STUDENT LIFE: ARIANNE WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND

Name: Arianne Williams
University: University of Sunderland
Course: Public Relations and French

Twitter: @ariannewills
LinkedIn: Arianne Williams
Blog: https://prprointraining.wordpress.com/ (winner of Britain’s Best Student PR Blogger 2016)

Why did you choose to study PR?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, communication and being a little bit creative, so when I was looking at degree subjects I wanted something that would incorporate all three. I didn’t really know much about PR before I started, but when researching what it was all about and what career prospects there were, it just sounded like something that would suit me. I think that I had the basics of lots of the skills that PR involves before I started, so I knew this would be a chance to develop them and, of course, learn lots of new ones. 

What has your course involved?
The course has been completely varied and that has been one of the reasons I have enjoyed it so much. We have written press releases; learnt how to structure a PR campaign; studied PR for non-commercial organisations; produced internal communications reports and newsletters; created campaigns with groups; among many other tasks. Each module and assessment has been different to the previous and introduced a different aspect of PR. We’ve also looked at related disciplines such as marketing and journalism to help us to understand the sector as a whole.

I think campaigns for a charity require slightly alternative thinking and a lot of creativity

What has been the most interesting aspect of studying PR?
Personally, I’ve found studying PR for non-commercial organisations particularly interesting. It uses all the skills that you would normally use in PR, but I think campaigns for a charity, for example, require slightly alternative thinking and a lot of creativity, as it is quite a crowded sector.

Will you do a year in industry placement?
No a year-long industry placement isn’t required for my course.

Have you any other PR experience? 
I have been into two different North East PR agencies, both for a fortnight each. Going into an agency environment allowed me to apply all the skills and theory that I had learnt at university, but having ‘real-life’ clients to deal with brought an entirely new dynamic to all the skills that PR requires. I found that I really enjoyed the fast pace of the agencies. I learnt lots of new skills such as month-end reporting, how to create a social media content plan and lots about dealing with journalists. I’d highly recommend to all PR students to take time to find work experience in an agency as it is something that you can only learn by doing.

I’ve also recently started doing PR freelance, mainly sourcing, creating and scheduling social media content for various clients. Working from home in my own time has required a lot of discipline and time management and have tested a different set of skills to agency work.

In addition to this, I have also managed the social media for a national charity; written a chapter for My PR Stack 2 – a practical guide to modern PR tools and workflow; won the CIPR International Douglas Smith student award in 2015; and been named Britain’s best PR student blogger 2016 in Behind the Spin’s competition.

What are your aspirations for after university?
I’d love to start out in an agency to gain PR experience across a number of sectors. I’d like to look into specialising in social media as I believe this is a huge part of the future of PR. 

Her book, Leave Your Mark, is one of the most inspirational and motivational things that I have read.

Who is your PR inspiration?
Aliza Licht – Branding, Communications & Digital Strategic Consultant; Founder of Leave Your Mark; former DKNY PR Girl – an award winning Twitter personality. Aliza has been credited as a social media pioneer, particularly in the fashion industry, and is an expert in fashion PR. Her book, Leave Your Mark, is one of the most inspirational and motivational things that I have read.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I try to vary what I read a lot to get lots of different perspectives and ideas, but there are some regulars that I always go back to. For industry insights and statistics, I read the Holmes Report, and for industry news I head to PR Week, or to Influence from the CIPR. I also enjoy Stephen Waddington‘s blog as he always has great insights into current PR issues, and for everything that a student should know about PR, I always head to Behind the Spin.

Social media has been a huge help to me, so get following lecturers, leaders in the industry and those working in PR in your region

What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree
Keep an open mind, keep reading as many newspapers, blogs and magazines as you can and be prepared to get as much experience as you can! Social media has been a huge help to me, so get following lecturers, leaders in the industry and those working in PR in your region and see what they are saying and doing before you start.

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