STUDENT LIFE: LAUREN OLD, UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND

Name: Lauren Old
University: University of Sunderland
Course: MA Public Relations
Twitter: @LaurenOldPR
LinkedIn: Lauren Old
Blog: https://antisocialpr.wordpress.com

Why did you choose to study PR?
I fell into PR by accident. Originally I decided to go back to university after having my daughter to follow my career aspirations of being an English teacher. At the time I saw a combined degree for English and PR and was swayed by the employable skills that PR could offer, such as presentation and critical analysis. Once I started the course I fell in love with communication and it’s safe to say that I haven’t looked back.  I’m now completing my masters in Public Relations and working as a communications consultant for an agency in Newcastle.

What has your course involved?
The course is really varied. At undergraduate level you learn a lot about strategy, linking everything to solid research to understand your target audience and how this relates to the current news agenda. While the masters course still contains these essential elements of Public Relations it’s much more in depth, drawing in elements of marketing and social media as well as ethics and research to make sure that your knowledge of the industry is as well rounded as possible.

What has been the most interesting aspect of studying PR?
The most interesting aspect of studying PR for me has been the realisation of how much PR activity actually goes on in an organisation.  Whether we’re talking about one off campaigns or day to day internal communications, PR plugs into every aspect of an organisation.  I find that fascinating. 

I mainly deal with media relations, content creation and social media for several high profile clients across the health, medical, finance and IT sectors

Have you done a year in industry placement? 
During my undergraduate course I had some work experience with a few agencies and organisations across the North East.  Before I graduated I was lucky enough to land a job with 2B Communications in Newcastle.  I’ve been working here about a year now and it’s great in that they’re really understanding when it comes to fitting my hours around childcare and my masters. On a day-to-day basis the role is really varied and I mainly deal with media relations, content creation and social media for several high profile clients across the health, medical, finance and IT sectors.  Lately I’ve been much more involved in the overall PR strategy of the clients which is something that will continue as I get more experience. 

I firmly believe that it’s the extra curricular activity that you’re involved in that will get you noticed by employers

Have you any other PR experience?  
In 2015, I was part of the team that received CIPR International’s Douglas Smith Student Award for creating an international wearable technology campaign, as well as placing second in Behind the Spin’s Best PR Student Blogger in that year. I continue to blog throughout my masters with a hope of placing for this year with my blog on the ethics of social media for commercial use. In 2016, I contributed to the crowd-sourced PR Stack 2 – a practical guide to PR tools workflow. I firmly believe that it’s the extra curricular activity that you’re involved in that will get you noticed by employers, so I’ve tried to put myself out there as much as possible alongside my studies and family life. 

What are your aspirations for after university?
After I complete my masters I’m hoping to continue working in my current role and progressing within the company, taking on my own clients and having more responsibility in a senior role. Maybe I’ll revisit the idea of becoming a teacher and go down that route in the future.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I must admit that I don’t get a lot of time to read as much PR news as I would like. Blog-wise I follow Wadds, Behind the Spin, Spin Sucks and subscribe to CIPR’s Influence online and in print, as well as The Drum, PR Week and PRCareers (of course) for industry news. I tend to read individual articles about areas I’m interested in as opposed to subscribing to lots of different sites, if I like someone’s writing style and their content appeals to me then I’ll follow them. 

having successful female role models in PR is really important to me

Who is your PR inspiration?
My PR inspiration is Gini Dietrich. I just think she has a unique way of putting the current issues PR is facing into thought provoking context. Gini is a successful PR practitioner and author in her own right as well as a leading industry spokesperson.  It might sound cliche but having successful female role models in PR is really important to me, especially while there are still issues such as the gender pay gap at the forefront of the industry.

Don’t be scared to put yourself forward for opportunities

What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree?
I would say that the most important thing is to get as much experience as possible. Don’t be scared to put yourself forward for opportunities because when you come to graduate it’s those experiences and extra-curricular activities that people will be most interested in. 

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