Public Relations. What is it and how did I find it?
I feel like I’m starting a draft for my autobiography. Who knows, maybe in many years to come I might have to come back to this when I’ve reached that point of success where someone wants to read about my life story. Here’s hoping.
Young Career Aspirations
My career goals varied A LOT in secondary school while I was doing my GCSEs and A Levels. When I was much younger I wanted to be a famous pop star, who didn’t? Then I realised that I didn’t have the voice nor a face for TV. I forgot about being the star but still felt like I wanted to be in that scene, even working in the background.
So I researched different careers in the music industry and liked the sound of A&R or even a sound engineer. (I even considered being a roadie but I’m not strong or male so that idea went out the window). The more I read up on it the more it sounded like the music industry was in fast decline. As were the jobs. My teachers tried to talk me out of it and told me to find a ‘real job’, that there was no potential in the music industry. That it would be too hard to get into and that I should stick to what I’m good at – which was maths.
Following their advice I looked into accountancy, finance and investment. The only thing that got my attention when I read about the job descriptions were the estimated yearly salaries. But the jobs themselves sparked no interest in me whatsoever.
I was always an avid magazine reader and to this day, still am. I buy Cosmo without fail every month and pick up Glamour and Marie Claire if I’m travelling or have some time to myself. For two years I studied journalism at GCSE and loved it. I considered this as a potential career as I wanted a job where I could travel and thought being a journalist would enable me to do this as I could be sent out to report on wars and volcano eruptions. On the other hand there was the possibility that I could also be sent to report on a local town football match or someone winning £10,000 on a scratch card.
Most journalism degrees required English or English Literature at A Level in order to be considered for the course, both of which I didn’t have. My heart lay with magazine journalism and in my first year of A Levels two of my favourite magazines ceased to hit the shelves. This worried me and as most magazines and newspapers were starting to go digital I wondered was there going to be a place for a magazine journalist in five years to come. In my gut I felt journalism wasn’t the path for me.
But still with a love of fashion, music and the entertainment world I wanted to find a job where I could incorporate all three. I studied music, business, maths and religion at A Level. Keeping on music as it has always been a part of my life and I wanted to keep my options open. I chose maths because I was good at it and I knew that I could fall back on it as it opens many doors in any industry. Having never studied Business at GCSE I decided to take it on at A Level as this too would leave my options open and I felt I would be able to get a good grade from it.
My head was a mess with potential careers and so many of my friends were certain of the job they wanted in the future and what degree they needed to get there. The only thing I was certain of was that I wasn’t staying in Northern Ireland when it came to choosing a university.
When it came to considering universities and degrees I presented my careers teacher with three separate personal statements for three different careers and he looked at me and then put his head in his hands. One was aimed towards the music industry, another was for the finance sector and anything maths related and the last one wasn’t aimed at anything in particular only a career where I could incorporate music, journalism, the media, entertainment, fashion and events all in one. Simple.
‘Public Relations’? What’s that?
Still undecided whether to go for the safe option of an office job as an accountant or to somehow worm my way into an agency and do coffee runs, I came to an agreement with my careers teacher that when we had to go on our week long placement I would spend three days in a business of my choosing and two days in an accountants office. I emailed every magazine that was based in Northern Ireland and all of the big newspapers that were based in Belfast but none of them took on work experience students. Thinking this was maybe a sign that I should go with the finance industry I came across an article in the Belfast Telegraph about Belfast Fashion Week and that it was ran by Cathy Martin and her Public Relations company.
This was the first time I’d heard the term Public Relations. I did a lot of research and found that this was the job I’d been dreaming of. I know that you don’t just walk into the industry and be working with celebrities and models and famous clients straight away but I was willing to work my hardest to get there. CMPR specialise in everything from media and public relations to corporate communications, celebrity relations, production and event management to marketing and brand consultancy.
The dates of my work experience week happened to be around the time CMPR would be getting ready for Belfast Fashion Week, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I emailed Lesa and she got back to me the next day saying they’d be glad to have me! I was over the moon!
At CMPR I worked on press releases for Belfast Fashion Week, collected clothes for the show from boutiques around Belfast and even got to attend a fashion shoot and help with the models so I could see what happened behind the scenes. I was even invited back to help out during the actual fashion week and got to assist make up artists and store owners get the models ready for the runway and help make sure the show ran smoothly every night. This placement at CMPR rooted the idea of a career in public relations in my head but I still had my doubts of how I was going to go about getting into the industry and if it was right choice for me or if I should stick with the finance career path.
I started talking about the idea of public relations with my friends and one of them told me about her brother who had just graduated with a degree in PR. I had a lengthy chat with her and how her brother had just landed a job in the PR department of a music distribution company and that he attended a private performance held by Prince in London where he was chatting with so many celebrities and special guests and felt like he was one of them. Her brother was also sent to their Nashville office for a few months and met the cast of the TV show of the same name at the Country Music Awards.
This information sent my brain into overdrive and I finally settled that public relations was definitely the career path for me. I was firstly inspired by Cathy Martin who had set up her own company (and who I interned for) and is a very successful business woman and I hope to mirror her successes some day. I was also inspired by my friend’s brother who I got into contact with and it is because of him that I chose to study the same degree in Liverpool and hopefully have the same outcome that he did working in the entertainment, music or fashion industry.
And here I am..
So that is how I got to be where I am today. Sitting in Aldham Robarts Library, Liverpool having just completed the first year of my degree, working as the PR Assistant in The Burn Nightclub back home (I even met Mark Wright and had shots with Basshunter through organising and promoting personal appearances) to now getting ready for second year.
In my degree we are encouraged to explore both corporate PR and agency PR to see where we feel we fit best. However, I already know that agency PR is the sector I find most suited to my interests and expertise. I think I would enjoy working in a talent agency or management company much more, compared to a big name company like Jaguar or Marks and Spencer’s for example.
Heading into second year also means that I’ll be starting to look for a year long placement. Hopefully the search goes a lot better and is less stressful than finding my week long placement back in secondary school. Here’s hoping.