From the very start, here at Open Communications, we have made it our mission to give people a chance. Not everyone in the agency has come from a PR background but when people approach us, we take the time to think about the transferable skills that they have and how they could benefit our clients and the campaigns that we deliver.
It’s not all about degrees and qualifications!
When it comes to young people, when possible, we like to give them the chance to experience the variety and wonderful world of PR through short placements. This isn’t just an exercise in CSR, it’s an opportunity to encourage, to nurture and to build the confidence of students that just may decide PR is the career choice for them.
And so, here is just one example of how we have done just that. Ellie (aged 15) is a secondary school student that lives in the same village as me. She was finding it hard to find a placement – and given that we live in a very remote part of the Yorkshire Dales, it’s hardly surprising!
Ellie approached me one weekend and asked if it would be possible to work at Open Comms. In the following blog (in her own words) she describes the week that she had with us and how in just five days she was able to draft a press release, write a blog, attend a client meeting and learn more about PR, an industry that before this experience she hadn’t heard of never mind considered as a career choice for the future.
My First Week at Work.
Finding a Placement.
A couple of weeks before work experience was due to begin, I found that it was more difficult than I had expected to find a placement, so I was going to stay at school for a week, which is really frustrating, because I was eager to get out and to learn outside of the classroom.
So, I decided to use my initiative to look for a placement outside of the local area. I was speaking to some family friends who have their own business and that is when Lindsey started to tell me about PR and what she does for a living.
It sounded really interested and I got really excited by the conversation. I had never heard of PR before, so this was completely new to me. I wasn’t sure if it would be possible, but I asked if she would be willing to offer me a place with her for my work experience. I felt so relieved when I knew I had a different place to go rather than school, nobody wants to stay in a classroom when they can experience something new and exciting!
Leaving home for a week.
Because the agency is in Leeds I have had to stay away for a week. I don’t normally stay away from home for so long, but I have done it on occasion before so I know what it’s like. Because I have never worked in an office before, just the local pub in my village, I had no idea what to wear and no Idea what I needed to bring with me.
Rather than stress too much about it, me and mum just threw some of my nicest clothes in a bag and hoped that I would have an outfit each day that would be suitable. I had to bring some of my dresses, which I very rarely wear, and it felt weird walking into an office with clothes on that I felt would be more suited to a night out. Needless to say, it was quite out of my comfort zone.
For a start, getting up at 7am every morning was the first hurdle! I normally get up at 8am for school, so it was a bit of a challenge getting up and ready to leave the house so early.
Once I was ready – and I had managed to get everything in my bag for the day ahead – me and Lindsey went to Tesco’s to get some lunch before setting off on the 30-minute drive to the offices.
The estate the office is in (Nostell Priory Estate Yard) is lovely and the sun was shining so it looked even better. Once we are all parked up and got our bags out of the car, we came into the office and I had a little desk set up for me with a laptop, sticky notes and pens.
I sat down and got out my note pad out ready to get started. Just then, Ed walked through the door and came straight up to me to shake my hand. I wasn’t really sure what to do, people don’t usually greet me like this and it freaked me out a little. I literally never shake anyone’s hand and I don’t know why but it scared me to death! (I have been laughing about it all week).
The first task of the day was for me to watch Anna go through the social media accounts for HARIBO. When she goes through all the social media she has to reply to any messages on Facebook and Twitter. It was great to feel useful, as I helped her to choose what to put in the replies to each of them.
Some of the comments can be quite interesting, while others are quite funny and made me laugh, it just goes to show what a varied mix of fans the brand has.
When we had finished that, Lindsey sat me down to talk about a press release; what it is and what it is used for.
I had no idea where to start and although I could have asked for help, I could see everyone was really busy, so I used my judgement and watched a number of podcasts on how to structure a press release.
I noted it all down and put it together like a facts sheet off the internet. I then put some time aside to do some research about the charity that I was writing the release for.
Before long I was ready to put it all together; my first press release done, and in wasn’t that difficult although it did take me a while.
So, my first day done and I have to say, my first impressions of the team where that they’re really nice people and so welcoming. They’re also talkative which I really liked.
On my second day I finished off the press release. I was very proud of the completed piece and I went through it with Lindsey. Although she made some amends, I was still really pleased to see that much of the content I had drafted was used.
We then sent the press release to the organisation that it was about for their approval. Within the hour the company had come back to us and agreed it was a really good piece.
It felt really good to have it approved because it’s my first ever press release that I have ever done and they liked it, so when they came back with such positive comments it was great.
The next step was to send it off to a selection of local journalists. We did this using a platform called Vuelio. It is a website that has all of the contact details for all of the journalists in the country on so you know who the best person will be to send a release on to and which publications are relevant.
On my third day I came into the office and Lindsey suggested that I draft a blog about my experience. I think blogs are important because they give people a little glimpse into your personality and what you’re interested in. They also draws people’s attention to the website that you are posting them on and can be shared on other channels like YouTube or across social media pages.
By this stage in the week, I feel quite settled in the office now, I’ve had a chance to get to know everyone a little bit better and they are all so lovely and friendly. I love the fact that they all watch Love Island (even Ed!) and it’s the topic of most of the convocations we all have together!
On my lunch break I went for a walk around the park and it was gorgeous, its’s quite different than at home because all the fields and land is filled with cows and sheep (and their muck) but here it’s so well looked after and it’s such a big area to just walk around and take some time to relax.
When I got back I was asked by Emma to pack some boxes for a campaign that the agency are planning. I didn’t really understand why I was doing it at first, but then Emma explained that it is a way of sending products to journalists and that it gives them chance to experience and eat the products that we distribute.
On this occasion we were working on an updated product for HARIBO which is still top secret!
On the third day me and Lindsey went to see a client. It felt weird going into another office and discussing future plans with them about their company and on this occasion their new website.
The office looked quite modern and everyone that I met was very friendly, which was nice. Lots of people where smiling at me and I felt really welcomed.
We went into a large meeting room on the top floor, which was quite daunting, but we were soon discussing plans for the website and I felt confident enough to share my thoughts and suggestions. The client seemed quite pleased that I was interested and that I had some views to share.
It was quite a long meeting and we didn’t get back to the office until gone 3pm. I continued to write my blog and to record all of the things that I had done and learnt.
Well, it’s Friday, and my last day of work experience. It’s been great; being a PR for a week is completely different to what my normal life is like. I like working in an office because the atmosphere is calm and the environment is quiet – until Anna and Mish start chatting about Love Island!
There are always lots of different things going on in PR and different ways in which you can approach things. It has been weird being away from home, but like I said, I have done it before and it’s not like I’m staying with strangers!
I’m pleased that I have learnt what happens in a PR agency and what the team is tasked to deliver for clients. The biggest achievement of the week has to be that I was able to draft a press release and understand more about the stages that it goes through to get to where it needs to be.
Lindsey has promised to keep me updated with the coverage and to share it with me when it comes through. I can’t wait to add it to my portfolio.
Over all it’s been a great experience and who knows, PR just might be the career choice for me in the future but for now it’s back to the classroom.