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

Journalism graduates make headlines in the industry

by Nicole Kelly, public relations intern

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Students and lecturers from Sheffield Hallam University welcomed back 25 journalism and media graduates last week to hear their secrets of how they got a start in the industry.

The graduates, who are now working in a range of careers including TV, radio, print, magazines, PR, social media and communications, took time out of their work schedules to come back and share their experiences about how to land that dream first job.

The professionals gave talks about preparing for interviews, how to write an eye-catching CV, and dealing with rejection, to a crowd of second and third-year journalism students, who will soon be making their first steps in the industry.

BA journalism graduate Ian Barber now works as a production journalist at Granada TV. He said: “The work placements I did were so important in giving me the experience I needed to get my job. Getting a job is tough in this climate – be prepared to face some knockbacks but keep at it.”

Eleanor Ingleby, in her third year studying journalism at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Today has been so inspiring, everyone has given some really valuable tips for getting ahead. It’s been reassuring to know that all these people have managed to get jobs at the other end.”

After the talks students and graduates were given the chance to mingle and Pro Vice-Chancellor & Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences Roger Eccleston thanked the alumni for giving up their time.

He said: “This is a daunting time for all students, but thank you to our alumni for coming back to share their experiences and to prove there is life and hope beyond graduation.”

Senior Lecturer in Broadcast Journalism  Philo Holland organised the event. He said: “Getting graduates to come back and talk about how they got their jobs to undergraduates is such a simple idea – but it’s so successful.

“Students find it reassuring and inspiring to see that, despite the gloomy talk, there are so many jobs which their degree can help them get. Perhaps not necessarily in traditional journalism roles, but in social media, PR, marketing, website management, and teaching for example.

“It’s wonderful that our graduates are so happy to help the next generation, that they’re prepared to take a day off work to come back to pass on their pearls of wisdom. ”

For press information: Nicole Kelly in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2811 or email n.kelly@shu.ac.uk

Journalism student shares three tips for success

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Journalism student Joshua Barlow gives you the three vital tips to help you succeed that he has learnt during his three years at Sheffield Hallam.

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During my time at university I have learnt a variety of skills and developed into someone who I barely recognise – no longer am I a shrinking violet.

When I first started my degree I wanted to be a fashion editor. I wanted the hustle of a newsroom and the glamour of runways around the world, but having had the past three years to reflect on who I am as a person I have realised that I may have watched one too many episodes of Ugly Betty.

 

Tip 1: Network.

In my seminars and lectures we are constantly reminded that the journalism field is an extremely competitive one. We are told to take as many opportunities as we can and network, network, network.

The old saying ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know’ has never been more appropriate.

Looking back I realise I feared putting myself out there and making myself known to ‘professionals’ – I was the kind of person who used to think to myself; “Why would they care about what I say/think?”

Everyone has a story to tell, something to share that means you should read their work over someone else’s – and whilst it may appear that I am fighting a losing battle at times, the key is to keep trying and to have a voice.

One of the biggest revelations in networking that I have discovered at university is LinkedIn, which acts as an online CV and gives you a professional space to create your own personal hive of contacts – adding that one person who you interviewed in your first year can be the difference between receiving a professional endorsement or not.

Networking makes links which in turn can lead to a whole variety of opportunities including work experience and jobs.

However, it is not as simple as walking up to someone and saying “Hi, my name is …”.  Whilst this is a nice way to approach someone, it is vital that you have something to offer.

Tip 2: Specialise.

As mentioned above when I started university I wanted to work in the field of fashion, but having developed both professionally and personally I have discovered that my goal is to work in features.

In his essay, Why I write, George Orwell says; “I lacked political purpose” and this is something that speaks to me on many levels.

I believe that as a journalist I have the ability to use my skills to change the world around me – almost like a superpower, and I intend to use this to help those who need it.

My specialisation is mental health writing and it was the realisation of this that has helped me begin to form my journalistic career. It’s led me to write for the university magazine SHUlife, form the basis of my dissertation examining mental health stigma and given me various other projects to work on.

Having a specialisation can set you apart from the rest of the world when you are applying for an internship or job. It is also a major discussion point when you network as it is more likely to make someone remember you – and whilst it is good to have a specialisation, it is also important to note that having a set of general skills ensures that you are not putting yourself into a pigeon hole.

Tip 3: Demonstrate your Skills.

Personally, I am working towards a qualification from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and am close to achieving a certificate in shorthand.

Whilst you can put a list of skills from your degree on your CV, for example;  writing, interviewing skills and blogging – you could also showcase various examples or experience from work which you may have completed outside of your academic studies. Skills from part-time employment can be transferable and you never know when they will come in handy.

You may think that the customer service experience gained from retail may not help you land your dream job, however, it shows potential employers that you know how to communicate with people and deal with their wants and needs.

Every little skill helps and it is displaying these that could very well set you apart from the crowd (and of course LinkedIn helps as I mentioned earlier.)

So remember, if you are to follow these three tips you have a fighting chance at succeeding in anything you aspire to. It’s about getting yourself out in the world and making yourself known to those who are already working in the professional field – and yes, there will be times when doubt your own ability, but it’s about dusting yourself off and trying again.

You can follow Josh on his blog https://jrbarlow.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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