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Busy bee – A hectic few months!

Since finishing my second year at Leeds Beckett life has been, as ever, busy.

In May, I started my life as a working woman and moved back home to Manchester. It’s been lovely to spend time with my family and have the perks of living at home, and having started my placement year I’ve fallen in love with what I’m doing. It’s completely reaffirmed what I want to do with my life, working for a charity in communications.  I’m already learning so much from what I’m doing, those I’m doing it with, and also by overcoming the day to day challenges of full time work.

As much as I’m loving work, I’ve been trying to live by the motto work hard, play hard.  Moving home always had the potential to feel very different after mainly living in Leeds for the last two years, and so I’ve been trying to make the most of my time back in Manchester by going on mini trips around the UK, getting back into my home-based charity work and catching up with friends.  Often I’ve been combining all three into one!

At the end of May, I helped out at the Believe and Achieve Trust’s Ladies day, which is something the committee have been working on for a good while now.  I’m happy to report it was a roaring success, though my waitressing skills are questionable, and the fashion show, music and afternoon tea combo worked wonderfully.

Believe and Achieve's Ladies day, a hive of activity!
Believe and Achieve’s Ladies day, a hive of activity as you can see!

The next weekend I travelled down to High Wycombe to see Martyn, which was nice as it had been a while since we’d last seen each other.  While I was there, we went to an adorable little town nearby that I cannot remember the name of, but it had both bunting and yummy food so I was sold.

I then got to catch up with my old-time-bestie Lauren which is always a treat. We met as young teenagers who had no shame about our weirdness, and to be quite frank I don’t think we’ve changed enormously (though we don’t care to admit this often.) Obviously there is no photographic evidence of this as we talk pretty much constantly whenever we get together and so have no time for photos, but we called in to the Manchester International Festival teepee and had a very wild lemonade as we put the world to rights.

Next stop: Carlisle! I travelled to Carlisle for my annual summer trip, and this time we even ventured as far North as Scotland.  I feasted on homemade tablet and other Scottish goods, and went in an old toy museum which I’m not sure I’ve quite recovered from.  Some of them did not look very fun!  We didn’t let the weather stop us and took to the water of Moffat on a swan-shaped pedalo, which was the most fun I’d had for ages. Our driving was not up to standards and we ended up heading face first into trees a fair few time.s I think the man who was working on the lake enjoyed it more than we did (which was a lot), purely for the human interaction as we travelled through the rain in style.

I then needed a rest.  The exhaustion from the previous few weeks hit and when my absolute knight in shining armour, Hanna, heard of my illness while happening to be in the area, she came to my rescue with a 6 McNugget meal. Forever grateful.

My most recent endeavour was an abseil off Peel Tower in Ramsbottom for the Believe and Achieve Trust.  Standing on top of a tower in the middle of the great outdoors really helped me to recuperate (though I have discovered muscles I didn’t know I had!) and I had a really lovely time. The highlight was not dangling over a wall, but instead watching Laura’s recovery back to her true glory as the day went on.

I have quiet hopes that July and August will be a little less busy to give me some time for rest, but I doubt it. And everyone knows I love it (not so) deep down!

 

 

 

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Twenty.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be one that is full of positive changes and new beginnings for me. In fact, I’m barely a month into being twenty and my gut-feeling is already being proven right.

Being nineteen has been good to me… I finished my second year at university, zip-wired at 100MPH through the skies, helped host a parliamentary reception on behalf of Meningitis Now, won a prize for PR-ing, returned to Lourdes and have been constantly surrounded by some of my favourite people in the world.

It’s also been full of the smaller things that makes life good:  ordering milkshakes on a Monday night to get me through the stress of watching three series of Broadchurch in a fortnight, spending time with some of my best friends,  having the time to be nap during the day (thank you student life), seeing my favourite musicians live and laughing until I cry at my sister’s weirdness.

Being twenty feels more refreshing still and I’m hoping that the goodness of nineteen stays with me.  I’ve no doubts it will come with its ups and downs and its own challenges, but I’m determined to make it a brilliant one.

 

 

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The Claire Mascall PR Prize

In March, I found out that I had been lucky enough to win a scholarship in the form of the Claire Mascall PR Prize. As a result of this, I have spent the past five weeks completing my placement in Leeds Beckett’s communications department, as well as being awarded a bursary towards the cost of this.

The prize giving was included in the celebration of the 25 years of PR anniversary event and it was a real honour to win the prize, for which three students from the Leeds Beckett PR/PR and Journalism courses were chosen.   I’ve really loved my placement at Leeds Beckett so far and I have no doubts that the skills I have learned there will stand me in good stead for my industrial placement year and beyond.

Set up in memory of Claire Mascall by her husband Graham Rimmer, the prize celebrates her legacy as a pioneering woman in the PR profession which to me, makes the prize all the more special.

Claire Mascall’s achievements are a huge source of inspiration to me as a young professional, and woman, entering the communications industry.

 

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Come to the Water – Lourdes 2017

I have just returned from my third fantastic week with HCPT Group 216 in Lourdes and the energy, joy and kindness that radiates from helpers and children alike never ceases to amaze me.

This week I have danced and sang my heart out to songs about frogs, been a tiny part of a procession made up of thousands of candles, plaited a lot of hair, hugged baby goats and most importantly, helped to give 8 young people the time of their lives.

It’s hard to describe the Lourdes experience to people who haven’t been there. Jade and I describe it as a bubble, where your troubles and anxieties from home are filtered out and all that matters is making sure that the young people in your care are having a good time. It is a time for contemplation, but equally so for fun and laughter.   It is one of the most exhausting, busiest weeks of my calendar year but I love every minute!

To help to visualise some of the things we do, I thought I would write a little diary explaining what we do while we’re in Lourdes. If nothing else, it will help me to remember the experience in years to come!

 

Saturday

Early morning! We meet as a group to head to the airport, give out hats, eat sandwiches at ridiculous hours of the morning and colour in.  We jump on the plane which is chartered and so full of HCPT groups, and have a tasty aeroplane breakfast. When we arrive we have a little time to unpack then walk down to the grotto, and say our three Hail Mary’s to start off our pilgrimage.

Sunday

Easter Sunday means the Easter bunny has visited the children! Chocolate eggs, uniforms, party invites and cards are left outside their rooms which all goes towards making the trip more memorable and exciting.  We then walk through the grotto for the first time and have our first cafe stop. A cafe stop is where your group goes to a cafe, often with other groups, to sing and dance to songs and chants and getting a milkshake or soft drink.

Also on Sunday is the Easter Sunday mass which is run by HCPT which the groups that have already arrived get the opportunity to go to.  On Sunday night this year, we had our fancy dress party. I dressed as Mickey Mouse!

Monday

This year on Monday we went to Hosanna House, which is a HCPT owned building not far from Lourdes. This is where we got to cuddle baby goats and little bunnies! We had a lovely picnic in the glorious sun while members of our group played the guitar.  After we’d spent the morning there, we went on a walking tour of Lourdes where we got to see the underground basilica (huge!), as well as the places Bernadette lived and the museum. We then had another cafe stop (you will soon see these are a key part of the Lourdes experience!) and had mass with another group on the prairie as the weather was so lovely. We played with the parachute and some of us played football and skipped.

Tuesday

We were very lucky on this day to have mass in a beautiful church called the Crypt. During mass, musicians from our groups play different instruments, as well as the children who have maracas and tambourines, and it’s a really lovely experience that we can all share.  As the weather was still lovely (yay!) so we spent the afternoon on the prairie again, playing music and taking part in games.  That evening, we all lit our candles and took part in the torchlight procession, one of my favourite parts of the week. It is a deeply moving and magical experience, and one that you really begin to feel a part of something big in.

Wednesday

Trip to Gavarnie – a little town in the mountains. Singing our hearts out on the coach on the way there, but snoozing on the way back.  Heading to Gavarnie means a really chilled out day with mass, music and bubbles!

Thursday

On Thursday we start the day with the Trust mass, which is an exciting and fun experience. We all paint each others faces and watch performances from central services groups. In the evening we go to a different hotel for a party with the other groups from the region.

Friday

Friday is usually the day where the pilgrimage begins to be wrapped up.  We throw our worry stones, along with the worries of home, in the water, collect our holy water and enjoy our final few hours with our group!  We walk through the grotto one final time, to light our group candle that we have previously decorated with ribbon and stickers, as well as pictures of people who have joined us in 216 before, those we’ve lost, our friends from home and drawings about the things we are thankful for.  We then light our own candles and take a moment to think about our fantastic week, and round off our pilgrimage with another trio of our Hail Mary’s to ensure our return.

Saturday

Flying home is always an emotional experience, full of very mixed feelings.  After being in the ‘Lourdes bubble’ it is often so hard to adapt back to every day life, where no-one randomly bursts into song and random bags of sweets aren’t offered to you at every opportunity.  Despite this (and the tears!), I think deep (deep) down (down), we’re all grateful to be able to hop into bed and return to our real families.

I am so grateful for all of the opportunities being in Group 216 has given to me.

Bring on 2018!

#RatherBeInLourdes

You can find more information about HCPT Manchester Region here, and HCPT here.  If you are in a position where you can, please consider donating to help towards giving more young people this opportunity.

It really can change lives.

And finally, Lourdes is one of my favourite things to write about. You can read the other things I’ve written about Lourdes here and here

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Unpaid placements… A blessing or a curse?

Until quite recently I, rather naively, had never thought deeply enough about the issue of unpaid work placements to see them as problematic. Perhaps tellingly, I didn’t think twice about completing them myself; to me, it was just a given in order to get me to where I needed to be.

It was only after reading a little more deeply into the topic, and being advised of Leeds Beckett’s stance on the issue that the real implications of students taking up unpaid internships became apparent.

As an intern, I have found my placements to be invaluable, insightful and often I approached the organisations I have worked for myself – they weren’t actively looking for help, but kindly took me on.  So I’d like to make it clear that this is not an attack on anybody. I would argue, however, that this is a reflection of my own circumstances. I feel incredibly privileged that I am in a position where, for the past two years, I have been able to complete these internships on a part time basis without really considering the financial impact.

It’s clear to see why completing work that is paid but less relevant to the industry, and being able to survive in the short term (i.e paying your bills!) can seem more appealing than doing something that may or may not have a positive impact on your career in the future.  But for those already struggling to balance the ridiculously high costs of life as a student (yes student housing and rising tuition fees, I’m looking at you), this is an impossible prospect.

The impact of this is not only an unfair advantage for people who can afford to do these placements, but the wider impact on the already lacking levels of diversity in PR.  In one fairly recent article, the progress being made is described as ‘achingly slow‘ – and is it any wonder?  The responsibility for this may also lie in our future employers hands.  For employers to consider the fact many students must work instead of spending their holidays working for nothing, and to give them an opportunity to prove themselves before immediately rejecting them for a lack of experience would go a long way in helping aspiring professionals to get their foot in the door.


I saw this tweet last year during the period when the #firstsevenjobs hashtag was blowing up… And well, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind!

Up until now, this blog has mainly focused on short-term, part-time work placements.  But during my hunt for a 12-month placement, I have seen countless advertisements for jobs that barely cover expenses, often based in central London which to me seems ludicrous… Not to mention unethical. Surely employers have a moral obligation, if nothing else, to pay their interns?

It is a saving grace that both of the PR industry’s professional bodies, the CIPR and the PRCA, have made clear their view on unpaid placements. And this view is that they are unacceptable.  The CIPR “advocates that all work placements should be paid at least the living wage,” and have created a toolkit for employers.  The PRCA has featured a list of employers that have pledged to pay their interns on their website.

The stance that is being taken by the majority of industry professionals is quite clear, but I wonder is the PR world as a whole doing enough to actively tackle the issue?

For more information on the legalities of unpaid internships, visit PRcareers

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Challenges for charities and PR

As someone who aims to work as a communications expert within the third sector, I feel that the challenges charities are currently up against are becoming more and more relevant.  With budget cuts from the government and the public struggling more than ever, demand for support from charities is growing.  However, with public trust having hit rock bottom, charities have a real challenge on their hands to raise funds and continue providing this much needed support.

A controversial issue, which stems from public perception, is how much money charities are spending on their promotional and marketing activities.  Personally, I believe that without marketing and PR, charities would have a real struggle on their hands.  Surely without anyone to shout about an organisation’s work, their supporters or their fundraising activities, the opportunity to make their desired impact lessens.

I recently came across an interesting talk from Dan Pallotta that is definitely worth a watch if you have a spare half an hour.  In it, he discusses how non-profits are being judged on how little they spend as opposed to their effectiveness and how much of an impact they are making.

For this reason, I think that charities should be given a little slack when it comes to how much they spend on promotional activity.  But with trust in the third sector at an all time low, how can the communicators within charities tackle this issue?

Transparency

Arguably more important than ever, the need for charities to be transparent about their spending, actions and activities is vital. Social media provides people with the outlet to express their frustrations, particularly, I’ve noticed, on the sponsored posts of large, national charities. It’s important that these grumblings are handled in the first instance and, if possible, taken offline.

Engagement

Engaging supporters through social media and other forms of communication is vital, even just so that they choose your charity over another when it comes to fundraising! Q&As, peer support forums, and putting their vision in the hands of supporters can be really beneficial and make supporters feel a part of something – which I think is the main challenge to overcome.  Having a friendly, approachable tone can be the difference between them choosing a huge charity or a small, local one.

Strategy

Having a focused and clear strategy and vision seems like quite an obvious thing, but can sometimes be overlooked in smaller charities with very little budget for PR. It’s drilled into us at university how valuable PR and marketing can be as a strategic, high-level business function, and it’s only now that I am getting into the workplace that I am understanding just how right they are.

Making sure everything you do is consistent with your organisation’s branding, tone and wording can have so many benefits to your organisation.  Not to mention, having a place where anyone can see all this information (linking with transparency and engagement!) means trust is automatically boosted.

Times are hard for third sector organisations. But I think that with time, ethical PR and a good vision, public trust will once again improve as people realise the value these organisations can really have. 

 

 

 

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February’s pick of good news

In a time where we are being continually bombarded with bad news from all angles, I thought it would be refreshing to compile a list of some of the good things that have happened throughout February.  The list ranges from good old fashioned human kindness, amusing stories about politicians dabbing, to scientific developments and environmental issues that can really put our lives into perspective.

I’ve been scouring the news to find these positive stories (which proved to be a little more difficult than you might think!) so I hope that you enjoy!

  1. ‘Good vibration’ hand pumps boost Africa’s water security, BBC, 24.02.17
    “The simple up-and-down motion of hand pumps could help scientists secure a key water source for 200 million people in Africa.”
  2. Down Syndrome couple celebrate 22 years of happy marriage, Independent, 24.02.17
    “Their Facebook page has been inundated with messages in recent days as people congratulate them on their anniversary and wish them more happiness in the future.”

  3.  Hairdryers used to strike blow against speeders in Hopeman, BBC, 23.02.17
    “Villagers dressed in fluorescent jackets are pointing hairdryers at cars to mimic police using speed cameras in a bid to deter fast drivers in Moray.”

  4. Exoplanet discovery: seven Earth-sized planets found orbiting nearby star, Guardian, 23.02.17
    “A huddle of seven worlds, all close in size to Earth, and perhaps warm enough for water and the life it can sustain, has been spotted around a small, faint star in the constellation of Aquarius.”

  5. Lemur facial recognition tool developed, BBC, 21.02.17
    “The plan is to use the technology to help radically improve the way the endangered species is tracked.”

  6. Muslims raise thousands to repair vandalised Jewish cemetery, Independent, 22.02.17
    “Muslim groups have raised tens of thousands of dollars to repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised amid a wave of anti-Semitic threats sweeping the US.”

  7. Perfect storm: The agency for disabled talent, BBC, 19.02.17
    “We didn’t know any models with a disability and I immediately thought that was such an obvious thing for advertising – to be representative of the consumer.”
  8. Mum raises £130k from ‘Walk of Love’ in memory of her daughter, Fundraising.co.uk, 20.02.17
    “She completed her ‘Walk of Love‘ this month at Durdle Door in Dorset, having taken 305 days to walk 6,000 miles.”
  9. The woman who turns self-harm scars into art, BBC Three, no date

    A video shared by BBC Three

  10. Everybody in the house say yo! Dabbing Tom Watson steals the show, Telegraph 22.02.17
    “It isn’t every day that a senior front-bencher seeks to impress the House of Commons by performing a hip-hop dance routine.”