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.

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.

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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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!