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

Student entrepreneur celebrates national award success

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A budding young entrepreneur and SHU student who set up his own IT company at the age of 15 has won a national business award.

Harvey Morton, aged 20, from Woodseats, Sheffield, was named Young Freelancer of the Year in the IPSE – Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed – competition.

Harvey juggles the demands of running his home-based IT consultancy full time with his studies at Sheffield Business School, where he has just completed the second year of his BA in Business and Enterprise Management.

He said: “It was a complete surprise when they announced that I was the winner. I still feel quite overwhelmed. It’s a national title and I have had a lot of attention since and I’m not really used to anything on that scale. To be recognised nationally is huge, really.”

Harvey won £3,000 prize money, champagne and a year’s membership of IPSE, which entitles him to free business support.

His firm Harvey Morton IT support (www.harveymorton-itsupport.com) offers a range of services including social media management, web design, app development and media production.

Harvey, who was nominated for the prize by Sheffield Hallam University’s Enterprise team,  is no stranger to award success.

At the age of 15, he set up an on-call IT support firm and later won enterprise prizes while still at school studying for his GCSEs. The firm has grown into a digital marketing agency with clients all around the UK, including The Cutler’s Company, Alton Towers and The Princes Trust.

Harvey said he had no plans to go to university but received help from business experts in Sheffield Hallam’s Enterprise team and after meeting other students decided to take the plunge. He said: “One of the reasons I was attracted to Sheffield Hallam was because I met people studying on the business courses at SHU and I could see how much they enjoyed it. Before that, I had never thought of going to university.”

“I have learnt so many skills which have helped me to run my business – financial management, HR, how to write a proper business plan, customer service skills, and a lot of the theory has helped with the practical element of running my business,” he said.

“The support I’ve received from the Enterprise Team has been outstanding.

“I feel privileged to have been able to access an amazing team of mentors who have given me valuable advice and have helped me to grow my business alongside my studies at Hallam.

“It’s been great to meet so many like-minded people at the university who are also self-employed. To anyone who is thinking of setting up a business whilst at Hallam, do it! The Enterprise Team will support you along the way and it’s a great way to make new friends.”

Caroline Nouvellon enterprise manager at SHU, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to support Harvey in his business venture over the past couple of years. He encapsulates the extraordinary entrepreneurial flair and mindset of many Hallam students and graduates and has been a wonderful ambassador for the Enterprise Team.

“He is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the ISPSE Young Freelancers of the Year Award and we look forward to working with him in the future to ensure the long-term sustainability of his business within the Sheffield City Region.”

Don’t miss your chance to be a CEO for the day

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Ever wondered what it’s like to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a multi-national company – the meetings that take place, the important decisions to be made, the hours worked and the people you network with?

Thanks to one of the UK’s leading executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, now you can as part of their CEO for a Day programme.

This unique opportunity allows University students to apply to spend a day shadowing a top CEO in order to learn from the UK’s most experienced leaders. It’s also designed to uncover promising future leaders and give students the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a senior executive.

Students go through a rigorous recruitment process, including online assessments and face-to-face interviews with our partners and consultants. Each finalist spends a day shadowing a CEO and learning about their background, career path, and an opportunity to transfer skills and better understand what drives these future leaders.

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CEO for a Day launched in the UK in 2016 with 15 undergraduates from UK universities chosen to shadow a cross-section of leaders for a day. Participating companies and organisations included BT, ITV, Standard Chartered, Deloitte, Legal & General, The Cabinet Office and the National Trust.

So have you got what it takes to be a great leader in 2017? Then apply for this unique work experience opportunity.

Students are required to complete the application form, upload their CV and answer the following two questions.

About you: Please tell us about your career goals (100 words max.)

Your thoughts on leadership: Please answer the following question in under 500 words… What are the most important attributes of good leadership? (500 words max.)

Applications are now open and close at the end of June.

For more information including how to apply visit: https://unihub.shu.ac.uk/students/events/detail/432789/ceo-for-day-have-you-got-what- 

How I won a £160,000 award competition for my graduate employer

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Post by 2015 BA (Hons) Marketing graduate, Liam Soloman (Marketing Executive at lovethesales.com)

Liam Soloman with the award#TEASELONDON was a Twitter competition specifically aimed at UK start-ups for London’s Technology Week. Run by a digital software company Eyetease and partnering company Verifone UK (who creat the digital advertising boards on top of London’s black cabs).

The winner would receive £160,000 worth of advertising on 200 black cabs in London. The challenge, to tweet in the reason why you think Londoner’s need to know about your start-up.

Since finding the competition through social media, I was given the amazing opportunity to come up with an entry for my employer, Lovethesales.com, and submit it through our Twitter page, using the #TEASELONDON.

Step 1 | Research

I dedicated a few hours a week looking into both Eyetease and Verifone UK, searching through press publications, previous campaigns they did with other companies to get as much background information about what they would be looking for and what type of company impressed them.

By taking note of the other entries in the competition, it appeared most start-ups didn’t fully grasp the brief given by Eyetease. Most entries tried to sell their brand, using impressive stats and numbers or pitching why their company were amazing, very much an X Factor style of entry.

Through the research and evaluation of competitor entries, I found that our best chance of winning was not showing how great our company is (which is difficult with only 127 characters) but to try and show how our advertising on their taxis can benefit different demographics on Londoner’s.

Step 2 | Implementation

I came up with a series of situations in the form of pictures, where different types of Londoner’s would need our business (see pictures of entries below). A student needing a laptop but not being able to afford paying fullprice, a mum busy with her kids not having time to go out to shop, or a girl desiring a designer dress in a shop window but finding it to be out of her budget.

In the corner of each picture I put one of Verifone UK’s black cabs with a digital advertising board on top. On the board would be a personalised lovethesale.com ad for each scenario.SLIDE

This was a succinct way of showing how we could be helpful to everyday Londoner’s whilst using an example of what it would actually look like on their black cabs, which no other entry had thought of yet.

Step 3 | Finalists

The entrants were shortlisted to 5 start-ups who would meet with the owner of Eyetease for a 15 min discussion followed by a Q&A.

There was no presentation needed, however I along with my two bosses took the initiative to create a few slides fleshing out the key points as to why we thought Lovethesales.com would work really well with their company, pointing to how we can help Londoner’s “shop more, spend less” (our company slogan).

Eyetease were extremely impressed with our initiative, eagerness and passion for what we do. Along with a few stats on Lovethesales.com’s current progression and a few anecdotes about its inception, we were delighted to be announced at London Technology week as the winners of such a mind boggling prize.

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Step 4 | What’s next?

Over the next few months I will be involved in putting together a 4-week campaign that will run over 200 black cabs in geo-targeted London locations. We expect the competition to increase traffic to the site and dramatically improve our brand awareness.

Being able to take the lead on this crucial campaign was a great feeling and one that I don’t think I would’ve been given working in a large corporate environment. The added bonus of actually winning gives me a fantastic story for my CV and great experience going forward in my future career.

I would highly recommend anyone in their first job to constantly ask their superiors for more responsibility, always be eager to take on new challenges and never be afraid of failing at a task as there is always something to learn from.

Five weeks into my internship, a whole host of experience under my belt, and 0 coffees made for anyone but myself!

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What the intern saw

Post written by Hayley Adams, a BA Public Relations graduate. 

Five weeks into my internship, a whole host of experience under my belt, and 0 coffees made for anyone but myself! What more could I want? Aside from a huge, comfy chair of course…

I arrived in Halifax (from Sheffield, England) just five days before starting with Ammp (A Million Moving Parts), and with a homemade coin chart in hand, Chris and Ben had everything set for me from the get go. When trying to tailor my experience, they asked exactly what I wanted to learn in my time with them. I listed a few things before stopping and thinking ‘actually, I just want to try everything’ and so that’s the way it’s going.

There’s no denying that I have been a bit of a Bambi – needing the reassurance that what I am doing is right, good enough. However, beyond their eye-rolls at my panics, their laughter, patience and growing belief in the skills they drill into me daily constantly reinforces my confidence.

Halifax, Canada

Ammp’s consideration of my opinion when it comes down to major business approaches and actions makes me feel less like an intern, and more like a valued team member – something that just doesn’t happen when you’re trying to gain that always necessary experience.

Lastly, and most importantly to me is their willingness to let me go out and exercise the entire purpose of the business – being creative. Getting stuck in there with my own ideas is the sort of experience that is invaluable to my future.

With only three weeks left, I fully intend on making the most of my time with Chris and Ben, so get yourself prepared for more panic and simple questions, guys. You won’t be getting rid of me at the end, that’s for sure!

Lawyer in London 2016

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Post written by Helen Cuthbert, Helena Kennedy Law Clinic at SHU

This year’s Lawyer in London trip, which took place from 21-23 June, was a resounding success. During the trip the students, supported by SHU staff, visited the Royal Courts of Justice, Amnesty International and Freshfields.

Each of the days highlighted different aspects of the legal profession, from highflying magic circle lawyers to human rights based charities, showing the diverse range of careers available to Law graduates.

Some of the additional experiences which were not expected included joining with hundreds of people in Trafalgar Square for the Jo Cox MP memorial and seeing the Princess Royal at Amnesty.

Some of the students who attended Lawyer in London have summed up their experiences and highlight the great time that they had.

Lucy says:

‘Lawyer in London was an amazing experience. Throughout the trip I gained many skills that will help me in the future with my career.

Lawyer in London Group Photo

Lawyer in London Group Photo

Spending time at Freshfields was my favourite. Speaking to lawyers and also trainee Lawyers helped to gain an insight into how a magic circle law firm works.

Overall it was an incredible experience and I would encourage everyone to apply next year as it has made me even more determined to be successful.’

 Taylor says:

“The experience overall was interesting, a fantastic learning opportunity and most of all fun.

Selfie at Lawyer in London 2016

Selfie at Lawyer in London 2016

Getting to go to the Royal Courts of Justice, Amnesty International and Freshfields not only provided useful career information but genuinely made me interested in areas of law that I never took interest in before!

From my experience this was a great opportunity which gave useful tips and information for going forward into a career in law. Thanks for a great trip!”

Law students inspirational day at court dinner

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Lincolns Inn Dinner 1

Post by Level 5 Law student, Millie Broadbent.

The Lincoln’s Inn of Court Dinner was one of the most inspirational days I have had since beginning my degree. As a law student who is still unsure whether to go down the solicitor or barrister route, this day gave me the assurance that the bar is ‘hopefully’ my next step.
Lincolns Inn Dinner
The opportunity to speak to practising barristers and hear about their routes was a great chance to be able to learn about the differing choices before and after studying for the bar. The meal was of course fantastic and this gave us the opportunity to question the barristers on what it is really like in their profession. The building and the people you were able to chat to inspired me for the next steps into my career and gave me an insight into what my career could turn into.

 

London Calling – spook busting!

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For some students, whether thinking about a  job on graduation or undertaking a placement year, almost as frightening as the prospect of not getting a job, is the daunting reality of getting one and having to relocate to a perhaps unknown or unfamiliar location.  Below are some myth-busting insights from a student who has ‘been there, done that’ encouraging you to take the plunge.

Thanks to Charlotte Stanbridge, a current final year student of Business and Enterprise Management, for sharing her positive reality check on what it was really like moving to London.  You can see Charlotte’s earlier post on ‘Top Tips for Placement Seekers‘ below.

 

What’s stopping you?

When applying for graduate and placement roles, you will often find that a lot of opportunities are London based but don’t let this put you off! I often hear ‘I’m not going to London’ from peers but it is important to be flexible where you can.

So, what is it that is holding you back from tackling the big smoke?

Londong calling

1)       ‘It’s too expensive, I can’t afford to move there’

True, living in London will cost you considerably more in terms of rent however you will find that this is often compensated by higher salaries or ‘London weighting’ which on placement added an additional £3,000 to my annual pay.  A lot of the larger companies will also pay a month in advance in order to help you get set up in London.

2)      Likewise, ‘It’s too expensive, I can’t afford to live there’

And again, travel and leisure can be expensive however as students, you will be more than used to being thrifty. Something I found particularly helpful around travel is the student oyster card which just cost £10 to issue and gives you cheaper travel rates on trains, tubes and buses which can also be teamed with a 16-25 railcard for further savings. There are also plenty of things that you can do for free in London – which I now miss greatly – including festivals, museums, television filming (check out Applause Store) and lots of tourist attractions which are free too!

dome         arts

3)      ‘It’s too big, I’ll get lost all the time’

So I did get lost once in London however there are so many landmarks (Big Ben was my landmark of choice on this occasion), apps and maps dotted around to help you and all the thousands of tourists wandering around. Some fantastic apps I would recommend downloading are; Citymapper and Tube Map (both great for navigating your way around the city on foot, by bus or taxi) and Uber and Hailo which are taxi apps.

4)      ‘I’ll be a little fish in a big pond’

Don’t see this as a negative. Focus on the fact that there will be hundreds of opportunities around you every day. London is also a great place to meet and network with others. Whilst on placement, I met other like-minded placement students who worked for all kinds of companies like Unilever, Microsoft and Arcadia. The experience and people I have met have greatly helped shape my career aspirations for the future.

5)      ‘It’s not safe’

As with any city, it is important to be aware and mindful of crime in London. Even small things, for example, not leaving your phone in your back pocket as an advertisement to thieves or travelling alone late at night. In my experience, I did not feel any less safe as in Sheffield or other cities I have visited but always be aware of your surroundings.

I feel it is important to point out that this is my personal experience of living in London for 13 months whilst on placement. I am also not a ‘city’ person at all having grown up on a family farm 2 miles from civilisation so was pleasantly surprised by how much I have fallen in love with London.

Best of luck with all your applications and hoping you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Any questions, please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn.

christmas

 

 

Volunteer your way to a Career

Hello my name is Gemma and I am on my second year of my History degree at Sheffield Hallam University. My main aim is to have a career in Archives and Museums as local and family history are two areas that I am very passionate about.

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Two years ago I started volunteering at an archive in Gainsborough which gave me some experience and helped me gain communication skills and increase my confidence. I am now getting more and more involved in different things that are happening or taking place at the Gainsborough Heritage Centre and I have now gained a free t-shirt!

Gainsborough Heritage Centre

But, this summer of 2014, I have done even more volunteering, working on two heritage projects, one in Sheffield and one in Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire Remembrance Project held a trip to the National Archives, which for me was an absolutely amazing experience and seeing some First World War Service Records and then being able to write up some research about that was great for me. In Sheffield, I am volunteering on the Our Broomhall Project where I am gaining a lot of skills and working on a lot of different parts of the project. One of the out and about days that I took part in was going up high buildings to take aerial photographs of Broomhall which was fantastic!

I also volunteered for my village History Society researching and writing up some work for an exhibition they had over the summer which was great as I could get involved in my own community as well as communities in other places. Last of all I promise, I am also volunteering at Weston Park Museum for Museum Sheffield working on the handling tables which helped with my communication skills as I describe and engage the public with different types of objects.

Even with all of these volunteering opportunities I am taking part in, in my own time I am researching local history and family history as projects. These projects are what I am working on out of my own interest but this is building up my confidence in terms of knowing where and what to research in an archive. For example over the summer I learnt how to use the Microfiche and Microfilm machines. I also have been a Student Ambassador on open days which really helped with my confidence when taking people on tours of the University.

But your career is not just about getting good experience and getting involved it’s about using every single available source of information or help out there. You can’t plan which job you are going to get because that’s impossible but you can find something that interests you and get as many skills and experience as possible. You can use the career and employability centre as much as possible as that is what they are there for! For example, opportunities I am looking at to increase my skills and experience are the Hallam Award, the Career Mentoring Scheme and also the Applied History module on my history course.

Finally, as a second year student I have already gained a lot of experience and there is still plenty of time to gain more. I have another year or so to get even more help from the careers service for example on interviews and CVs. My top tip of advice is to not leave anything to the last minute, be organised and make sure you use as many resources as you possibly can and don’t be afraid if you are unsure of where to start. Varied experience around a few ideas will help you understand what you enjoy and what you do not.

Journalism students capture launch event

Recently we told you about the official opening of our Careers and Employability Centre, and promised to tell you a little more about the students who had been selected to work on the event.

This is the story of Kelly, Harriet, Emily, Emma and Charli – five final year BA Journalism students. Selected by tutors, Sue Featherstone and Graham Moorby, based on their outstanding work, the students were tasked with using everything they’ve learned on the radio and TV module, to provide us with a video of the event. The footage had to be filmed in real time, with key guests being interviewed – so this involved quite a bit of prep and briefing before the event, during the event itself, and then editing afterwards.

The students contacted guests in advance and selected those that were happy to be filmed or interviewed on the night. They sent questions around the theme of ‘why choose a Sheffield Hallam student?’.

Kelly says she saw this as a good opportunity to improve her skills at a live event, especially as she’s loved her tv module. Harriet realised it was a great chance to get experience and improve her CV while Emma felt that with graduation only a few months away this was a timely piece of work that gave her a real taste of the working environment.

Tutor Sue said: “I was very impressed with the efficiency and professionalism with which the girls approached the project.”

So with all the equipment returned at the end of the evening, the task of editing footage down to three minutes was next on the list – using more skills from their recent studies.

And you can see the results for yourself here https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=E_GYZf5qvZg