Last night, I attended the CIPR NI Social Summer at the National Cafe in Belfast. It is quite a rare opportunity for PR pro’s in Northern Ireland to meet up so it’s best to make the effort when an event is on. For those not familiar with the CIPR, it stands for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and it is the professional body for public relations practitioners across Europe. By developing skills, it helps to raise the standard rewarding excellence and supporting members along the way.
I first joined the CIPR in 2007 as an affiliate member kindly funded by the agency I was working with. When I was made redundant in 2011, I called them up to see what advice they could offer for me going freelance. Once they assessed my CV and work experience in the PR industry they upgraded me, subject to completing a course of CPD, to full member status, which helped raise my profile. They also gave me a contact for professional indemnity insurance and with my membership, I got a special discount.
Since then, I have also travelled to the CIPR headquarters in London for a social media training course when I was over at Wimbledon and have attended many local training courses here over the years. From the glitzy Pride awards showcasing the best of PR talent to the practical meet the media events, CIPR brings professionals together to raise the profile and standard of the profession.
Since becoming a full member, I have worked hard to complete my CPD each year. It’s not just a requirement for the sake of it, I do believe that regular training does help sharpen the mind and understand the ever changing nature we work in, especially in relation to social media, which presents both challenge and opportunity for the PR profession. Being a freelance practitioner can be a lonely walk at times however the range of free webinar a online makes you feel part of a bigger family. We all need to be continually learning otherwise we are not growing.
In January 2013, I received Accredited Practitioner status after completing two years CPD – described by CIPR as ‘a hallmark of commitment to professional excellence’.
As it is also results week for A-levels students, I thought it appropriate to outline my career path a little for those perhaps contemplating a career in PR. Whilst I studied Economics at Queen’s University, Belfast, ironically the second preference on my UCAS form was for the Communications, Advertising and PR course offered at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown. Whilst my desire has not always been to work in PR, I wanted to keep my options open so I went with the Economics. We covered marketing amongst other subjects but it was at university I got my taste for writing.
Initially, I had thought of a career in human resource management and worked in Jurys Inn under both the HR manager and sales manager, the lovely duo of Karen Irvine and Suzanne Bowman. Also at this time, I became PRO for Rathfriland Young Farmers which saw me get press coverage for events and competitions the club ran. After working in a maternity cover for Suzanne, I decided on her return, that I would break free and start a career in PR. On reflection, this was a brave move and one that had many steep learning curves along the way. As time has progressed, I can see how my interest in photography and writing work together well for the skills required in PR. There is a lot more to it of course, like liaising with the media, managing client expectations,dealing with crises situations and juggling deadlines, to name but a few.
My advice to young people is this: study something that you are passionate about. Over time, this may change – I enjoyed economics at school but by third year of university, some theories started to contradict each other and I didn’t enjoy it the same. So don’t be afraid of experimenting with your career. Get work experience, even internships to see whether what you think would be a cool industry is actually a cool industry. Every job has its highs and lows so you need passion to see it through, along with hard graft.
If you are off to university – enjoy the experience, get involved in the local student community, join a club, embrace yourself in it, because once you graduate and begin to work, you will appreciate the freedom and independence of your university days.
Rebecca McConnell, BSc MCIPR Accredited Practitioner 🙂
This article was written by purplerain