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The value of a PR placement: a student’s view

More Fire PR Intern and De Montfort University English Language and Journalism student, Merin Mentex, considers why students should pursue a work placement

University can be a challenging experience for a new student at the best of times, and considering a work placement in your first year is perhaps one of the last things that many want to consider.

That said, my own work as an Intern at More Fire PR Ltd, with special responsibilities for social media, client research and news release creation, has proved invaluable.

First of all I had to get the position, which involved proactively approaching company Director Mark Ferguson and ‘selling him’ on why I was ideally suited for the role – phew! First hurdle overcome, and I learnt a lot in the process about the skills and qualities industry is looking for in prospective new starters.

I also had to hit the ground running in a fast-moving environment and learn on the job about the public relations sector, which is constantly evolving and focuses on key areas, including maintaining clients’ profiles and reputation as well as delivering on the PR art of ‘telling the truth persuasively.’

Students on courses that include communication, journalism, media or business management are ideally suited to enter the world of PR, but experience is key. I’d suggest spending at least a year on an industrial placement to give you that extra edge for long-term success. And it will look outstanding on your CV. Here are a few more points to consider

Just say ‘yes’

As well as industry experience a positive attitude and willingness to try new things are vital to succeed in PR. Taking a chance leads to learning new skills and developing your strengths and weaknesses along the way.

For example, your communication abilities are always improved by working with new people from different backgrounds. Whether it’s attending meetings or working on tasks together, you’ll become a good listener and a confident speaker. It also pays to be a little bit brave. Participating in unfamiliar tasks, like creating news releases, public speaking, editing, presentations, media communications and more all serves to build your confidence. Don’t ever worry about ‘failing’ at a new task – it’s how we all learn and grow.

Teamwork pays dividends

Working in PR means you will quickly come into contact with multiple professionals who have many years of collective experience. So, working alongside them and actively looking and listening at all times is the best way to learn more about overcoming challenges which will likely impact upon your own career.

All of this will also give you with a much better understanding of how each person plays a vital role within their organisation.

Understanding the recruitment process

Think of applying for placements as a game. You need to pass one level to get to the next one. Different companies have different recruitment processes, which means you need to be prepared for anything.

This can range from online application forms through to digital interviews. The main goal is for companies to shortlist candidates according to the skills they are looking for. As an undergraduate you need to stand out and be the best you can be at every single stage.

In PR, creativity, uniqueness, reliability and being able to deliver are key. So ask yourself, what is it that you have that sets you apart from your nearest competitors? Again, be brave and believe in yourself.

Top tips for scoring a PR placement:

  • Start early, do your research and be proactive over the summer
  • Find your own work experience, this shows employers you’re determined and genuinely interested in PR
  • Participate in activities beyond university that set you apart from others
  • Finally, it’s never too late to start searching for a placement, so start looking!