How I landed myself a Graduate PR Role

It is my aim in this blog post to provide an honest overview of my graduate scheme search and how I landed my upcoming graduate role at Red. This is an extremely “transparent” post which covers my experiences precisely.

 

It would be dishonest for me to say that the only graduate scheme I applied for was Red. Such an act would be lunacy in an economic environment drowned in talented graduates. For the last 3 to 4 years it has been necessary for upcoming University leavers to apply for as many job roles as possible. Graduate unemployment has hit its highest level since 1995; members of my class were not able to leave all their eggs in one basket.

The approach I took when applying for graduate schemes was to ask myself if they filled the below criteria:

  1. Would the role suit my interests?
  2. Does the organisation “feel” right for me?
  3. Will I be able to live on the salary?

When I started applying for schemes in January I made sure that I could answer ‘yes’ to each of these points. Thanks to a superb list of 2012 graduate schemes by Ben Cotton I had somewhere to start. Yet I only applied to organisations who appealed in some way to me. Each scheme I applied for provided me with different processes, different experiences and I am going to share some of what I learn’t within this post today.

Firstly it is important to note that the majority of public relations graduate schemes are not exclusively open to graduate public relations students. Indeed a graduate from any discipline can apply for a PR role. This doesn’t undervalue the worth of a PR degree (we are at an advantage with the skills taught to us) but instead makes the process a lot harder.

Edelman
I was one of the lucky thirty to make it through to the Edelman assessment day. Their process involved the initial application, telephone interview and finally the assessment day. Needless to say making it through to the assessment day alone was a an experience which I was thankful for. On the day I was interview by three individuals within the company, took part in a written assessment and did a presentation to a panel of eight employees. On the whole it went well, especially for my interview as I was rated in the top five.

Edelman was tricky though. Even though most of my assessment day was ranked highly I was considered to be ‘too good’ for their apprenticeship scheme. To this day I disagree with this observation as an experience in a multinational agency such as Edelman would have been extremely valuable. Yet it may not have pushed me considering my already in-depth experiences at Microsoft due to the structure of their scheme.

They clearly value their potential employees as HR assigned me to be interview by their Digital Team – a role which would have put my 9 months ahead of the apprenticeship scheme. Whilst my interview with them went really well I did not get the role with them – competition was too high and another individual (not necessarily a graduate) with more experience obtained the role.

Instead saw my skills to be better aligned in analytics (I did try and convince them that my maths aren’t that good!) so asked me for another interview but with the analytics team. Due to my experience at Microsoft doing Online Advertising I knew that an analytics based role was not quite right for me, after much thought I graciously declined the interview.

Edelman are a forward thinking agency who tried to find a part of their business to plug me into but at this time it did not work. Everyone I met at the agency in London were delightful, very bright but what they could offer me was not quite right in the end.

An undisclosed smaller agency
Out of all the agencies I applied for my most confusing experience was with a smaller agency based in London. Their assessment day involved a group task and presentation, successful candidates were then invited back for a final interview. In particular I found the group assessment nerve racking as one of the candidates (who studies law) recognised me from my blog. Whilst this gave me a push to perform to prove my ‘real world value’ to this follower, it did cause me to worry. Living up to people’s expectations can, at times, be worrisome.

Nevertheless I managed to obtain a final interview with this agency which went incredibly well. By chance I had already seen clients of theirs in the media and could rehearse the media impact of them in 2011 without strain. It is remarkable what stress, focus and the desire to please will do to the mind.

I left the interview almost certain that I would get a job offer from them within the next week. Whilst this delighted me I knew that I was still waiting back from Edelman and had yet started Red’s graduate scheme processes. I’ve never been one to settle for the easy option if a better choice existed and at this stage I was not certain this small agency was right for me – despite the friendliness of its staff.

After a couple of weeks though the agency didn’t get in contact – rather confusing as after a final interview the decision is usually quite quick. I then found out from the manager that the agency had already done some hiring and had yet to make a decision about me, to help make their decision I agreed to do two days work experience for them. Those two days seemed to go well although obviously, being a work experience student, most of the time you tend to feel like a spare part.

After the two days were up a few days passed and the agency revealed uncertainty about my position due to client movements, eventually they were going to award me a role which would start in August.

To be honest my interest in them was dying at this point, not due to their business approach but because obtaining a graduate role with them was really drawn out. Even though I had spent in the region of £80 going to their various days (National Express Coaches and Oyster purchases) they seemed to find it difficult to make their decisions. Whilst everyone in the company was a pleasure to work with and meet I couldn’t commit any more time to processes and start dates were far too late.

Red
Red’s campaigns frequently receive attention in the PR industry; creativity is their weapon and their approach should be inspiring for smaller upcoming agencies. All of their employees were pleasant to speak with, their flat structure even meant speaking with managers to be easy and they were honest throughout the whole procedure. I left the Red assessment day and final interview with nerves and high hopes I wished to suppress. Somehow I knew that they were the agency for me and if they decided against my application it would have dealt a heavy blow.

Thankfully I got the job and cannot wait to start.

I did get rejections
I’m aware that I have only listed three agencies who I managed to get into the final stages for. In reality I also got rejected from a handful of agencies in either the first stages or after telephone interview. The fact I eventually obtained a graduate role in the end shows that every agency is looking for somebody different for their organisation. Whilst you may not make it through one scheme, another organisation may find you suitable for an assessment day and may even offer you a role.

Throughout my graduate job search I have placed a large focus on my emotional reactions towards agencies. This is the first step into my career and so I must take every job offer seriously but at the same time I must make sure that I will grow.

In summary my graduate job search revealed these lessons to me:

1# Check that you keep your top button on your shirt done up. When I attended the Edelman assessment day it was warm so I had my top button undone. Unfortunately I forgot to do it up before the interview. Despite this I was rated in the top five who were interviewed that day but pictures taken on the day revealed the unsightly undone button. Thankfully they didn’t mind too much (some graduates on the day were not even wearing proper suits!) but it is worth remembering the top button.

2# Finding a graduate job is important but make sure the agency is right for you. Some agencies may do fantastic traditional PR but their digital approaches may be lacking. Everyone in the PR industry has to take digital seriously. Think of your CV – do you really want to work for an agency whose approaches are still set in the noughties? No.

3# Don’t take rejections personally. I was rejected in the early stages of Blue Rubicon and Hotwire – yet Edelman, the world’s largest PR agency, accepted me for interview. Agencies look for different sorts of candidates and sometimes we are not the perfect match. Keep applying.

4# When applying for graduate schemes it is important to only apply for those organisations you are actually interested working for. On that note don’t just apply for one or two schemes. Apply for every scheme which takes your fancy. Some applications are deliberately made long to cut down the amount of applicants. Each PR graduate scheme receives between 300 – 700 applications, play the numbers game and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

5# Understand your role, contract length and salary before applying. Someone I know from my class was offered a job at a salary of £16,000 a year. Man cannot live away from home with bills, food and travel on this sort of pay. The minimum salary for a PR graduate these days is £18,000.

6# The chances are that members of your class will probably be applying for the same jobs as you. Your class mates are the competition but don’t let this deter you.

7# During group interviews (which usually involve a task) always remain the courteous person you are. On one assessment day a graduate on my team was incredibly rude, overly competitive and a pain to worth with. He didn’t get the role because no agency wishes to have someone like that in one of their teams.

8# If you have a chance after an assessment day spend time talking with other graduates. Everyone is usually very friendly and talking allows you to gauge your competition. Competition for new talent in the PR industry at the moment is very high!

9# Don’t forget the skills you have learnt at University. Those who do not come from a PR degree tend to forget the basics such as objectives, strategy, tactics and evaluation in campaign planning. Use structures like this to really make your ideas stand out. Make sure you use a mix between traditional and digital PR.

10# The final and most important point of all – RELAX. You have nothing to be nervous about. Nerves can hinder your performance so remain relaxed at all times, enjoy assessment days for the attention you get and before not too long you will land yourself a job.

 

I hope that this blog post has proved to be useful and that I haven’t upset any PR agencies in its publication! Let me know if you have any questions. I would also love to know your best and worst experiences of job hunting.

My Blogging Promises for 2012

If last year had anything to go by then I have at least another 108 posts to write during 2012. Whilst I am pleased with the performance of mikewhite.co.uk last year, the blog has still not reached “where I would like it to be”. It needs more traffic and higher engagement. Then I realised something crucial…

I’m not giving back to the community
Blogging during 2011 was mostly a case of sitting down for an hour once a day to complete a pre-planned post. I would then publish the article, submit to social feeds and then cross my fingers. I would selfishly wait for people’s opinions whilst ignoring other blogs. This makes for an unhealthy relationship. I must contribute to more blogs.

I’m not broadening my knowledge
2011 was the year when I spent too much time writing and too little time reading. Reading websites is not an excuse for ignoring highly detailed books, magazines or blogs. Reading results in a healthy mind and higher value content. I need to read more.

I’m not being consistent
It is inevitable that some blog posts will be popular than others. Last year a blog post received 4,601 views, whilst another barely scratched 30 views. Each article must be completed to a high quality. Blog posts must also be posted frequently. I must be more consistent.

Therefore these are my three promises for 2012:

  • To contribute to more blogs
  • To read more
  • To be more consistent

 

What are your three blogging promises for 2012?

The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR? Umm… no.

When studying the theoretical ideals of any industry it is easy to get caught into a reasonable train of thought which is unjust to real-world case studies. This is the impression I received when reading the book by Laura Ries and Al Ries entitled, “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR” (Amazon Affiliate Link). It is a book based on ideals and bias which, in my view, is poorly interpreted and instead shows the lack of understanding of the advertising industry by the authors.

“The fall of advertising” requires definitions in order for the argument to be clearly composed. We must ask:

  1. Which form of advertising has fallen (ie, failed)?
  2. What is meant by the word ‘fallen’?
  3. What is a company looking for from advertising?

I hope that this blog post assist to clearly serve my views on this matter.

 

The Different Forms of Advertising
Statistically online advertising is growing, this is also the form of advertising I have knowledge of due to my past role as a Multinational Account Manager at Microsoft. For this reason I will be focusing on online advertising rather than dipping into newspaper, magazines and television.

However I can say from the outset that newspaper and magazine advertising has failed in the sense of the complications of a poor economy and drop in physical media consumption. As circulation figures drop (especially in the case of physical magazines), it becomes increasingly difficult to place adverts in publications – demand increases and prices rise due to less issues being printed. Newspapers differ in this sense but can almost be disregarded entirely due to the shift to online news.

This is where online advertising steps in. Internet usage is constantly increasing and thus more ad placements are being made in order to monetise traffic websites and blogs are receiving. Top Network Advertisers such as Specific Media, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are seeing the industry grow each year – indeed Google primarily make their profits from advertising (90% of their revenue stream) through their Google AdWords and Google Adsense tools.

Online advertising is not just about focusing on awareness but can clearly track sales of products. This is what the industry call “performance advertising”. A client will approach with a varying amount of investment which publishers will convert into sales of their product. CPA (Cost Per Action) tracking is commonly used for this goal.

 

Has Advertising really Failed?
In terms of advertising causing sales then, if measured correctly, has not failed. Otherwise major publishers would lose clients. Online Advertising is an industry based on ROI, if a publisher fails to deliver to client’s objectives then they will lose business. The mere fact online advertising is growing indicates that organisations are seeing their ROI.

It is true to say though that we are all become less influenced through advertising. When was the last time you clicked on an online advert? Tools such as AdBlock make it easy for consumers to block potential advertising by publishers. Even those who choose not to block online adverts will rarely click on them, hence a rough industry standard of 0.1% average CTR (this depends on a website’s audience, the graphics and the product/service). For a publisher’s advert to be effective then a website will commonly need a high amount of daily traffic (counted as impressions).

To say that online advertising is an irritant is quickly becoming untrue. Context analysing and re-messaging are two advertising methods which are used to ensure that a user only receives relevant advertising content. This can occasionally be beneficial to their web searching efforts. Ad Exchanges take this approach one step further by taking all the data about an individual and making split second decisions about which advertising content to serve on a particular page – this is currently the present and future of online advertising.

So if we have established that online advertising provides ROI and generates revenue to publishers then how can it be concluded advertising has ‘failed’?

 

What is a company looking for from advertising?
This is the deal breaker. If a company is simply looking to raise awareness of a product or service then online Public Relations (Social Media) should be their focus. Using certain analytic tools (I have written about a number of them in this post) then you can track how your online campaign is going.

If a company is looking to generate sales then take social media efforts with a pinch of salt. I wish you could clearly track sales from social media but it is a tough business. Social media specialises (in my view) to create and join in with online engagement. You may promote products or services through this way but it is near impossible to track individual sales from certain accounts.

As a student I am more than happy if my view on this is proven incorrect, I have yet to witness a factual case study to indicate that this view I currently hold is incorrect. There is no doubt in the a company will discover a way to track individual sales from social media but for the moment receiving a good ROI is based upon what an organisation considers their objectives to be.

Conclusion
The authors, Laura Ries and Al Ries, should spent time looking at modern online advertising and recognise it is just as part of the marketing mix as Public Relations. No effective campaign is ever PR or Advertising – they are regularly two different bodies of one marketing campaign.

 

(Side Note: It would be foolish of me to not take into consideration the experiences of both Laura Ries and Al Ries. Both of which are intelligent and talented individuals with advertising and PR experience. Yet I somehow become confuddled at their view in this 2002 book. Perhaps their views have changed now that advertising has vastly evolved over the last 9 years.)

 

What is your opinion?

iPhone 4S… that’s it?

For over a year various iPhone 5 rumours have circled the globe and this evening (UK time) I finally thought the iPhone 5 would be announced, at least a re-designed iPhone 4S. Instead relatively minor adjustments were made; notably (barely) an 8MP camera, HD resolution video recording and a dual-core A5 processor. Statistically this still places the iPhone 4S behind some competitor devices.

From reports so far it seems clear the disappointment was felt amongst journalists in the room of the press conference. Usually iPhone announcements are expected in September but the delay had built a hype which was ultimately not worthy of the end product.

7.34pm: Price: 16, 32, 64 … “it’s not the best phones in our lineup” … hope rises … “we also have the other phones, the iPhone 4 and 3GS.” GAAAH.” – Charles Arthur & Josh Halliday (Guardian)

The way Apple primarily manages its Public Relations is through a series of strategic leaks to the media. Where do you think the rumours come from? As Mashable have commented, in the past Apple have made sure to manage expectations through leaks to ensure hype doesn’t kill a device’s launch. Such PR move was clearly not made ahead of today’s conference.

The hype was killed from the outset. The conference began with a rather tedious (occasionally questionable) list of statistics, updates of new shops and their new iCloud service and concluded with no announcement of an iPhone 5. Ultimately this resulted in a drop of Apple shares by more of 4.25%.

In fact the two biggest pieces of news from today’s press conference was the iPhone 3GS will be free on contract and the iPhone 4 will significantly drop in price. This alone may provide affordable options for many less fortunate to replace their Android devices for older Apple technology.

Yes, the iPhone 4S is an improvement but I personally can’t help but wonder what Apple has been doing for the last year and ½. Trying to justify the cost of the iPhone 4S against competitors will be a tricky call, particularly as I am due an upgrade this month.

Ultimately I am left with this sense of “That’s it?”.

For those interested Rory Cellan-Jones has posted a video of the iPhone 4S. Try to spot the difference.

Finding Time to Blog

The question from the outset is complex. No secrets lie within the pages of the book Michael White, my life is fantastically normal. Yet somehow I have found the time over the last year to work full-time and keep this blog going. This is the 67th blog post of 2011 and I want to let you know how I do it.

The Weekday Situation
Being a Multinational Account Manager at Microsoft does not require me working over the weekends, only Monday to Friday. On average I work for Microsoft 8 ½ hours each day, occasionally spiralling to 9 ½ hour days depending on my level of workload. In which case I choose to arrive earlier to work – yet the working hours do not take into account my travelling time. Each week I spend at least 7 hours travelling to London and back.

Organisation is Key

You’re sitting at your desk in the morning but there is something wrong, you feel stressed. In your mind you know the tasks you need to do but are unable to decide what should be done first. During these times it is easy to procrastinate.

Do not underestimate calendar planning. Plan each task of your day into your calendar. Below is an example of a day next week:

 

9:00 – 10:00: Review Advertising Campaign Performance

10:00  – 11:00: Look into campaign ‘x’ to compare against agency data

11:00 – 12:30: Team Meeting

12:30 – 1:30: Lunch

1:30 – 3:00: (Unplanned Time)

3:00 – 4:30: Xbox Team Unveil New Features

4:30 – 5:00: Call client regarding issue ‘y’

5:00 – 5:30: Rebill order ‘z’

Be ready and prepared. If you are then it is easy to spot a period of time when blogging could be possible. Yet all jobs are different, could you make time over the weekend?

Evaluate Value
There are possible actions each day which may not add to the value of their time. For instance occasionally I receive a meeting requests in my work calendar which are either not relevant for my role or simply time wasters. A couple of interns from my year had the habit of planning meetings which would eventually prove unnecessary as no developments had been made from a previous week – avoid time wasting meetings like the plague. These meetings block out time and will eventually only cause stress.

In a simpler metaphor, your calendar is a plant which must be regularly pruned.

Importance of Blogging
Some days I will blog at Microsoft over my lunch break. Writing provides a therapeutic break from an otherwise hectic day. On other occasions I will write once I arrive back home. Blogging should not be seen as a task but instead a necessity. Find time to enjoy the act of writing a post. If you look carefully there will be time somewhere.

 

This blog post was proudly written on a Sunday morning. It took form at 8:30am and was completed at 9:20am.

 

Top 10 Blog Posts on mikewhite.co.uk

It is roughly mid-year and it is time for a top 10 blog posts on mikewhite.co.uk… post. Based on data from Google Analytics I have compiled together the top 10 posts from this year so far. All the views are unique.

Why I Quit Facebook (and you should too) – 512 Views
Probably the most embarrising article I have written on this blog as my quit only lasted a few weeks. Still, this is a useful post which plays devils advocate towards Facebook.

Visiting The Clink Restaurant – 415 Views
Much of the popularity of this post was driven the BBC Documentary “The Prison Restaurant”.

I’m back on Facebook #FAIL – 412 Views
Inevitable that this would find its way into the top 10. Links in with the top post on this blog and is mostly a list of excuses to why I caved in.

I Feel Sorry for Paul Bowler – 248 Views
A rather controversial article at the time which showed my support for Paul Bowler. This post is related to my University and view count may have been raised due to this.

I got a Penalty Fare – 246 Views
In many ways this post should have been called “Why I Hate Southern Trains”. Read the comments below this article. Full of anger against Southern, it is brilliant.

My Advice to University of Gloucestershire Freshers 2011 – 235 Views
The title sums up this post well. It seems to have become popular rather quickly.

Machiavellian Public Relations – 220 Views
Wrote this post due to an anonymous email request I received. It seems to have done well in terms of views.

Facebook needs to take Responsibility: Simone Back’s Death – 163 Views
Another controversial article following the suicide of Simone Back. Pleased to say that Facebook have since changed their security to reduce incidents happening like this again. You will need to read the article for more information.

Effective Exam Revision Techniques [HOW TO] – 159 Views
Lots of people revising for their exams at the moment and so this post seemed ideal.

My Heroes – Christopher Hitchens [series] – 154 Views
One of my influences is Christopher Hitchens and I hope this article has done justice to him.

 

Google Panda Update: Is it Right?

The warning was sent to me through email, “Make sure the Google Panda doesn’t get you”. In April Google updated an aspect of their search algorithm which dictates (I use this word with its full meaning) how sites appear in search. Google Panda is essentially an update which removes those sites which show low quality, questionable or copied content.

Google has listed the below questions as measures of how they rate ‘good’ content. The whole article can be found here.

 

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

 

Google are usually very closed on matters of search algorithm changes and with good reason. If a budding Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) bod got hold of this precious information then he/she couldn’t literally manipulate search results. SEO by default manipulates search results but Google Panda is aimed at making sure only good quality sites make it the furthest through the rankings.

The Guardian has listed known website causalities from the Panda update. Thankfully my website is unharmed. If anything my rankings may have improved, traffic is certainly up from search engines.

  • What do you think of the Google Panda Update?
  • Is Google right controlling the sort of content visible on the internet?
  • Has your website suffered or gained because of the update?