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.”

Top 3 web pages all our fashion students should read!

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Getting a foot in the door of the fashion industry can be daunting. It’s an extremely competitive world which requires creativity, an ability to work alongside strategists and keep up with rapidly changing trends whilst engaging with a demanding client base always on the look-out for new and exciting creations.

That being said, fashion can be a very exciting and fulfilling career option for graduates whose love for the fashion industry is only paralleled by their determination to leave their mark on it.

Whether you’re just about to join us in Sheffield, or you’re about to graduate and are currently setting up this year’s Degree Show Fashion Show, here’s our top 3 web pages every Hallam Fashion student should read!

Number 1: Work Experience and Networking in the Fashion Industry

Summary: Work experience is crucial for entering the fashion industry and can take the form of internships, volunteering, placements, work shadowing or part-time work.

Number 2: Becoming a Freelance Fashion Designer 

Summary: It is extremely common for people working in the creative sector to be self-employed either full-time or on a part-time basis whilst combining it with employed work; the latter is known as a portfolio career. Designers tend to be independent, creative thinkers and are often self-employed and/or in occupations involving project work and short-term contracts with both small and large organisations.

Number 3: Finding and Applying for Jobs in Fashion

Speculative approaches are generally more effective ways to find jobs in the design/arts industries.  A speculative application involves approaching a company about the possibility of working for them rather than applying to an advertised vacancy. It could be an effective way to bypass the huge number of applications that any individual company may receive to one advertised vacancy. Also, remember that many SMEs (small-medium sized companies) very rarely advertise vacancies as they receive sufficient speculative applications to recruit in this way.  Fashion directories can provide a list of companies to approach!

 

 

International Women’s Day 2018

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Our event is on Thursday 8th March at 12pm in the Careers and Employability Centre and is called ’Women Leading Social Change’.

Women Leading Social Change is part of SheFest and is hosted by Sheffield Hallam University and the Sheffield Social Enterprise Network www.ssen.org.uk

On International Women’s Day we will be hearing from successful social entrepreneurs. They will talk about why social enterprise is changing the face of the business sector, as well as the challenges and successes they have faced along the way.

There will be time for networking after the panel discussion. 

The speakers are:

Sangita Basudev is a founder member of Sheffield Live! the local community media organisation. She has spent a majority of her working life in social enterprises, co-ops and the community voluntary sector.

Jo Hercberg is the founder and co Director of The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield, a social enterprise saving food from being wasted and doing amazing things with it. The project began in 2015 and now runs 2 cafés, the Sharehouse Market, an ethical catering operation and an educational program for schools with 180+ volunteers and 6 employees.

Sophie Maxwell founded the Really NEET Project back in 2011, she wanted to develop a college where young people who had complex needs including mental health issues, care-leavers, young people on probation, young parents, young people with learning disabilities and other such barriers could learn in a safe environment, most of Really NEET’s young people have struggled in all previous education placements including school. Really NEET works with a 160 young people a year across Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield. Sophie was driven by her own experience, she was pulled out of school at 14 to escape domestic violence and ended up homeless at 16. She has won many national awards for the work she has done including the high sheriffs award for devoted services to the community and the Duke of York Award. 

Students can book their place via UniHub https://unihub.shu.ac.uk/students/events/detail/579242

This week in the Careers & Employability Centre

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Have a look and see what is taking place within the Careers and Employability Centre this week.

To book, please visit the Careers and Employability Centre or visit: https://unihub.shu.ac.uk/

 

Are you interested in self-employment?

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Ever wondered if you have got what it takes to run your own business? Are you thinking about freelancing but don’t know where to start? Have you got a great business idea but want to know what your first steps might be?

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If you have answered yes to any of these questions, our self-employment workshops might be just what you are looking for. A series of six self-employment workshops will run over the six week period from Wednesday 11th February – Wednesday 11th March. 

If you would like to learn more about the content of these workshops, and find out what previous participants have gained from taking part, come along to our information session on: Wednesday 4th February in Cantor 9003 at 16.00 – 17.00

The session will cover:

  • Aims of the workshops
  • Overview
  • How it works
  • Feedback from former student participants
  • Expectations of you

If you would like to attend this session please book on at:

shuspace – employability – events and then click on: self-employment workshops – information session.

Start your Christmas shopping!

Next Thursday, students from Art and Design courses will be exhibiting and selling their products at the very first Hallam Hand Made Craft Market, Cantor Atrium 11am – 3pm

Craft professionals will be exhibiting and selling their products alongside the students. The event has been organised by Caroline Nouvellon, our Employment Adviser who works with Art and Design courses, with the assistance of local not-for-profit gallery All Good Stuff on Arundel Street.

The idea behind the event was to provide students with first-hand experience of selling their products.  Caroline hopes that the group will gain an understanding of the planning and preparation that is required, of how to price and display their products, and of how to engage with customers and make sales! Students will have the opportunity to work alongside and learn from craft professionals who will be able to share their own experiences of starting out as independent practitioners.

So, come along and support Hallam students in their venture, and buy something nice for someone special this Christmas!

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Yogurt pots and doodles are just the beginning

Justine and Tom with the yoghurt design

Amazing how conversations over a yogurt can generate so many innovative ideas. Thursday’s theme was GET CREATIVE / SELF-EMPLOYMENT and our workshop students were thinking about innovation and self-employment opportunities with the help of Gordon Macrae from Gripple.

Gripple’s Gordon Macrae

Additional input came from present and past students who have set up their own businesses and social enterprises, with support from the University’s Research and Innovation Office (RIO), and from Hallam Union’s social enterprise award.

The Disney themed yogurt from Dan’s team

Attendees at the ‘Innovation workshop’ facilitated by Gordon were invited to eat a yogurt and explain some of the problems with the packaging, and then challenged to design a new yogurt concept for a large global company. Justine Lord and colleagues  designed a yogurt for ‘Apple’ whilst Dan Garlick and colleagues designed a monster shaped Disney yogurt pot.  Thomas and Lekan, students from the faculty of ACES said that they were attracted to the workshop as they’re interested in pursuing innovation in their future careers; biosciences student Cynthia said she’d really enjoyed the workshop as it was much more interactive than she had expected.

In the afternoon there was a chance to ‘meet the entrepreneurs’ –  students who have set up their own business.

Jenny and Emma share their journey

Jenny Pollock and Emma Shute, both MSc coaching and mentoring students, set up their ‘social minded business enterprise’ with a ‘Do It award’ from Hallam Union. Their business, ‘women to work’, supports women to return to work or to run their own business, after maternity leave or a career break. They focus on delivering workshops and coaching. Jenny spoke about the passion and motivation they needed to set up a business and overcome the hurdles they faced. She spoke of the importance of collaboration with others to support the business.  Emma advised that confidence and belief are key to getting a business off the ground, together with their aim to help other women. Their website is being launched later this month and you can follow them on Twitter @womentoworkuk

Laurie Lewis set up her business, Brain Wizz Ltd, in her placement year, as part of a placement entrepreneurship scheme through RIO. Her business provides information and resources for Home Education and now for parents to support their child’s learning in school.  During her placement scheme Laurie attended seminars, had support from a business advisor, access to specialist accountancy and legal advice and access to space and equipment in ‘The Hatchery’ at RIO, who also provided financial support in the form of a bursary and grant.  She also had career mentoring support from someone who had set up a business. More details about Laurie and her story here.

George Law, graphic designer

George Law is a former graphic design student who initially worked with friends in a shop, developed a clothing label and printed designs on t-shirts. Now set up on his own as a freelance graphic designer, he likes “doodling and getting paid for it” as he told the students.  Having been commissioned to brighten up the walls in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, he now he goes to London to doodle on office walls!  He said that most of his contacts and business is generated through social media.  “60% of my day is combing through social media to find people I can work for. I started from nothing and fear is a motivator, fear of not being paid!”   You can check out George’s work here Www.getaloadageo.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @getaloadageo.

All in all a fun day at the Careers and Employability Centre, and our students left full of ideas, with the take home message that they can challenge existing markets and business models and the University is here to support them on that journey.