University of Derby student Callum Bilton has been working with us to gain valuable work experience and here’s the five things he’s learned about PR.

As my time at university comes to an end, the question of “what next?” looms ominously. Studying Professional Writing at the University of Derby for the past three years has allowed me to sample various writing styles and industries, such as journalism, film, television and radio, but it is the world of PR that has piqued my interest. But why? And what even is PR, really?

As I began my work placement with Derby-based Octopus PR, I realised that, as an industry, PR can be hard to pin down. It is all-encompassing in terms of writing and is never an exact science; it requires in many ways a veritable cocktail of preparation, planning, confidence, faith and intuition. In short, PR is about maintaining a brand’s or product’s reputation, generating public interest and ultimately allowing a product to reach as many of its potential customers as possible.

As Octopus PR helped me to dip my toe into the PR water, it appeared inviting if a little murky. I find myself in the strange position of knowing more than the layman while still being greener than the proverbial cabbage in industry terms. The great thing about PR is that it is possible for anyone to improve their own business by following a few easy tips. So, in light of my humble experience, here are my top five tips for good PR.

  1. Always be vigilant – It’s important to keep a firm grip on the news. What’s the flavour of the week? What are the issues that everybody’s talking about? This is where instinct or intuition comes in: reacting to issues in the news can become a story in itself if it applies to your client or product and can establish a brand’s reputation as reliable within a given industry.
  2. Know your media – It may sound simple to some but, in short, different media platforms require different content or styles to be effective. Something that may be effective in a newspaper may not be appropriate for the internet or social media. It is also important to note that some forms of media are more effective for certain demographics. For example, if you want to reach young people, then a social media campaign could be more appropriate than, say, a newspaper article.
  3. Know your client – I believe it is important for PR to appear seamless. By this I mean that there should be synergy between the PR work produced and the client or product itself. The phrase “singing from the same hymn sheet” springs to mind. Your work should reflect the identity of the client or product and be aimed at reaching the most appropriate demographic.
  4. Contacts – You never know who or what you may need for future campaigns. One of the great things about PR is that you meet people from all kinds of industries with potentially useful skills, so never burn bridges.
  5. Clearly define your objectives – This is where planning and preparation are paramount, linked to tips two and three. Take into account the needs of the client and together set a specific goal for a PR campaign. Saying that you want more customers or more revenue for a product is woolly and ultimately not helpful. Choose something quantifiable and measurable in order to judge your success: whether it is Facebook likes, Twitter followers or sales of a product, put a number on it and set definite goals. This makes it easier to pin down exactly the kind of work you want to produce and to make a campaign focused rather than disparate.