lockdown 3 questioning why I had changed my career path.

What I am doing to overcome this:

In January I started this blog, as a way of learning, sharing my opinion, and putting myself out there to be noticed. So far, it’s doing pretty well. Thanks to Richard (from PR Academy) sharing my posts on the student PR blogs of the week, my blog has reached a lot of people in PR. Having this place to write my thoughts has allowed me to connect with students and professionals and also helped me feel like I belong.

I don’t shut up on Twitter and it works. Twitter has been a saviour when it comes to networking online (especially since we can’t do it in person). I get involved in conversations with people from the PR industry, as well as use it as a source of information. #powerandinfluence with Ella Minty is also a great place to get chatting to people over a topic you’re all interested in, even if you’re not an expert and just want to ask some questions.

The lovely thing about following people from the PR & comms industry on Twitter is that the majority of the time they follow you back and that follow can really help because it shows that they’re also interested in what you have to say.

From this networking on Twitter I received a job! Thanks to Stephen Waddington I’ve already reached new people, new discussions and that feeling like I deserve to be working in PR. He saw the motivation in me to build my career and succeed. My confidence in myself has grown a lot over the last few weeks because of it all.

This is a feeling that most will experience, whether that be when starting something new like a job or a degree. Some people who have worked in a profession for years can still feel this way. I like to remind myself that I am working hard, it is being recognised and to just carry doing what I’m doing.

I could go on for ages about how I’ve felt these last few months, but I just wanted to share this with you as a lot goes on in my head before I post a blog, or write a tweet that people don’t know. Perhaps for those that feel the same, especially students who are studying/graduating throughout this pandemic, this is reassuring that it’s not just you.

New Era, New PR – a Clubhouse discussion about PR Agency Start-ups

Last week I finally joined Clubhouse and I must admit, I did enjoy it. The first discussion I went to was PRovoke Media’s New Era, New PR. For those of you who follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I have a new job working for Stephen Waddington. I know, check me out. The first project I’m working on is about the PR agency start-ups from the past year or so, meaning this Clubhouse chat was a must.

For someone fairly new to the PR & Comms world, it was a fascinating insight into the motivation behind agency start-ups, as well as why people want to work in this industry. The discussion provided such raw and honest answers which was lovely to hear in such an open space.

The event was hosted by Maja Pawinska Sims and Arun Sudhaman from PRovoke Media and featured guests such as Darryl Sparey (Hard Numbers), Graham Goodkind (Frank PR), Anna Geffert (Hera Communication Strategies), Jessica Hope (Wimbart) and many more.

I have lots of notes from this chat, however, I will touch on the key things that were mentioned throughout the hour-long discussion. There were a lot of similar opinions on agency start-ups, with motivation for start-up being the most common topic.

“Moments of disruption tend to spawn activity in start-ups” Graham Goodkind

A common theme amongst people that started agencies since the beginning of pandemic was the realisation that they weren’t happy doing what they were doing or the thought of ‘what do I want to do next?’. One common motivation was family.

Everyone had their own motivation for starting an agency but as Graham said, “Moments of disruption tend to spawn activity in start-ups,” it’s as if people needed those months in lockdown to step back and think about where they were in their lives and what they wanted to do next. Did it give people the push they needed?

For Felix Henderson and his partner Nic Young at Look After Group, their motivation was to help those affected by the pandemic, from industry professionals to charities and not-for-profit organisations. The agency started out as a voluntary initiative that worked with furloughed or redundant creative and comms people across the country.

“Diversification through specialisation”- Drew Benvie

Mentioned a few times throughout the discussion and brought up firstly by Graham is that more agencies now have a niche/specialisation. Having a niche is an advantage as you can focus and perfect your work. This has changed from previous agency start-ups that chose not to specialise.

For an agency with a niche to scale, they need to diversify themselves within the industry. If you can use your niche as an advantage for working with a variety of businesses, then you have the potential to scale. Through the research Stephen and I have done on PR agencies we’ve found focuses on ESG which although is a specialisation, has the ability to work with a variety of companies.

“Having a shop front is good”- Angie Moxham

Because of the pandemic we have all seen a huge shift online. We have adapted to doing everything from home. However, this shift online isn’t a new idea to us. People have been working remotely for years, but now we’re all doing it. As Arun said, “The pandemic accelerated a trend that was already coming.” I’m sure we’ll see many people sticking to remote working long after the pandemic is behind us.

On the other hand, when working with clients it is often a good idea to have that office where you can meet and pitch your work. Angie Moxham said, “Having a shop front is good,” indicating that an office is still beneficial. A lot of people also miss the vibe and the energy of an office. Opinions are split on this but I think we’ll definitely see more hybrid work set-ups from now on.

A lot of other topics were covered including finding talent and the Hollywood business model. Stephen tweeted a few key comments as well:

It was a great first Clubhouse event to go to and definitely useful for my research at Wadds Inc. Thank you to Maja and Arun for hosting and to all the guests for their opinions!

Does digital PR deserve its own module at universities?

It’s no surprise that digital PR is becoming increasingly popular within the PR industry. The world has shifted online significantly since the pandemic started which has meant PR professionals have worked more with digital PR.

On PR courses across the country we focus on traditional PR and incorporate digital within these modules, but I’m starting to think that digital PR deserves its own module.

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How is digital PR different to traditional PR?

Digital PR, like traditional, seeks to achieve coverage. It is also concerned with increasing rankings in search engines, The Domain Authority of a website and gaining links (PR Academy). There are lots of resources to learn the ins and outs of each.

If you’re confused by what any of that means, don’t worry. These are the things digital PR professionals are well clued up on and what all PR professionals should know (a bit) about. It’s not enough to stick to just traditional PR anymore, the key is to have a mix. Since the rise of the internet we have so many new opportunities for getting yourself and your brand known.

From this we know there are lots of areas of digital PR that we as students and professionals can learn about. At the moment, I am doing extra reading and webinars through CIPR on digital PR but would definitely have considered choosing a module on digital PR at university as there is so much to it.

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What could be taught in the module?

The list below is what I would include in a digital PR module at university. I’m sure there are more specific things to include too. For those of you who have more experience in digital PR, I’m sure you could suggest topics (I would love to find out your opinions so please comment below).

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Google Analytics
  • Working with journalists, bloggers and influencers
  • Online press releases for high-quality backlinks
  • Anything social media related (mentions etc)
  • Online campaign & strategy planning
  • Online event planning

A lot of this may just be incorporated into PR modules already, such as press releases, campaign planning and event planning. But a focus on digital could cover it in much more detail and set people up for PR roles focused on digital.

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At the moment digital marketing gets its own modules at universities and even whole degrees as it is such a broad topic. I think digital PR does deserve a module as a lot of the things listed above are usually learnt by doing your own research or from experience. If a module isn’t necessary then perhaps more inclusion into the content or additional classes around the course.

I know when looking at jobs and internships online that are in the digital PR field, they quite often ask that you have some background knowledge of SEO, Google Analytics and other tools used in digital PR. Having the option to do a module on this at university could really help when entering the job market as it is so competitive at the moment.

Let me know whether your university has a module on digital PR or you’re a PR graduate who would’ve liked to have had this module option in the comments below!