Course: MSc Public Relations
LinkedIn: Alexandra Horilla
Why did you choose to study PR?
My adventure within the world of PR started just over 5 years ago, when I came to Manchester to study Public Relations and Digital Communications Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. After a 2 year gap, I decided to resume my studies, so I have enrolled for an MSc course in Public Relations at MMU.
I chose PR because I am thrilled by the diversity the industry offers – the opportunity to work with clients across different industries, the chance to meet interesting people and help them in a creative way and the chance to become an expert in the fields clients operate in, adding to your overall general knowledge.
What has your course involved?
MSc PR is an integrated course as it includes a variety of modules which combine traditional PR with digital and social media. From critically analysing the theoretical underpinning of a campaign that we designed as group work, to the opportunity to work with real businesses on live briefs through units such as Investigating Business Practice. This combination has given me a good understanding of the skills needed to work in PR.
However, my favourite unit is PR Skills and Specialisms because I had the chance to put my writing skills into practice by creating a media pack from scratch for a small business. Also, through this unit I had the opportunity to meet and network with PR professionals from different PR sectors as guest lecturers, whilst learning more about the particular sector they were representing.
What has been the most interesting aspect of studying PR?
PR is constantly evolving and as a practitioner you need to be aware of the changes and how they may impact on your career or your clients. I have also found networking to be an interesting aspect in PR. You never know who you may come across and the way certain people can influence your future.
Have you done a year in industry placement?
I have carried out some work placements but I haven’t carried out a full year. I am currently applying for internships, so if an opportunity comes along, I will go for it.
Have you got any other PR experience?
I had the opportunity to intern at three different PR agencies across Greater Manchester. Although all these internships were short-term, I have learnt a great deal from each one, and they helped me visualise the ideal workplace for me.
At the moment I have a one day a week internship at a volunteer management system company where I plan and implement the company’s’ digital and social media presence. My role also involves writing and tailoring content for the different social media accounts the company owns.
I carried out a placement at a strategic and creative consultancy in Manchester. They provide senior-level support for clients looking to drive growth, attract investment and effectively manage change. Whilst there I identified senior influencers in local authorities to inform part of an integrated thought-leadership campaign.
An interesting project I had the pleasure to work on was creating a media pack for the launch of a board game supported by a Kickstarter campaign. Besides writing a press release, few blog posts and tweets, I also prepared a filmed Q&A where I was responsible for drafting the questions and the answers, liaise with the client and the game shop where the shooting took place, discuss the concept with a professional cameraman but also conduct the Q&A. This project allowed me to put into practice a range of skills, especially my management skills.
What are your aspirations for after university?
A short-term aspiration would be to secure a job in a PR agency, where I could learn to practically combine different elements of PR. Although at the moment I don’t have a particular preference regarding the sector, I would like to experience working for an in-house communications team as well.
However, in the long run, I would like to work within an International PR context as I believe this will give me the opportunity to explore the strategic thinking behind campaigns from different cultures, which has always fascinated me.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
In terms of news in general, my first points of call are Twitter and LinkedIn. Regarding industry news, I am a member of both CIPR and PRCA and besides attending the events organised by them, I also enjoy listening to the webinars they offer as it’s a different approach to learn. I find the webinars are more up to date than books.
In terms of magazines, Influence, PR Week and The Drum are the main reading sources followed by Prolific North and Forbes.
Occasionally I read Stephen Waddington’s blog, Behind the spin and the blogs written by my peers.
Who is your PR inspiration?
In terms of practitioners, I admire Sandy Lindsay MBE, founder and chair of Tangerine and The Juice Academy, for her passion and dedication for helping young people to secure jobs. I believe that more PR professionals should take this sort of initiative, such as mentoring students or offering short-term internships.
In terms of academics, it is important not to forget about the people who taught me including DR Jane Tonge, my course leader. I had the pleasure to meet her during my UG years and she supported me and my ideas through the good and the hard times. Whilst being a student, you need somebody to believe in you and to motivate you sometimes, and Jane did this for me and for this I am very grateful.
Not PR specific, although I believe he did a tremendous job to promote both the company and himself, Sir Richard Branson. The amount of work and adventures that he has been through, is a clear sign that hard work will pay off.
What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree?
Consider reading a lot and diversify to expand your horizons. Also, gain additional writing experience through a blog, for example. Always try to do something extra such as a volunteer for a charity in your local area. It will pay off eventually. Keep your eyes open to opportunities, but most of all, don’t be afraid to ask, because if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Simple as that.