An Undergraduate’s Journey for Real-World Experience – Internships

1 Sep

Written by Rose MacNicol, PRINZ Student Ambassador

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In 2015 PRINZ introduced a ‘PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme’ to increase engagement with students and, in addition to the Graduate Member class, give them a membership pathway. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Rose MacNicol, PRINZ Student Ambassador at Massey University, Wellington.

As a soon-to-be graduate, I remember hearing a guest speaker at one of my second year lectures saying, “although achieving a degree is a great success, you can’t forget about the importance of gaining real-world experience within the industry.” Sure, I loved developing campaigns and media releases for my public relations classes, but I never really thought of applying these to the real world.

My first experience with an internship was a bit of a flop. This was due to the fact that I didn’t receive a lot of guidance which left me spending way too much time staring at a computer screen with no idea what to do. I decided half way through this internship it would be mutually beneficial for both the organisation and myself to break it off.

Although a bit hesitant of going back to gain experience in the workforce, I entered third year and discovered a new internship opportunity at the Ministry of Social Development. I worked in the Central Regional Office of Child Youth and Family for three months. I worked on many different stories and uploaded them to their intranet, interviewed people, and attended local events. I worked closely alongside the communications manager and developed a number of skills and become a confident member of the office team.

Keen to meet more people within the industry and gain further experience, I applied to become a PRINZ Student Ambassador. Successfully achieving this role, I was introduced to a mentor who provided me with the connection to another internship focusing on social media which was an aspect that hadn’t been covered in my previous internship.

The following are key tips which I have learnt from my experiences with internships. These can apply to both PR practitioners within organisations and interns themselves:

  • Network: This is crucial, as soon as I entered first year the necessity of this skill was drilled into me. Talk to everybody, and put yourself forward for as many networking events as you can. You never know when or where the next internship opportunity, or keen student may be lurking.
  • Mentor-Student Relationship: Getting to know each other and communicating regularly avoids feelings of isolation which may be felt by the nervous intern. Informal morning catch up meetings give both the intern and the mentor a chance to let each other know how they are doing, and what needs to be done.
  • Be Eager: As an intern, be open and keen for every opportunity. For the organisation and intern it is vital to not be afraid of learning new things, even if they may be different to what you’re used to.
  • Ask questions: Understanding how the office works, what role each team member has, and knowing they are on the right track with their tasks is vital for an intern. The old phrase, ‘no question is a dumb question’ is key to a successful intern experience.

Picture Credit: iStock – Getty Images

‘In-house or agency?’ Wellington August 2015 PRINZ Event

31 Aug

Written by Leanne Rate, MPRINZ, Corporate Communications Manager at the Open Polytechnic, PRINZ Central division committee member. 

Thanks to Annalie Brown, MRPINZ, Communications Account Manager – Organisational Services at ACC and  PRINZ Central division committee members for organising the panel discussion.

Speakers: Daniel Paul, FPRINZ (The PR Company), Michael Player, FPRINZ (ACC), Amanda Woodbridge (Ideas Shop), Philippa Ross-James, MPRINZ (Fletcher Construction).

Event speakers: Daniel Paul, FPRINZ, Michael Player, FPRINZ, Amanda Woodbridge, Philippa Ross-James, MPRINZ.

Things turning to custard?  Does the in-house communications team have the objectivity to deal with what’s going wrong, or is it time to call in an external PR agency to get a different perspective?

That was one of the questions the panel talked about at a PRINZ Wellington event in August which looked at whether an organisation should stick with their in-house communications team, no matter what the circumstances; whether a mix of in-house/agency worked best; or if there were times when an agency had the upper hand in terms of expertise.

Speakers at the well-attended panel discussion included Daniel Paul, FPRINZ (The PR Company), Philippa Ross-James, MPRINZ (Fletcher Construction), Michael Player, FPRINZ (ACC) and Amanda Woodbridge (Ideas Shop).

Philippa kicked off the discussion by affirming the positives of using in-house practitioners.  Key points centred on the strong internal relationships in-house communicators have with senior management which can help get messages signed off more quickly – especially when the practitioner has a deep understanding of the strategy, key messages, brand and culture of their organisation.

She also pointed out that in-house staff aren’t conflicted by juggling multiple client priorities, something agencies deal with on a regular basis.  The benefits of working in-house included being able to lead a variety of projects, and building skills across a wide range of areas.  That said, Philippa acknowledged that there is a place for contracting-in agencies, and it was important to be a good client in those situations.

Amanda Woodbridge from Ideas Shop agreed that there was value in having in-house teams, as contracting-in an agency can be expensive, but pointed out that when resources were tight and deadlines were fast approaching, agencies can help ease workload pressures.  Agencies are also a valuable resource when you need a second opinion to back up, or build on, the advice you’re giving.

As well as having expertise in a wide variety of areas built up over multiple contracts, Amanda pointed out that PR agencies have access to a significant range of networks they have built relationships up with over time, which can benefit clients who need access to key influencers on specific projects, and having that access through the agency can save client’s time and money.

There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to using in-house vs. agency, according to Michael Player, it just depends on what the brief is. He argues that in-house works best in a large scale organisation due to the complexity of the communication needs, whereas in small or medium sized organisations it makes sense to invest in an agency on a partnership basis.  In his experience an agency can bring fresh eyes to an issue, and they have a part to play when there’s a need for contestable advice, such as in times of restructures in large organisations.  However, it’s important that large organisations don’t seek an agency to carry out all their communications work, as it creates financial risk for the agency if they have too much invested in one large client.

Daniel Paul picked up on the points that other panel members had raised, agreeing that it’s important for in-house and agency to work in partnership, and that often agencies are brought in to act as a sounding board on advice, and provide objectivity as they aren’t dealing with the day-to-day politics of an organisation.  Agencies are useful when you need access to expertise you don’t have in-house, or need help with media relations or advocacy work.

What was clear from the panel discussion is that there is a place for in-house and agency to work in tandem to deal with tricky issues, take care of overflow, or ensure that advice is independent in times of high stakes problems.

 

PRINZ Senior PR Insight blog series: Chris Galloway, MPRINZ, Massey University

28 Aug

Throughout 2015 PRINZ will be interviewing senior PR practitioners about their career, discovering what they believe is the key to being successful in PR, what tips they were given and have used in their career, and what they expect of a junior PR practitioner in 2015. 

Chris Galloway 2

This month we feature Auckland-based Chris Galloway, MPRINZ, a senior lecturer and Discipline Leader of Communications at Massey University. Chris’s Discipline Leader role is about leadership and co-ordination of the varied communication courses – especially in PR. Chris arrived at Massey after 10 years teaching in Australia, where he completed his PHD in “risk-literate public relations”.

How long have you worked in PR/Communications industry and how did you start out?
My first PR role was in 1984 at Network Communications in Auckland, where I joined after a stint in computer industry journalism in Auckland and Singapore. After that, I worked in-house for an international software company, moving to Telecom during its adjustment to privatisation. I was the media relations manager in Auckland at a time when Telecom was very much the company people loved to hate. It was a challenging but rewarding time! I then spent three years in parliamentary relations management for Telecom before shifting to the New Zealand Meat Board as General Manager, External Relations. Time at Public Trust in the management team followed before a move to teaching in the early 2000s. I enjoy the life – but try hard to make sure what I’m teaching and researching remains relevant to coal-face professionals.

What attracted you to the industry?
I enjoyed the variety and the autonomy I was given to innovate and also to develop new client relationships. I learned that a little creativity can take you further than a big budget might.

What do you think is the most significant industry change you’ve experienced?
Undoubtedly the advent of the internet. Scholars in the past have depicted our role as helping to contribute to the “marketplace of ideas” voices that might otherwise not be heard. Now everyone with an internet connection can do that for themselves, so that calls for re-configuring our understanding of PR’s role.

What has been your favourite piece of work / research or experience to date?
I once worked for a technology firm selling equipment to financial services companies to help them manage their growth. The firm had struggled to reach top people in finance. We came up with the idea of a bonsai tree as epitomising controlled growth and sent them to the top 50 New Zealand finance executives. It was the first attention-getting stage in a four-phase plan and it worked wonderfully well.

What is the most valuable piece of career advice you were given?
I can’t recall a single piece of advice. I’ve been fortunate both as a practitioner and an academic to work alongside some innovative thinkers who were not afraid of doing something different and were happy to let me spark off their insights.

Who were or are your mentors?
I worked under John Green at Network: a talented and thoughtful practitioner who informed his work with extensive reading of the latest research. In teaching, I’ve worked with excellent learning designers to help ensure that students “get” what they need to – and have a great time doing so.

What do you expect of / hope for young practitioners that is useful for them to know?
We know from our contacts with employers that what they look for is people who can think critically, independently and creatively. Here, by “critically”, I mean not accepting the status quo as a given – being able to evaluate it carefully and present alternatives. We rate these sorts of thinking skills above technique: technique is easy to learn, but developing appropriate mind-sets, much harder (and ultimately, more valuable).

Reputation Risk

17 Aug

Written by Chris Galloway, MPRINZ, Massey University

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It doesn’t take much to trash a reputation. Recently the Bic pen people in South Africa thought they were doing the right thing with an ad promoting National Women’s Day. Trouble was, they included a line urging women to “think like a man”. The social media fury was predictable – and perhaps, even if briefly, costly in sales terms. The company said “sorry” – but in doing so, acknowledged they’d lifted the quote from a “Woman in Business” blog. Cue more online angst.

Reputations can be fragile things – easily broken, as Bic found out – and once in pieces, can be hard to restore. That makes our role as PR counsellors even more critical, especially as an insurance company survey earlier this year put “reputation risk” at the top of executives’ concerns. The UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations defines PR as “the discipline which looks after reputation”.  But understanding what reputation is can be challenging. There’s no settled definition, and clients can’t (unless they have very, very deep pockets) insure against it.

Reputation isn’t the same as brand. A brand is the promise you make to stakeholders; a reputation is built from how they evaluate your delivery against that promise. That evaluation is shifting as stakeholders receive new information: the old idea of “reputation capital” is too static, because reputation isn’t like money in the bank. The fluid character of reputation means that if you’re to influence it, and help avert a reputation-destroying crisis, it pays to invest in ongoing monitoring. Here’s another reason: research shows that every crisis, no matter how well handled, does some reputation damage.

We’ll explore these topics and more, in next month’s PRINZ workshop on reputation risk.

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Chris Galloway is a Senior Lecturer at Massey University and is presenting a PRINZ course on ‘Reputation Risk Management – Realistic Strategies’ on 22 September. Early bird pricing of $355 ends 25 August. Register here

Picture credit: iStock

PRINZ Senior Practitioner Event guest blog one: Wicked Connections

4 Aug

Written by Tim Marshall, LPRINZ, Communication by Design

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Many years ago on the telly there was a documentary series called Connections. Science historian James Burke drew his audience in with riddles – intriguing and unlikely stories of connections throughout the history of science and technology.

For example, he would tease his audience that the invention of plastics could be traced back to the development of the fluyt, a type of Dutch cargo ship in the 16th century. Or he would ponder how permanent waving of hair indirectly led to the 1848 California gold rush. Before you could say “What? How did that happen?” I was hooked.

The subtitle of Connections (although I didn’t know this at the time) was “Alternative view of change”. I simply loved the mystery and Burke’s engaging presentation style but his intent with the series was to challenge the conventional linear view of historical progress.

Burke contends the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own motivations (e.g. profit, curiosity, religion).

I see wicked problems – the focus of PRINZ’s Senior Practitioner event this year – as being in a similar vein to Burke’s web of often unimaginable interconnections. Wicked problems are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements. Oft-quoted examples are climate change, poverty, cybercrime or ever increasing healthcare costs. They’re complex, non-linear, could be social, environmental, commercial or a mix of all three and they involve people in all their wonderful and exasperating complexity.

Does that sound like your current PR/communications work?

Well, if not now – addressing wicked problems could be part of your future. Why? Because, according to the people who study wicked problems, the best way to address them is “industrial strength” stakeholder engagement. Collaborative strategies, internally and externally, are required.

Wicked problems are an increasingly hot topic among management theorists, social and environmental scientists and their solutions focus on stakeholder engagement and behaviour change – which surely places them at the heart of public relations and communications practice.

To close in “Burke-an” style: And so it was that a young Taupo man’s fascination with a British documentary series that depicted progress as the result of a web of interconnected events can be linked, decades later, to the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand hosting a senior practitioner’s event on wicked problems.

Register here for this event in Auckland on 30 October.

PRINZ Senior PR Insight blog series:  Anne-Marie Robinson, MPRINZ, Christchurch City Council

17 Jul

Throughout 2015 PRINZ will be interviewing senior PR practitioners about their career, discovering what they believe is the key to being successful in PR, what tips they were given and have used in their career, and what they expect of a junior PR practitioner in 2015. 

 

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 21:  during the PRINZ 2015 Awards Gala Dinner on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – MAY 21: during the PRINZ 2015 Awards Gala Dinner on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)


This month we feature Christchurch-based Anne-Marie Robinson, MPRINZ, a senior communications advisor at the Christchurch City Council. Anne-Marie and her colleague Linda Bennett won the PRINZ 2015 Supreme Award for their project ‘Home truths – communicating the risk of landslides to Port Hills residents’

How long have you worked in PR/Communications industry?
I’ve worked in communications for the last 14 years – mostly at the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development and now Christchurch City Council. My time in communications has been intertwined with some of my most intensive years of parenting too. I’ve had a pre-schooler for 12 of those 14 years and have mostly worked part-time thanks to some wonderful managers who have been very flexible and supportive. I’ve been lucky and have had many opportunities and some very challenging projects but I’m still hoping the best is yet to come with my youngest child starting school in February.

What attracted you to the industry?

I was working as a journalist at NZPA and began to feel a bit vulnerable during some restructuring. I signed up for a postgraduate course in PR through Massey University motivated by nothing more than the need to claw back a feeling of job security. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it. Many of the things I enjoyed about journalism are also part of public relations – becoming absorbed in writing, the challenge of quickly building a rapport with people, and engaging with contesting viewpoints.

Did you complete tertiary study? If so, what and when?

Most of my study was through the University of Canterbury, I’ve got an honours degree in history and a post graduate diploma in journalism.  I’ve always wanted to do further study in PR and completing the APR course through PRINZ was hugely helpful for me. It helped me feel like I was a really solid practitioner, filled a few gaps in my knowledge and the good feedback I got gave me much more confidence interacting with clients and senior managers.

What has been your favourite piece of work to date?
I probably should say our award-winning Port Hills project but it wouldn’t be true! The end result, the accolades and the fantastic relationships we developed with the project team were all deeply satisfying but the process of getting there felt like a nightmare at times. Revamping internal communications at the Ministry of Health is my favourite project so far – it was just me and another mum both working part-time (the story of my life!) but we tapped into lots of support and wisdom within the organisation and had so much fun coming up with some creative solutions, including a brand new intranet called MOH@WK and horse-racing themes for our Gallup engagement surveys!

What is the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
A friend in HR told me to always work with the best people you possibly can as so much of what you learn is through that everyday role modelling of good practice, and I’ve taken that to heart. My piece of career advice to anyone who knows that both their family and their career will be a big part of their lives is to make sure you find a supportive partner who will share the workload at home and take your career seriously too. My mother-in-law is your original hippie feminist and if it wasn’t for her raising a fantastic human being, I don’t think I’d be where I am today (and yes I have thanked her!).

Who do you look up to/who did you look up to as a young practitioner?
I struck it lucky sitting next to Fiona Cassidy on my first day ever in PR! She was busy putting dots on cars as part of an immunisation campaign, while I had to launch a diabetes waita CD at Parliament and had no idea where to start. Fiona really helped me out, we got great media coverage, the songs were played on iwi radio and the band even went on to bigger things! She has been an ongoing influence, as has Peter Abernethy from the Ministry of Health. Peter is an amazing strategist and I still hear his voice in my head when I strike a tricky situation.

What do you expect of young practitioners that they may not be aware of?

I like to work with people who focus on being really decent human beings, as well as being the best they can be professionally.  In PR you can face some really tough situations and in my opinion it is no place for overly shallow or aggressive people.It is never too early in your career to think carefully about your values, reflect on how you behave under stress and pressure and think carefully about how and why you make decisions and the type of advice you give people.  I arrived in Christchurch post-quakes but have been really impressed by colleagues here who show real empathy, resilience and perspective that has no doubt been honed through the challenging times they’ve lived through. Incidentally, you can’t live here and not realise what a huge difference good communications can make to people’s ability to cope with difficult and uncertain situations – it has been a great motivation for me professionally.

PR’s about relationships – Behaviour not publicity

7 Jul

Written by Bruce Fraser FPRINZ, PRINZ President. Sourced from ‘The Friday PR Tip’ blog, to subscribe to this please email Bruce.

Stand out speaker at the World PR Forum in Madrid was Paul Holmes, CEO of The Holmes Group. He brought PR right down to the critical essentials – it’s about managing relationships and is not about publicity or earned media.

As PR practitioners we haven’t always shown CEOs the real value that we can add. Here are some of the key points from Paul Holmes’ plenary session.

  • PR is about defining the relationship between an organisation and its various publics that impact on its outcome
  • Brand building is becoming more about engagement with stakeholders than advertising and marketing
  • Brand is not what you say about yourself but, in these days of burgeoning social media, what your stakeholders say about you
  • Employees are critical brand ambassadors so great internal communication is vital

​Some of the CEOs that I speak with see PR only as helping promote their companies or gaining media coverage. My challenge is to work with them to show that PR will achieve much more in helping them build stronger relationships with their various stakeholders.

Bruce Fraser FPRINZ,  will be presenting at an upcoming PRINZ course ‘Stakeholder Engagement and Community Relations’.Please register here by Monday 13 July to secure your place.

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