Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Interview with a current BCU PR graduate: Jodie Perkins

Jodie Perkins is technically still a third year on the BA (HONS) Media and Communication degree, PR pathway, here at Birmingham City University - but having handed in her dissertation and project early, she has started her PR career full time this very week.

Here, Jodie tells us more about her studies, why she chose to specialise in PR and how it's helped prepare her for her career and exciting new role as part of The Big Sleuth; Birmingham Children's Hospital Charity fundraising event taking place across the city this summer...

Tell us about your studies and why you chose the PR pathway

I’ve just finished my three-year degree at Birmingham City University, I handed in my Dissertation and Final Year Project a couple of weeks ago and I’m just waiting to hear back what my final degree classification will be before officially graduating later this summer. 

I started the course as a broad course student, which allows you freedom in choosing different modules on offer, meaning you can have a go at TV, have a go at radio, have a go at PR and then see what you like before specializing. I started the course wanting to pursue a career in journalism as I liked writing and my favourite subject at school was English. I quickly changed my mind when I did the Media Relations module in the first semester of first year, I straight away loved the creativity involved in a career in PR and how it still incorporated the key skills needed for journalism and my love of writing. Following this module, I did a placement in a PR company during the Christmas holidays of first year, I went to an agency called Connect PR, now 8848 Agency, for two weeks, and my love for PR was confirmed. 

I then chose to specialise in PR at the beginning of year 2.

What was your perception of PR in the beginning? What is it now / how has it changed?

In all honesty, I didn’t know much about PR at all at first. At the start of my degree, I was mainly interested in journalism and through journalism modules, PR was portrayed as the ‘dark side’ and as though PR was the reason for the decline in journalism, and so I guess this was my initial thoughts. 

Now, I believe that journalism and PR need each other, and journalists need PR more than ever. Through studying the industry for three years, I now understand a lot more about PR and the academic history and theory behind it, I could talk until I’m blue in the face about what PR is, and why it’s important. 

I guess my perception of PR now is that a company who boasts a good PR team has a better chance of been understood by its target audience, and has a better chance of achieving its desired reputation and public opinion. The PR industry is a fast-paced one, and is constantly having to adapt to digital and social advances, for example 10 years ago, blogger outreach wouldn’t have been heard of in PR, but now it’s integral. 

I think that as a PR professional, and as a PR student, you have to be willing to constantly learn and develop your skills as this industry is ever changing, which means that what my perception is now of the industry, could change within the next few years.

What have you enjoyed most about your studies?

I have absolutely loved my time at Birmingham City University, I think the course has been so valuable to me as a budding PR professional; we learn skills that we’re actually going to use in a PR career - I know how to write a press release, I know how to sell a story to a journalist, I know how to pitch a creative idea to a potential client, and I know how to write a PR proposal. This makes me ‘job ready’ meaning I could walk into a PR environment and hit the ground running. 

I also enjoy the way the course believes in 50% practical learning, i.e. learning how to write a press release, and 50% theory, so learning about the relevance of the press release for different theorists. 

It’s also great that the course has such an emphasis on work experience placements, it’s something that I know has been invaluable in securing my graduate job, and other freelance positions whilst I was at university. Although a PR degree will get you an interview, and get you shortlisted for positions, it’s what you’ve learnt on your work experience which will make you stand out against other candidates, and through my degree I have been encouraged to gain as much experience as possible.  

What have you found challenging about PR?

For me, the most challenging aspect of PR is the amount of plates you have to spin at once, the amount of elements you have to think about for just one project. You have to think about copywriting, blogging, social media drafting, news monitoring, hashtag monitoring, evaluation and much more. However, although this is the most challenging aspect, I also find it the most exciting, it means no day is ever dull, or ever the same as the last.

What has most helped you in your development?

I think that the most valuable aspect of my degree has been the work experience element. I was lucky enough to be offered a part time job after my first PR placement, so I worked in a PR agency part time from first year. I’d say this has helped me the most in my development as I was learning on the job, I was learning how busy working in an agency can be, and how juggling priorities and tasks is an important skill to have. I also got to know professionals already working in the PR industry, which meant that I could ask questions, and learn more about the industry in a more informal way.

What would you tell yourself if you could go back three years?

I’d tell myself to have more confidence. To work in PR, you need to be confident; networking, pitching and running events all takes a degree of confidence, I think throughout university I have always doubted myself, thinking that I wouldn’t get the grade I wanted, or that I wouldn’t be able to do the pitch in the allocated time, or that I’d say the wrong thing at a networking event. Throughout university, I’ve really grown in confidence and I believe in myself a lot more now. I know that if I put my mind to something I can do it really well, so I’d tell myself to have more confidence.  

Advice to students interested in public relations - why PR?

My advice would be, do it! PR is such an exciting industry; it’s creative, it’s fast-paced, it’s fun, and there’s so many different elements to get your teeth into - content creation, copywriting, social media campaigns, video creation, events management, the list goes on. Everyone would benefit from good PR; all companies, business’ and organizations, from big household brands with big budgets, to small local charities with hardly anything to spend, there’s definitely something that lies within your interests, so get out there, explore the different types of PR, and then go for it! With the advances in digital and social media, our generation are at a real advantage, we know about social media, we know about video, with such advances PR is only going to grow, meaning that now is a great time to enter the industry, and a great time to make your impact.

Favourite PR campaign to date?

My interests lie with charity PR, and I’m drawn towards campaigns which aim for more than just publicity. I love to see and read about campaigns which raise money for a good cause or raise awareness for an important issue, or ultimately campaigns which make a change, my favourite ones that come to mind include Jo’s Trust’s #SmearForSmear campaign, which I analysed in Year 2 for an assignment, the #NoMakeUpSelfie for Cancer Research and the NHS’ Missing Type campaign, all of these campaigns raised awareness about important health issues and raised money for charity.


What are your aims after university and do you have any career goals?

I’m currently working in my first full-time PR role at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, I’m working as the ‘PR and Social Media Co-ordinator’ for their major fundraising campaign this summer ‘The Big Sleuth’. This is Birmingham’s second public art trail, following on from The Big Hoot in 2015. I am absolutely loving my role so far and it’s such an exciting and rewarding project to work on, I feel so lucky having this as my first full time role.

Some great advice from Jodie and what a fantastic first job in PR - look out for The Big Sleuth as it's set to be a great campaign this summer.

Follow Jodie on Twitter


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