Having a blog solely about public relations set me apart from other students
About the author
Richard Bailey Hon FCIPR is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.
We have been running a PR student blogging contest for the past eight academic years. During this time there have been seven winners from five different universities.
Why are there fewer winners than contests? Because one person who had been shortlisted during her second year went on to win during her placement year and won again in her final year at university.
Orlagh Shanks graduated from Liverpool John Moores University in 2019.
She’s still blogging regularly and sharing her early career journey living and working in the US, England and Scotland.
As we prepare to start a new hunt for the UK’s best #prstudent content creators (we’ll be replacing #bestPRbogs with #CreatorAwards2022 to better reflect the changes in social media), we’ve asked Orlagh Shanks to tell how she became a prolific and award-winning blogger.
What or who inspired you to start blogging as a student?
For me, I’ve always had this nagging feeling to write. I started so many different blogs when I was in my teens, but could never stick to any of them because the draw to go back simply wasn’t there.
I had a fashion blog, a beauty blog and a fan-blog of sorts (this one I stuck to for far too long) but the motivation to keep writing about those topics didn’t exist.
When it came to being in university, again I had this pull to write again, creating a student saving blog and a lifestyle blog. But yet again, I didn’t stick with either.
It wasn’t until the very end of my first year of university when I started thinking about placement year that the urge to write appeared once again. Going into my second year I suddenly had this whir of motivation where I moved back to university a month earlier than planned and sat in the university library in the August before my second year and spent my time researching placement positions, companies I would love to work for and reading every PR and Communications website I could come across.
It was then that I thought having a blog solely about public relations would really set me apart from other students applying for placement positions that year.
Probably the best thing I did when starting out, was make a list of 50+ topics that I could write about so that I would never be stuck for something to talk about on my blog.
I always hate to admit that I actually fell into the #bestPRblogs competition as I published my first PR-themed blog post and added the #prstudent hashtag not knowing that this community and competition existed. After that first blog post? Well as they say, the rest is history.
What motivated you to keep going?
Without a doubt the reason I kept blogging was due to the Best PR Blogs competition. It was almost a carrot and stick approach for me. Publishing a blog post and hoping to see it make the list on a Friday morning was a huge motivating factor to me, and always gave me satisfaction and determination to keep going and to keep writing.
I wouldn’t say that I’m an overly competitive person, but seeing other students and peers writing about public relations, and reading their own blog posts both spurred me on and inspired me to keep writing so that one day my writing would be as good and as polished as theirs.
If it weren’t for the weekly Best PR Blogs competition, I have no idea if I would have given up on Orlagh Claire just like I gave up on my previous dabbles in the blogging world. So I only have the Best PR Blogs competition to thank for keeping me blogging and most likely is the reason I am where I am today.
What did you expect to be doing once you’d graduated?
I definitely didn’t expect to be living in New York, that’s for sure. During my university years I pictured myself sitting in a small agency, most likely in London, working on getting coverage for clients in newspapers, magazines and online.
A lot has changed since then, and that’s definitely not what I ended up doing!
I didn’t expect to be working in the finance industry, something I tried my best to avoid since being encouraged to follow a career in accounting/finance. But everything always comes full circle as they say.
When I graduated I knew I wanted to ‘go big’. What I mean here is that I had ived in London during my placement year and knew if I went back that it would be the same kind of thing all over again. I was fresh out of university and into the big, bad world and I knew I wanted to go somewhere bigger and badder than London. So New York it was.
I was working for a finance firm in the World Trade Center in Manhattan. My role was ‘Influencer Marketing Associate’ but what that involved couldn’t be farther from my role in influencer marketing today.
What work are you involved in today?
I’m still quite new in my current role, having been here four months so far. I left my New York job in March 2021, starting a new position in the influencer marketing world, working for one of the best influencer marketing agencies in the world.
I’m an influencer marketing executive working across different brands and companies, helping them with their influencer marketing strategies and running incredible and challenging campaigns.
It’s my first time working for an agency and although it’s a lot of work and can be a little stressful at times, it’s both fun and extremely satisfying seeing our campaigns works so well and drive outstanding results.
Did your blogging and social media presence help you to get there?
My blog and social media accounts have helped me with everything since I started back in 2016.
[My blog is] easily the reason I landed my placement position, my many internships, the chance to be interviewed on different online publications, be a regular contributor for an online Communications magazine, be considered for various positions, receive an award at my graduation, gain my job in New York, be cited in a PR textbook and land my job today.
I could give an endless list of things that my blog and social media have enabled me to do, the opportunities I’ve received and positivity that it’s brought to my life.
It’s been five years since starting my blog and I’ve published over 500 posts. I don’t know where I would today be without my blog and I’m incredibly thankful that it’s enabled me to make so many amazing connections, meet so many wonderful people both in real life and virtually, and for all the opportunities that has come with it.
What tips do you have for today’s students to help them prepare for life after university?
The best advice I would give is to give yourself the best chance possible. Think outside the box of what you could be doing to give yourself an advantage when it comes to applying for your first graduate job.
If you were to start a blog in your first year of university and stick with it, just think of where you could be when it comes to graduate. The same with a social media account. Use your university years to experiment with different things, see what you enjoy doing and give yourself an edge and something interesting to write on your CV.
I also can’t emphasise internships enough, especially during your time at university. Use your holidays, your mid-terms, your days off to carry out some internships at different agencies or companies near to where you live or your university. Real, in-office experience is the best thing you can have on your CV when applying for your first role.
On the other hand, I would also advise that going straight into work after graduating doesn’t have to be the end goal. You have your whole life ahead of you to work and earn a pension. Travel, explore, move somewhere new, experience a new culture. Spend your early years after graduation enjoying yourself and finding out what it is you want to do.
The career ladder will wait.