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Unpaid placements… A blessing or a curse?

Until quite recently I, rather naively, had never thought deeply enough about the issue of unpaid work placements to see them as problematic. Perhaps tellingly, I didn’t think twice about completing them myself; to me, it was just a given in order to get me to where I needed to be.

It was only after reading a little more deeply into the topic, and being advised of Leeds Beckett’s stance on the issue that the real implications of students taking up unpaid internships became apparent.

As an intern, I have found my placements to be invaluable, insightful and often I approached the organisations I have worked for myself – they weren’t actively looking for help, but kindly took me on.  So I’d like to make it clear that this is not an attack on anybody. I would argue, however, that this is a reflection of my own circumstances. I feel incredibly privileged that I am in a position where, for the past two years, I have been able to complete these internships on a part time basis without really considering the financial impact.

It’s clear to see why completing work that is paid but less relevant to the industry, and being able to survive in the short term (i.e paying your bills!) can seem more appealing than doing something that may or may not have a positive impact on your career in the future.  But for those already struggling to balance the ridiculously high costs of life as a student (yes student housing and rising tuition fees, I’m looking at you), this is an impossible prospect.

The impact of this is not only an unfair advantage for people who can afford to do these placements, but the wider impact on the already lacking levels of diversity in PR.  In one fairly recent article, the progress being made is described as ‘achingly slow‘ – and is it any wonder?  The responsibility for this may also lie in our future employers hands.  For employers to consider the fact many students must work instead of spending their holidays working for nothing, and to give them an opportunity to prove themselves before immediately rejecting them for a lack of experience would go a long way in helping aspiring professionals to get their foot in the door.


I saw this tweet last year during the period when the #firstsevenjobs hashtag was blowing up… And well, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind!

Up until now, this blog has mainly focused on short-term, part-time work placements.  But during my hunt for a 12-month placement, I have seen countless advertisements for jobs that barely cover expenses, often based in central London which to me seems ludicrous… Not to mention unethical. Surely employers have a moral obligation, if nothing else, to pay their interns?

It is a saving grace that both of the PR industry’s professional bodies, the CIPR and the PRCA, have made clear their view on unpaid placements. And this view is that they are unacceptable.  The CIPR “advocates that all work placements should be paid at least the living wage,” and have created a toolkit for employers.  The PRCA has featured a list of employers that have pledged to pay their interns on their website.

The stance that is being taken by the majority of industry professionals is quite clear, but I wonder is the PR world as a whole doing enough to actively tackle the issue?

For more information on the legalities of unpaid internships, visit PRcareers

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Challenges for charities and PR

As someone who aims to work as a communications expert within the third sector, I feel that the challenges charities are currently up against are becoming more and more relevant.  With budget cuts from the government and the public struggling more than ever, demand for support from charities is growing.  However, with public trust having hit rock bottom, charities have a real challenge on their hands to raise funds and continue providing this much needed support.

A controversial issue, which stems from public perception, is how much money charities are spending on their promotional and marketing activities.  Personally, I believe that without marketing and PR, charities would have a real struggle on their hands.  Surely without anyone to shout about an organisation’s work, their supporters or their fundraising activities, the opportunity to make their desired impact lessens.

I recently came across an interesting talk from Dan Pallotta that is definitely worth a watch if you have a spare half an hour.  In it, he discusses how non-profits are being judged on how little they spend as opposed to their effectiveness and how much of an impact they are making.

For this reason, I think that charities should be given a little slack when it comes to how much they spend on promotional activity.  But with trust in the third sector at an all time low, how can the communicators within charities tackle this issue?

Transparency

Arguably more important than ever, the need for charities to be transparent about their spending, actions and activities is vital. Social media provides people with the outlet to express their frustrations, particularly, I’ve noticed, on the sponsored posts of large, national charities. It’s important that these grumblings are handled in the first instance and, if possible, taken offline.

Engagement

Engaging supporters through social media and other forms of communication is vital, even just so that they choose your charity over another when it comes to fundraising! Q&As, peer support forums, and putting their vision in the hands of supporters can be really beneficial and make supporters feel a part of something – which I think is the main challenge to overcome.  Having a friendly, approachable tone can be the difference between them choosing a huge charity or a small, local one.

Strategy

Having a focused and clear strategy and vision seems like quite an obvious thing, but can sometimes be overlooked in smaller charities with very little budget for PR. It’s drilled into us at university how valuable PR and marketing can be as a strategic, high-level business function, and it’s only now that I am getting into the workplace that I am understanding just how right they are.

Making sure everything you do is consistent with your organisation’s branding, tone and wording can have so many benefits to your organisation.  Not to mention, having a place where anyone can see all this information (linking with transparency and engagement!) means trust is automatically boosted.

Times are hard for third sector organisations. But I think that with time, ethical PR and a good vision, public trust will once again improve as people realise the value these organisations can really have. 

 

 

 

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February’s pick of good news

In a time where we are being continually bombarded with bad news from all angles, I thought it would be refreshing to compile a list of some of the good things that have happened throughout February.  The list ranges from good old fashioned human kindness, amusing stories about politicians dabbing, to scientific developments and environmental issues that can really put our lives into perspective.

I’ve been scouring the news to find these positive stories (which proved to be a little more difficult than you might think!) so I hope that you enjoy!

  1. ‘Good vibration’ hand pumps boost Africa’s water security, BBC, 24.02.17
    “The simple up-and-down motion of hand pumps could help scientists secure a key water source for 200 million people in Africa.”
  2. Down Syndrome couple celebrate 22 years of happy marriage, Independent, 24.02.17
    “Their Facebook page has been inundated with messages in recent days as people congratulate them on their anniversary and wish them more happiness in the future.”

  3.  Hairdryers used to strike blow against speeders in Hopeman, BBC, 23.02.17
    “Villagers dressed in fluorescent jackets are pointing hairdryers at cars to mimic police using speed cameras in a bid to deter fast drivers in Moray.”

  4. Exoplanet discovery: seven Earth-sized planets found orbiting nearby star, Guardian, 23.02.17
    “A huddle of seven worlds, all close in size to Earth, and perhaps warm enough for water and the life it can sustain, has been spotted around a small, faint star in the constellation of Aquarius.”

  5. Lemur facial recognition tool developed, BBC, 21.02.17
    “The plan is to use the technology to help radically improve the way the endangered species is tracked.”

  6. Muslims raise thousands to repair vandalised Jewish cemetery, Independent, 22.02.17
    “Muslim groups have raised tens of thousands of dollars to repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised amid a wave of anti-Semitic threats sweeping the US.”

  7. Perfect storm: The agency for disabled talent, BBC, 19.02.17
    “We didn’t know any models with a disability and I immediately thought that was such an obvious thing for advertising – to be representative of the consumer.”
  8. Mum raises £130k from ‘Walk of Love’ in memory of her daughter, Fundraising.co.uk, 20.02.17
    “She completed her ‘Walk of Love‘ this month at Durdle Door in Dorset, having taken 305 days to walk 6,000 miles.”
  9. The woman who turns self-harm scars into art, BBC Three, no date

    A video shared by BBC Three

  10. Everybody in the house say yo! Dabbing Tom Watson steals the show, Telegraph 22.02.17
    “It isn’t every day that a senior front-bencher seeks to impress the House of Commons by performing a hip-hop dance routine.”
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February’s Playlist: ten songs

Whenever anyone asks me the type of music I like, I generally panic.  Last term in a seminar I simply answered with ‘S Club 7.’

I haven’t listened to S Club 7 since I was about seven. Why I said it I do not know, but that’s a story for another day.

It’s an interesting question but I think it’s the enormity of the question and the extent to which it reflects your personality.

So today I am going to face my fear and write a whole playlist of the songs I have listened to in February, so if someone asks I can send them in this directiom and not be faced with a repeat of the S Club situation.

  1. Dreaming of you – The Coral 
  2. Almost Home – Keston Cobblers Club
  3. Ophelia – The Lumineers
  4. High Hopes – Paolo Nutini
  5. Wetsuit – The Vaccines
  6. Blue – Marina and the Diamonds
  7. Same Jeans – The View
  8. Glorious You – Frank Turner 
  9. True Colours – Ben Madeley
  10. You win again – Bee Gees

None of them are particularly trendy or new but I enjoy them, and I hope you do too! 

February playlist on Spotify

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Wellness, illness and everything inbetween

When people look at me, I like to think they often see someone who throws themselves into everything. But I also like to think I hide the impact of being the girl who throws herself into everything – The struggles I face, and the difficulty of keeping myself afloat while facing a very real, very fluctuating chronic illness. Sometimes though, the mask needs to break and the reality needs to come through.

In all honesty, I think sometimes that being someone who is unwell and living a fairly normal life can be even harder than being a) completely well or b) completely ill. I mean, each of these come with their own issues: paying bills, having a social life and all life’s problems are shared across the board. But being at that half way house, there is no common ground. It’s hard to accept help. People who are ill believe you are living the life of riley – I mean, you can get out of the house and live your life (for which I am very grateful), surely everything is fine and dandy? But being invisibly ill and doing everything a normal person does whilst being ill means there’s often a lack of understanding from all sides.

I don’t blame people for this lack of understanding – how can they know? But it does make it a very lonely affair. Doctors who have nothing more they can do to help, lecturers who are just doing their jobs, companies who just need staff, friends who say: “But you’re not ill?” yet don’t see the side of you that is too exhausted to feed yourself, to think, or the side that has to sit in the library for a few hours just to get enough energy to jump on the bus for the ten minute ride home. It’s no-one’s fault – in fact maybe it is mine. I have painted myself as someone who is invincible, with an endless supply of energy, so yes some blame lies with me (who doesn’t paint their life as perfect on social media), but it doesn’t change the fact that for me it is a hard, and often lonely, struggle. The pretence of ‘I’m fine’ is sometimes more exhausting than the pre-existing exhaustion.

I try to be overwhelmingly positive, and I’m so lucky to be surrounded by my family and friends… but when I feel so ill my usually sharp brain goes into meltdown over trying to break through the mist in my mind to simply decide what I want from the supermarket, or when my body is moving without my permission or when I have deadlines that I can’t complete due to utter exhaustion, I have to take a moment and step back. I stop comparing myself to others and look at how far I’ve come. It is lonely, and yes it’s weird and frustrating – but isn’t that just life?

I think the point of this blog wasn’t just to have a moan (though I did need one), but to ask people to show some compassion. Whatever position you’re in, there is no black and white. People are always going through stuff. Different stuff depending on the person. But it’s our job to look through the mask and ask ‘how are you?’ And more importantly, we need to listen to the answer.

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BACK IN LEEDS

After the two busiest weeks I have ever had, I finally feel inspired to write a blog post. Though I’m not convinced I’ll finish it in one sitting… I’m nodding off already.

As you can probably imagine (by the fact I’m in my jammies, tucked up, at 9pm) second year is actually feeling really positive right now.

On the Sunday I moved in Eva, Laura and I had a girly night in.  It was very ‘PR Darling’ and involved copious amounts of prosecco, as well as some cheeky hummus and pitta snacks. We watched Gavin and Stacey followed by a couple of episodes of Peep Show and then I headed back to my flat. This second year malarkey is wild.  The night after we headed out-out which was lots of fun and slightly more student-like than staying in!

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PR gurls

I feel 100% more comfortable in my new flat. I love it, and my room is my new favourite place to be, despite the initial problems when we moved in, (think: the usual hurdles that are to be expected with student properties!)   Though tonight it is really windy and the creakiness of the house is really becoming apparent!

I’ve been really busy too with RAG and attending numerous Freshers Fairs on behalf of the society.  After attending RAG conference back in August, me, Jenny and the rest of the committee are all pretty excited for what is ahead this year with Leeds Beckett RAG.  Did we mention a trip to Amsterdam? (Yes. Repeatedly.)

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go teaaaaam.

In between all of this, I have actually started back at uni!  The thought of second year is pretty scary but equally as exciting, and we had our first placement lecture earlier today. It’s crazy to think that (fingers crossed) this time next year I will be working full time in a real life, grown up job. I feel ready. I’m so excited for the year ahead and everything that it will bring – I know it’ll probably be a stressy one but hopefully my hard work will pay off.

Tomorrow I start at my new Brownie pack in Leeds, and today went to the parade in Leeds welcoming back the olympic and paralympic champs back to Yorkshire which was fun…

So all in all: I’m pretty busy, 100% exhausted and enjoying every second of it.

 

 

Here’s to second year!

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Got into Uni?

So, you’ve got those all important grades, you’ve bought your first pan (what an occasion) and you’re stocked up with enough alcohol to last you until next Christmas…

What next?

Probably one of the easiest, and arguably the most important, things you can do before uni is go and get your Meningitis ACWY vaccine.

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Meningitis doesn’t discriminate. People, and particularly students,  often think they’re invincible – me included sometimes, but I can’t stress to you the importance of getting your vaccine. Meningitis and septicaemia are really not pretty things to experience and five minutes at your surgery can protect you from a lifetime of pain, hospital appointments and upset.

For those that don’t know, there are various outcomes that can occur should someone have meningitis. The best is that you recover with little to no after effects. The second is that you keep your life but are impacted forever – amputation, acquired brain injury, epilepsy, deafness.

The final is that you lose your life.

This can happen in less than four hours.

I’m not trying to scaremonger through this blog but sadly for some, these options are the devastating reality of their lives.

The four strains of meningitis that are covered by the vaccine have been on the rise since 2009, increasing year on year and sadly, teenagers are more likely to carry the bacteria that causes meningitis in the back of their throats.  Students living in close proximity with each other means it’s more likely to spread.

The goal of this post is really to educate people about meningitis so that they can get their vaccine.

Ring your doctors surgery, book an appointment and head over. It will take so little time but potentially have such a big impact.

Don’t gamble with your life, get your vaccine and make yourself aware of meningitis’ symptoms.