Why a career in PR content is the right role for writers

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Post by Holly Ashford, Senior Content Writer at Babel

If you’re a student or graduate on one of Hallam’s dedicated PR courses, you’ll likely know more than I did when I first started looking into PR as a career path. An English Literature graduate and later a journalist (via a few freelance copywriting roles), I moved from a business-to-business technology publication to a technology PR agency two years ago this September.

As a former journalist and editor, I moved to ‘the dark side’ last year, and as Babel’s Senior Content Writer I’m responsible for the words that change hearts and minds. A lover of the outdoors, when I’m not cycling London’s streets I can be found running Regents Park’s paths.

I joined Babel – an international tech PR agency headquartered – in London, as a Senior Content Writer, attracted by the prospect of writing for a diverse set of clients and publications and gaining knowledge of new industry sectors. So, what does a role like Senior Content Writer involve?  What are the skills required? And how can you go about securing a career in content?

Content: the cornerstone of PR?

Content director, content marketer, integrated content strategy, content creation, content publication, content is king, optimising content, SEO content…‘content’ is an essential component of the PR/marketing argot, though remains a somewhat vague term to anyone on the outside, including many who are interested in a career in PR.

In an era where almost anyone can produce and publish text, image, audio and video, many PR agencies need someone who can do so creatively and can craft engaging and relevant content which cuts through the noise.

A day in the life

Every PR agency will be different, but at Babel there is a particular emphasis on written content, meaning anything we produce (either for clients or our own brand) involves in-depth briefing, research, creation, proofing and editing. I help to manage these processes, work with other members of the team to develop their creative ideas and writing style, and come up with new content ideas for clients. Yet a great deal of my day is spent writing and learning – which, for someone who has always wanted to be ‘a writer’ of some description, is ideal.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role is being able to write different kinds of content for different audiences. On a given day in the office I might be working on a very technical press release for one client, whilst ghost-writing a feature destined for a trade publication for another, and transcribing material for a research-led whitepaper for a third. Creating less formal, high-level material offers a counterbalance: I might be writing a blog post for a client’s website, while overseeing output for the corporate social media account of a second.

My day is punctuated by reviewing the written work of members of the Babel team and (on occasion) clients. As well as offering an all-important second pair of eyes, this helps to ensure that the copy is as compelling as possible, always meets the client’s objectives, and promotes their core messages.

There’s a nature of unpredictability in PR, given that a great deal of what we do is governed by the daily news agenda. As Senior Content Writer my office hours will, therefore, be spent with fingers to the keyboard and an ear to the ground, keeping an eye out for breaking news stories which are relevant to any of Babel’s clients. When this occurs, I’ll immediately pen a comment in response, which the rest of the team will then pitch to the media.

Career PRospects?

PR and marketing courses offer a strong foundation for a career in PR, but this needn’t be the only route – especially if you’re looking for a content-based role. Many PR agencies looking for candidates will be open to grads from a range of disciplines – it’s more about the skills and attitude you have, and how you’ll fit in with an agency’s culture.

Strong writing skills are obviously a must, but you should be prepared to learn and adapt your writing style too, including being able to take critique (and, yes, criticism) from colleagues and clients. As a former journalist this took some getting used to, but looking back, this approach has helped to hone my writing – and ensure that clients are kept happy and the agency remains successful.

An interest in current affairs is important, and corporate acumen and marketing know-how are a plus. A willingness to learn about the trends and drivers in new – often niche – markets is essential (who knew I’d be an expert in cellular coverage solutions, next-generation networks, and TMT M&A?) and, perhaps most importantly, these skills and strengths must be supported and fuelled by creativity and a love of writing.

Babel is always on the lookout for new talent. Visit our careers page for more information, or email recruitment@babelpr.com

Making it in digital marketing without a marketing degree

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Hear top tips from Creative Writing graduate, Hannah Tomaszewski about how she got into Digital Marketing, took a risk and followed her heart to career satisfaction!

Hannah TomaszewskiHow I managed to land my dream job in digital marketing with no relevant degree and very little experience!

I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in the summer of 2016 with a 2:1 Degree in Creative Writing and not much clue as to what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to write but couldn’t seem to figure out what route to go down. When I eventually researched marketing jobs and realised it sounded perfect for me, there was one problem – I didn’t have a marketing degree. In a world where most graduate jobs seem to require at least 2 years’ experience, it seemed impossible. Here’s how I beat the odds and managed to bag a job I’d only ever dreamed of.

What do you do and how did you end up there?

I work as a Digital Marketing Strategist for Bigfoot Digital, an award winning SEO Barnsley Agency. Worried about my lack of experience, after graduating and moving to Chesterfield, I pestered a local marketing agency to let me learn from them in exchange for witty jokes and sarcastic comments. I ended up doing some work experience with them for a month trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could. When I left, I was certain Marketing was the career for me but decided to take a break and worked in a castle hotel in Northumberland for a year – a hilariously odd yet fun experience.

I ended up back in Chesterfield and working in a marketing job that wasn’t what I thought it would be. The job was much more analysis based than advertised and I’m not ashamed to admit I was bored, uninspired and felt like I was sinking. I lasted 4 months until I took a risk, handed in my notice and left with no job lined up. I was told I was being naïve, that any job was better than none, but I followed my gut and, as I walked out on my final day, knew I’d made the right decision. I fired off what felt like millions of applications and, two weeks later, started at Bigfoot. The rest, as they say, is history!

What does an average day at work look like for you?

The thing I love most about my job is that no two days are the same. Although I mainly write content and blog posts for the website, it’s interesting to learn about the more technical aspects of digital marketing and how everyone’s roles interlink and fit together. Our office at Bigfoot is super relaxed and there’s often a background of Spice Girls to get you through the day. My colleagues all have different degrees and experience but we all share a common talent for all things marketing related and help each other out no matter what. I’m so lucky that I get to work with a load of like-minded people who genuinely get on, love their jobs and, most importantly, have a laugh!

My top tips:

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others:

It’s human nature to pit yourself against your peers, especially in a creative industry where everything is so subjective. In my office, everyone’s writing approach and styles are so different that it’s completely pointless to try and compare techniques and, often, while you’re busy being jealous of their talent, they’re thinking the same about yours.

  1. Think about what makes you different:

While I was at university, everyone was writing about serious topics while I dedicated my time to writing chick-lit, simply because I enjoyed it more! At the time, I worried that people would perceive me in a certain way, however I’ve since learnt that you should always play to your strengths. I’m proud to be individual and wrote my cover letter for my current job in my own humorous and informal voice – this is what made my boss hire me as I stood out from everyone else!

  1. Try not to panic and don’t give up.

I often still remind myself of this! The world of graduate jobs is extremely daunting! Always remember that you’re still young and no employer should expect you to know everything. When I left my previous job, I felt entirely lost and hopeless, but just weeks later I felt like a completely different person. There are great companies are out there – you’ve just got to find one!

  1. Be brave and have confidence in your own abilities:

In my first Graduate role, I shied away from speaking up and found it embarrassing to admit if I didn’t understand a task. In my team at Bigfoot, our mantra is ‘there are no stupid questions’ and it’s along these lines that I now try to live my life. Don’t be ashamed to admit if you don’t yet know something, everyone starts somewhere!

If you’re looking for marketing work experience, we’re always looking for talented individuals to join our ever-growing team so get in contact with us today!

 

Product design graduates return to share their experiences

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Product Design Workshop

Post written by Caroline Hanson, Employability Adviser, Art and Design

Last month saw the first ever “Employability Week” aimed at Product and Furniture Design students, organised by senior lecturer Dean, in collaboration with industry experts and the Careers and Employability Service. The first day included three graduates from product and furniture design courses at Sheffield Hallam sharing about their current roles and career path since completing the course. Tom was using his creative skills to work as a marketing manager for Harris Brushes. He shared from his own experience about the negativity that can be faced after graduation which he called the hope/doom seesaw, to him, listening to the hopeful and aspirational voice was important to persevere through initial rejections. He encouraged students to go the extra mile at interviewing order to be memorable, for instance he designed and showed different elements of his design and marketing skills in his portfolio. Since beginning the role, it has developed greatly into a hybrid of marketing and design, he emphasised “Don’t be confined but the boundaries that are given when you secure a role.” Approaching people directly had paid off for him in the past and he even used LinkedIn to contact staff members within an organisation before the interview.

Abby had worked in a number of product design positions before her current role at W’innovate, which is a company based locally in Worksop and designs products for Wilkinsons. She has worked for in house design teams, in consultancy roles and also on a freelance basis, even having the opportunity to visit the production factories in China and gain an understanding of how her designs are manufactured. She emphasised the importance of commercial awareness, especially in consultancy roles, including being aware of the cost of the materials, the target market of your product and the selling price. Her advice for students was “Know yourself and the things you are good at and like working on, then you can sell yourself more effectively.” Her organisation is a graduate centre of excellence, offers short placements and is currently recruiting for a graduate positions of Assistant Product designer, so do take a look if you think this could be the role for you.

The afternoon session focused on portfolio development and every student had the unique opportunity to receive portfolio feedback from a professional in industry. Speaker Nick, reminded listeners that a portfolio should “Sell you, not just your products” and include broad a range of skills. As a recruiter he wanted to see your best work in your portfolio, not everything you’ve ever done, include rough sketches to show development of ideas and ensure a visual impact, by getting rid of any large blocks of text. Key advice was to “Build your personal brand and be thick skinned,” he also recommended entering design competitions open to recent graduates.

Students spoke positively about the day and went away with practical feedback on how to improve their portfolio and CVs. The remainder of the week included input from a top branding agency, practical workshops from the careers team and a boot camp for students to develop their enterprising skills, a number of students took up the offer of one to one appointments or enterprise advice to develop their plans further. Keep an eye on https://careerservice.shu.ac.uk/ to find out about other events coming up!

 

Choosing the right digital marketing role for you

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SEO Digital Marketing to improve website views

Using SEO Digital Marketing to increase website traffic

This post was written by Samantha Condliffe – Digital Marketing Exec at Infinities Designer Menswear.

Graduates with marketing degrees often don’t realise just how many different roles are available to them, especially down the digital route. This is because huge developments in technology and culture have completely changed the landscape of marketing over the past ten years, creating a demand for a whole host of new roles which are not yet being taught in our education system.

Each role within digital marketing is vastly different, requiring a different set of skills and a different type of individual.

In this post I will run through the main digital marketing roles in order to help you determine which is most suitable for you.

PPC

PPC is short for ‘pay per click’. PPC adverts are placed on the results page of search engines such as Google or Bing with the aim of driving traffic to your website which will then convert into a sale or another form of conversion for non-e-commerce sites. A PPC exec will carefully chose the search terms which ads are visible for and bid on those terms. This role requires somebody with a mathematical and analytical mind to ensure that the company achieves the highest possible return on investment.

SEO

SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ which refers to the process of developing a website to become naturally visible in search engine results pages. Again the aim of this is to increase traffic to your site and in turn increase conversions. To rank well an SEO exec needs to ensure the website is technically well built as well as providing all of the information the user desires from their search, presented in an easily digestible manner. This role mixes technical web knowledge with creativity and is therefore great for anyone who wants variation in their job.

Affiliate

Affiliate markers place adverts on third party websites in order to attract people to their website and increase conversions. They carefully chose websites which have a cross over in target audience and agree commission rates with the sites. This role demands somebody with great communication skills as well as string maths and analytical skills. 

Email

If you are a little more creative and have some design skills then email marketing may be for you. The role includes creating great looking emails using ‘subliminal’ marketing tactics to be sent out to a database of subscribers. The end goal is to get people to take a particular desired action off the back of reading the email, whether that is to visit your website, make a purchase, sign up to an event, enter a competition and so on. You will also need some degree of analytics to review what tactics provide the best results.

Social Media

The usage of social media has grown rapidly over the last few years providing companies with a means of speaking directly with a huge proportion their target audience on a regular basis. The majority of companies with an online presence include social media in their overall marketing strategy. This role is really popular with outgoing and creative people although it does also require some degree of analysis to define a strategy which achieves a constant increase in followers, likes, shares etc.

Social media provides companies with a regular means of speaking directly with their target audience.

Social media provides companies with a regular means of speaking directly with their target audience.

 

If there is more than one role which you would like to pursue or you don’t want to limit yourself to one area then you will be glad to know that some companies combine two roles together. For example you may see some adverts for SEO/PPC exec where time is split between the two or alternatively you could opt for a digital marking assistant role where you will gain a small amount of experience in each area and then go on to decide which area you wish to specialise in. 

SHU PATHWAYS 2016

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Natalia M Wesniuk 1Post by Level 5 Digital Media Production student, Natalia M Wesniuk.

One of my most recent assignments at Sheffield Hallam University was for the module called Managing Creative Processes. All the students from my course were delegated to manage and organize The Creative Media Networking Event at Sheffield Hallam University, called Pathways 2016.

Natalia M Wesniuk 2My responsibility was: Project Management of a Marketing Team and VIP Management on the day of the event. Apart from designing the marketing campaign and managing a group of 4 in order to appropriately deliver the social media campaign, I was also responsible to meet and greet our guests and speakers on the day. I also needed to make sure they were at their workshop on time and help them with anything they needed to set up their presentations.

It was a very hard working month before the event and even more hectic on the day but hell yeah it was so exciting! As a student behind the scenes of the event I really enjoyed the buzz around managing a creative process like this. I met a lot of important people from film, TV, radio and photography and this has motivated me in setting up my future goals and to figure out what I actually want to do when I finish University. It has been a great learning experience, as much as it has been fun to be part of a live project for a change. Being in charge of things and people is not for everyone but, when you do get a chance to try it and you do it right, the gratification is astonishing and gives a great injection of self-belief.
SHU gives us access to some brilliant projects and I am so grateful to be a part of this University. I intend to make the most out of each opportunity it gives me, as quite frankly you only get one shot in life so make it count I say!

Natalia M Wesniuk 3Being able to speak in person to the media industry guests has given me the inspiration to keep going and push myself that one more step to stay ahead; and be able to get a dream job at the end of my university degree.

Especially after listening to Fiona Hanlon from BBC Radio 1 and Marie Clare from BBC Radio 5 Live, both SHU alumni and once were just like me – a student and didn’t really know what to do with themselves, but worked hard and things just happened.

I think what students underestimate the most is the power of doing those extra curricular efforts like attending speeches from experienced people and seeking advice. Everyone loves being an expert in something but every expert was a student one day and they are all there to help you. All you need to do is be passionate about your interests, seek answers and dig deeper. Sooner or later you will become anyone you want. I got the impression that every workshop at SHU Pathways 2016 was trying to tell us this simple truth.

 

My first week of placement

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Olivia, our second year Psychology placement student, has written about her first week with the Careers and Employability Service.

I was lucky enough to begin my placement at an exciting time for the Careers and Employability Centre. Creative Careers Week was full of brilliant opportunities for a variety of students ranging from Fine Art students to Psychology students. There was a wide selection of workshops going on, including help with your CV as well as top tips on how to survive as a freelancer in the creative industry.

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The start of the week looked at what it was like working in the creative industry. It was fascinating listening to Jane (from Sheffield Creative Guild)’s personal experience of her journey in the creative arts industry. She talked about the numerous years of a variety of jobs she had been in; some of which lasted two days, others lasting two years. All of which had accumulated numerous skills which had been helpful in focusing on the career she enjoys today in the unpredictable creative industry. Something that I especially enjoyed was listening to NatashaMcGowan talk passionately about the company she cofounded  ‘A Mind Apart’. It sounded like a thoroughly rewarding job for anyone looking for experience in the performing arts whilst working with challenging and inspiring children.

Something that was discussed in almost all of the guest speakers’ talks was how unpredictable job opportunities are in such a competitive industry. This meant that many people pursuing their passion often found themselves in a wide range of jobs in order to fund their true drive. This was demonstrated in Kyle Williams’ talk about how tough it was to break into the performing industry straight from his course at Sheffield Hallam. Common to all of these people’s journeys was their wealth of experience and networks gained from volunteering and other part time jobs which have helped them get to where they are today.

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A particularly creative workshop was the Art Therapy talk. It involved learning about what Art Therapy was and we were lucky enough to hear from a current student doing an Art Therapy Masters. She shared her experiences on the placement she was currently on and what she thought the future looked like for her. The workshop even involved students interacting with clay, to demonstrate some of the activities that may occur in an Art Therapy class. This was particularly fun – yet messy!

The talk about being self-employed taught me crucially that someone who is very talented can remain unknown if they don’t create contacts, get themselves out there and to some extent encounter a bit of luck. I found that the best pieces of advice the speakers gave were to be confident and proud of your work and that first impressions mean everything. Always have examples of your work with you, whether that be drawing or jewelry making, as you never know who you’re going to meet.

The talk on ‘Creative Arts, Media festivals and Events’ was really eye opening, If I do half as much in my career as Jonny Douglas has, it would be a pretty big achievement. His current and previous work involved interior designer, his work with ‘Sheffield Soup’, ‘PechaKucha Sheffield’ and ‘Avenues to Zero’. All of which were such big projects and accomplishments. The week ended excellently in the ‘Working behind the scenes in TV, Theatre and Film’ workshop, with over five speakers talking about their own experiences, none two of which were the same, in some of the most exciting jobs in the Creative Industry. We had Richard Knight speak to us, who had been a location set finder for Screen Yorkshire, to people like Debbie Gamble, who is head of wardrobe at the Crucible Theatre!

One day perhaps I will have done something in my career that I can come back to Hallam and talk about to students which will let them know that they are capable of doing what they’re passionate about. My first week of placement was an enjoyable experience, with Creative Careers week being just a small snippet of the many things I got up to; overall it couldn’t have gone better!

Inspired by Creative Careers Week

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Creative Careers Week was put on to inspire and inform students, with talks and presentations from creative professionals from around the city. As a Careers Adviser listening to some of the talks, the week has highlighted for me the range of brilliant creative professionals out there in Sheffield, doing their thing and making a difference. Some of the key messages coming out from many of the sessions were:

 

  • Know what skills you have to offer, but also think about your values – what is important to you? What sort of work do you want to do? Who do you want to work for?
  • Keep learning. You aren’t going to leave university with a complete set of skills required for a job – much of what you need in a job you will learn as you go along, and this is an ongoing process. If there is a skill you don’t currently have that you think will be useful in a future career (coding, blogging, photo editing, running workshops…) teach yourself, do a course, ask a friend to teach you, or volunteer to gain the experience.

  • Don’t be defined or restricted by your degree – for instance, just because you haven’t done a creative degree doesn’t mean you can’t be creative in your job; you don’t have to have an events management degree to organise events…

Finally, and most importantly:

  • Talk to people. Everywhere and anywhere. It’s all about making connections – people who can inspire you, help you, give you feedback, give you work, but who might also gain from you as well. Make those first contacts online, use social media, but then good old face-to-face conversation is the best way to develop meaningful professional relationships.

Rachel Firth, Careers and Employability

Creative Careers Week, 1 – 5 February!

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Following on from the success of the first ever Creative Careers Week last year, the Careers and Employability Service is hosting this year’s event with an even bigger programme of presentations & workshops for you to choose from.

You will have the opportunity to learn about a whole range of career options open to graduates with an interest in the creative arts/design sector. These sessions will be delivered by professionals already working in a variety of creative disciplines.

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Monday 1 February
What’s it like working in the creative industries?
An overview of the challenges and benefits of working in the creative sector
YAS presentation & tour of Exchange Place & Persistence Works
Meet 12.45pm, Made North Gallery Yorkshire Art Space, Persistence Works, Brown Street
Top tips on finding a placement in the creative sector
Advice on securing a placement and an overview of support and advice available at SHU

Tuesday 2 February
Working in Museums and Culture Management
Museums Sheffield; Sheffield Industrial Museums; SHU MA Arts and Cultural Management
Becoming a Performer
ALRA Drama School; SHU graduate (actor/comedian)
Working in the Community Arts sector
A Mind Apart (theatre); Junction Arts; Arts & Culture volunteering programme (SHU)

Wednesday 3 February
Running a Commercial Art Gallery
Karen Sherwood: owner and curator of Cupola Gallery
A career in Art Therapy
Arts Therapy Northern Programme & Trainee Art Therapist

Thursday 4 February
Top tips on using Social Media for Professional Networking
SHU graduates: Georgia Ball and Dora Damian
Being self-employed in the Creative Arts & Design sector
Freelance artist; jewellery designer; creative writer
A career in Creative Arts/Media Festivals & Events
Made with Design (Peucha Kucha 20×20); Ignite Imaginations

Friday 5 February
Working in the Creative Marketing and Advertising sector
Yommee; Creative Marketing Agency (Sheffield)
Working behind the scenes in TV, Theatre & Film
West Yorkshire Playhouse; Screen Yorkshire; Set/prop designer (freelance);Costume Supervisor (Sheffield Theatres); South Yorkshire Film Network

For further information (including times) and to book your place(s) go to: careerservice.shu.ac.uk / events / Creative Careers Week. Book soon to avoid to disappointment.

Creative Careers Week

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Our first ever Creative Careers week at Sheffield Hallam is coming soon (2-6 February). Students from all courses have the opportunity to attend an exciting programme of workshops and presentations by industry professionals, from the creative arts, charity and heritage sectors.

So, if you have ever wondered:

  • How do I get into Art Therapy?
  • What does a Visual Merchandiser do?
  • How can I find out about jobs in film and the theatre?
  • What sort of jobs are there in the charity sector?
  • I’ve always wanted to run an Art Gallery…
  • What skills do you need to get into creative marketing?

….book onto one of our sessions, and get some answers!

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Creative Careers Week leaflet B (2)

To book: https://careerservice.shu.ac.uk/