STUDENT LIFE: LIVI WILKES, SOUTHAMPTON SOLENT UNIVERSITY

Name: Livi Wilkes
University: Southampton Solent University
Course: Public Relations and Communication

Twitter: @LiviWilkesPR
LinkedIn:
Livi Wilkes
Blog:
livelovelaughpr.com

Why did you choose to study PR?
Funnily enough, I had absolutely no idea what PR was until about a month before the UCAS deadline. I knew I wanted to write, which took me to the obvious possibilities such as journalism and creative writing, but after a couple of uni open days I realised that I was not the ‘cut throat’ person you have to be to work in journalism. My Dad works in marketing and had always said I’d be good at PR, but because I didn’t know what it was and I was a stubborn 17 year old (!), I didn’t look into it until I’d completely run out of options. When I found out that PR involved writing and talking, I was pretty much sold.

What has your course involved?
Where do I start? From learning loads of different writing styles – academic, reflective and persuasive, to name a few – to working with clients that we’ve produced both hypothetical and real-life campaigns for, to gaining industry experience with work placements, to doing pitches and presentations…the list goes on.

I’ve found learning and improving at different writing styles so interesting

What has been the most interesting aspect of studying PR?
For me, it’s been learning how to write in so many different styles. I guess this isn’t a normal response to this question as it’s not necessarily directly to do with PR, but, because I just love writing and PR involves a lot of writing, I’ve found learning and improving at different styles so interesting and – dare I say it – fun! I’ve always enjoyed creative writing; writing short stories when I was little, which developed into song-writing and then I was introduced to blog-writing, but I never thought I’d enjoy academic writing. Turns out, I do – which I guess is making this dissertation a bit more enjoyable.

I am more than ready to take the PR industry by storm

Will you do a year in industry placement?
Nope! The idea of a placement year didn’t appeal to me all too much as I’ve already done a gap year, and I thought that by the time I finished a placement, I may not want to return to education. I’m glad I didn’t do one, too – I am more than ready to take the PR industry by storm now. 😉

I realised straight away that I wanted to work for a charity

Have you any other PR experience?
My PR experience started off when I was in the stage of ‘I’ve applied to do PR at university but I’m not entirely sure what it even is’. I fell into my first internship by accident; I was on my gap year and was doing some volunteering on the care team at children’s hospice, Helen & Douglas House. I was introduced to their PR team and they offered me a 1 day a week internship for 6 months. I can’t describe how valuable that experience was – I not only started university knowing what PR is (always a bonus!) but I already had hands on experience with writing press releases, doing interviews, creating case studies and speaking on the phone. Plus, and most importantly, I realised straight away that I wanted to work for a charity, ideally a children’s one, and that passion has stayed with my still – nearly four whole years down the line!

During the summer between 1st and 2nd year, I did work experience at a local radio station in my home town of Buckinghamshire. That was fab – I got to have more hands on experience with PR activities, like press releases and going to events, but I also got to see what the journalists got up to on the news desk. That has really stuck with me, and it’s a bit of a secret passion of mine to work as a news-reader on the radio!

Between 2nd and 3rd year, I did two work placements; one in the Isle of Wight for a PR agency – Solent Co. – and one in my home town again with a children’s charity – Toybox. Before these placements, I was already quite sure I wanted to go down the in-house PR career route, but wanted to gain experience in an agency anyway, and these placements confirmed these thoughts. Whilst Solent Co. was a great experience, my time at Toybox was just wonderful; I loved the work I was doing – creating case studies, writing for the newsletter, writing accompanying letters for supporters, working on the Christmas campaign to name a few projects. Ultimately, the atmosphere and the true passion the charity had is what made it such valuable experience.

What are your aspirations for after university?
If you haven’t already guessed – to work in PR & Comms for a charity. I have my eye on certain children’s charities, so when they have roles available I will jump right in, but my main focus for now is to just work for a charity in the healthcare sector and keep gaining experience so when my dream job role arises, I will be the perfect candidate.

Who is your PR inspiration?
The people that automatically come to mind are the three ladies that mentored me at both my charity work placements; they not only are excellent at what they do, but they have such a passion for the charity’s they work for which, to me, is just so important. I want my job and my work to make a difference in the world and they are prime examples of people who are already doing this.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I read a lot of PR-related news articles that are posted and re-tweeted to my Twitter timeline. I find that the best news source.

Arianne Williams – PR Pro in Training

Rebecca Henderson – R V Henderson.com

Laura Bradley – The PR Girl

What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree?
If you enjoy subjects such as English, drama, languages, communication, performing arts e.t.c (subjects that involve writing and talking) and if you can waste a few hours on social media (!), PR might be the one for you. It isn’t an obvious choice, or one that’s really talked about in sixth form or college, but it’s definitely worth looking into. A lot of people I know that study PR did subjects like those. Chat to someone who knows about marketing – that’s more widely known to people than PR – and they can give you tips. I’d say if you’re quite shy, don’t like social media and aren’t too keen on talking to strangers in person or over the phone, PR probably isn’t for you. Shameless plug here, but my blog post on 5 reasons PR is not the career for you may come in handy.

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