#InfluenceLive with Jamie Bartlett…

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On a cold Tuesday night, Manchester Metropolitan University welcomed the author of the Dark Net and Radicals series, Jamie Bartlett, to discuss the impacts that the Dark Web is having on the communications industry in a CIPR #InfluenceLive event.

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With mince pies and mulled wine fuelling the great and the good of the PR world, Jamie began by illustrating the history of the dark side (no apologies for the Star Wars pun) of the internet.

With only two people in the crowd admitting to even accessing it, it perhaps wasn’t surprising to hear what lurks amongst the shadows here. Stolen bank details, Drug dealings and Hitmen (Jamie noted that if they didn’t turn up after being paid, don’t call the police… people have done), were just some of the illicit goings on there.

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This led into why this is so relevant for our industry, especially when it comes to crisis communication.

After regaling some spectacular insights into how the security services of many modern democracies use and fund this sinister underworld, Jamie noted that most high profile hacking scandals are first mooted on these networks. Numerous blue-chip companies have been caught unaware of an awaiting scandal via these obscure and seemingly inaccessible pages. And some, dangerously, appear to have been unprepared for such a scenario when it comes to their communications.

There appeared to be consensus amongst the many people I chatted to after the event, that communications departments need to find a way of monitoring the dark web for a crisis waiting to happen. Those who wouldn’t would be doing so do so at their peril.

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However, it is a dangerous path to tread upon, with many individuals and organisations having to balance their listening capabilities with actually accessing potentially damaging information amongst the dark web.

How do you think PR teams could utilise the dark web? Or do you think it’s a treacherous road to follow entirely?

We’d love to hear your thoughts…

Tweet via the hashtag #InfluenceLive or tag @MMUPR with what you think is the way forward.

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Internship: 7 Lessons for Success

I was lucky enough to secure myself an internship with an agency within a few weeks of starting my Master’s degree. I’ve learnt lots already and I’m here to share my experience and top tips.

Here are my key lessons in finding and securing an internship, and then making a success of it.

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My little desk at the little big agency

Prepare

Do your research.

Understand who the key players are, work out who operates in which sectors, figure out which sectors exist, look into internship schemes. All of this will give you an advantage on the hundreds of other students looking for internships in the communication industry.

Have a solid CV.

There is nothing more annoying than seeing “two years experience required” on job listings for an entry-level role, especially internships. However, employers are more likely to take on someone with at least a little experience.

This doesn’t have to be a previous internship or a job in PR; I certainly didn’t have that. What you must do is demonstrate the key skills required to work in an agency through previous work experience. This could be writing a blog or running a YouTube channel.

Connect

You need people in the industry to know who you are. In the short time I’ve been in Manchester I’ve attended events organised by the CIPR, PRCA, MMU and more. At each one I’ve taken the time to introduce myself and connect with others.

It was after a guest lecture during induction week that I connected with Jo Leah on LinkedIn to thank her for her words of wisdom, introduce myself and enquire about work experience. From this initial message, I was invited for a meeting and started at her agency the following week.

So get out there. Be confident about your skills, and sell yourself. It is daunting and it can be uncomfortable, but the returns can be amazing.

Listen & Learn

I try to remember that I’m working alongside industry experts, people who have helped shape the current PR landscape and have an immense knowledge from which I can learn.

Now that I’ve been working at my internship for a couple of months, my tip would be to write down what you learn, as you go along.

From skills such as drafting press releases, speaking with clients on the phone to working on journalistic tone, I now have so many new skills and experiences that I didn’t have before I started. I’ve made a list each time I’ve learnt or developed a skill and attached an example, so when it comes to applying for jobs I’ll smash the STAR technique (I hope).

Share You

Don’t be afraid to share suggestions, ideas and your opinions. After all its your personality that got you the gig in the first place. Employers want to hear fresh ideas, see new ways of working and be given exciting creative ideas.

Over the years I’ve had to develop the skill of being able to share myself, share my personality – it’s something that has taken time but I’m now able to join in with the conversation and sit at the table and it’s allowed me to develop my career so far.

Balance

Remember to find a balance between working at an internship and other commitments.

Speaking from experience I know what it’s like to balance an internship, study for a Master’s, work a part-time job, keep up with life admin and attempt to maintain a social life. It can be A LOT.

You must find a balance between commitments, whilst still giving your all and not burning out. With my internship, I’m able to work one day a week and nothing else with no expectation to dedicate any extra time. This has been vital as there is no pressure on me to deliver more than I am able to with other commitments.

Get this right at the start of the internship and you’ll be able to find the perfect balance.

Apply

The more I work at my internship and the further on I go with my Master’s course, the more I’m able to apply different PR theories to my work, and vice versa, I’m able to relate work experience to theories.

I would also say to share theories learnt and knowledge gained from your studies with people at your internship. As they say, every day is a school day, and people love to hear new developments about the industry – and love to hear the insights of millennials.

Enjoy

Most importantly, enjoy your time at an internship. Yes, remember to listen, learn and apply but also remember that it’s the least amount of workload you’re going to experience in regards to work throughout your career and it’s a fantastic time to get to know other people within the industry.

I couldn’t recommend them more!

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Working on a stunt for a client with Eve

I hope this list has helped if you’re looking for an internship. I’d love to hear others experiences, so please get in touch.

Robinsons Brewery Business School Visit

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Dan Wilson, Mark Carrington & Joe Cullen enjoying a Robinsons beer 

Last week we had the privilege of visiting the Robinsons Brewery in Stockport for a MMU Business School Visit to learn about the history of the family run business, to go on a tour of the brew house and, most importantly, sample some of their famous beer.

It was my first time attending one of the many business visits organised by MMU which are run to further our understanding of local businesses and to see real life business practices, and it was a fantastic experience.

We set of on the coach and headed to Stockport where we arrived at Robinsons to be greeted by our tour guide who was part of the 5th generation of Robinsons and Uncle to the current Managing Director. We began the tour on the top floor of the recently refurbished brew house and gave us some amazing insight into the brewing process and the intricate systems working behind the scenes and how the brewing process has developed over the year. We even had a chance to taste some barley and hops, which tasted quite nice!

After the enlightening tour, we made our way to the business centre where William Robinson, Managing Director of the Pub Division, told us more about the family history and Robinsons roots in Stockport and the North West. William spent time telling us about the structure of the business and more around its growth and the need to diversify into emerging markets such as pub accommodation to continue to be a market leader in the industry. It was refreshing to hear William  speak about how Robinsons have fully embraced the changing habits of consumers and the need for their pubs to accommodate this change.

William also spoke at length about the importance of having a great PR and marketing department to fully reach customers to sell their products to – highlighting the recent Iron Maiden collaboration which was fuelled by social media.

William asked for our opinions on the pub and on beer – did we visit them and what did we drink? This led to a lively discussion around the reasons for visiting the pub, answers included a place to socialise, and as a place to escape the issues of the world we’re living in. It was interesting to hear how Robinsons are responding to the current trend in craft and keg beers and what they think the future trends will be in the beer and pub industry.

 

Dan Wilson pulling a pint

We finished the tour with a visit to the visitors centre where we were kindly given a token which we exchanged for a choice of beer – I went for a Blonde Tom which is Robinsons first beer to be brewed with Belgian yeast and is part of the Old Tom line which Robinsons refer to as arguably the world’s first craft beer.

Overall a brilliant afternoon learning about something new and seeing how important it is for marketing and PR in every business – and also how delicious Robinsons beer is. Cheers!

 

Should Fake News really be an issue for communicators?

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Search the term ‘fake news’ in our industry’s top news sources… Go on.

You’re sure to find them signalling fake news as something that challenges communicators so far to the extent that it may be the end of us. However, I think it actually provides us with an opportunity. Let me tell you why…

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I sat down with David Edmundson-Bird, Principal Lecturer in Digital Marketing at MMU, to discuss it as an issue and found that the answers to these problems are staring right back in our faces.

The ‘confirmation bias’ issue…

David suggested, “the problem for communicators lies in fact that it becomes difficult to break through the confirmation bias of their audiences”. Google, Facebook, Twitter and many other tech companies use complex algorithms to allow their users access information that is deemed ‘relevant’ to them by tracking their behaviour and creating psychographic profiles of them. As people use this more and more, their view of opposing material becomes narrowed as it is deemed ‘irrelevant’ to them by the algorithms aforementioned. Hence their own views are confirmed by ‘relevant’ sources, something which is magnified in the polarised society we currently live in.

However, Facebook’s trials of ‘pay to play’ newsfeed for advertisers might actually provide an answer for communicators. Even though it has also been decided, at large, it’s another curse alongside fake news for communicators. “You can turn the filter bubble on its head through payment” David suggests. Something I entirely agree with. Communicators need to become more intrusive in some respects when it comes to audiences they wish to reach that exist within their own ‘echo chambers’ of content.

“It would be interesting to see the likes of BP targeting environmentalists because of their psychographics”, David remarked. Which, although a challenging proposition, would certainly work when trying to interrupt the echo chambers in which they may operate.

Even traditional OOH media (billboards etc) could provide the answer. Channels that have been earmarked as a dying trade can actually deliver that intrusive way of communicating with people outside of their ‘filter bubbles’.

Are Google, Twitter, Facebook etc being exploited?

“Google doesn’t kill people, people using Google kill people”. A dramatic statement this time from David but something that reminds us that many tech companies, who hold relatively liberal values and consider themselves as proponents of free speech, have been exploited by others. However, they are beginning to realise that their social responsibilities are relevant and as David rightly points out, “you either self-regulate or you will be regulated by others”.

The solution to this is possibly the most simple of all. Value Proposition Design. Companies that wish to communicate with their target audiences online and be heard over the fake news/fake reviews regarding their products/services should simply be thinking about whether or not they are answering their needs and wants effectively. David points out, “If the person whose blog is all about hating you is top of the search results, they’re answering your audience’s needs better than you are.” We need to take a long, hard look at our working practices and ask ourselves the question, ‘Are we better at communicating with our audiences than fake news/fake review writers?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then tough luck!

How is MMU helping?

David stated that when it comes to Manchester Metropolitan University’s role in combatting the rise of fake news, ensuring that students are equipped with critical thinking skills to challenge this material is key. ‘Questioning sources, not trusting the first thing you see and looking for evidence to support the things you say can help.” This is illustrated when David looks fondly on as alumni ‘rip people’s ideas to pieces’ in industry. Something he takes serious pride in and rightly so! This is a skill that will last a lifetime and provide students and graduates with the opportunity to challenge what they come across in relation to ‘fake news’ and actually become industry leaders in the fight against it.

In summary, the solutions to ‘fake news’ are out there and they’re not that complicated. They’re challenging but should also be seen as a great opportunity. They can help us make sure we’re providing our target audiences with the best products/services and the can also force us to produce the best services we’re capable of!

Joe Cullen

MSc Public Relations student @ MMU

CIPR North West Committee Student Representative

CIPR North West… Committed and Dedicated.

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What an experience!

I met with the North West Committee of the CIPR last night in my new role as MMU’s student representative and it was great to see that so many people are genuinely interested in and dedicated to their student members.

I was encouraged to offer my opinion on a range of issues the CIPR faces and asked about how they might combat them, as well as discussing how the committee can utilise its partnership with MMU in the most effective way.

We’ve already made plans for students’ access to events that will provide us with some training and networking opportunities, as well as enabling us to become active members of such a great organisation. This is, in my opinion, such a vital thing for us as we begin our new careers. It allows us to gain an understanding of how the theory can link to real-life practice! The first event to be included within this is ‘Being Independent’ held at the university, which people can book onto here.

Alongside this, there are some exciting propositions that we discussed that might help the CIPR in the North West make the most of its relationship with Manchester Metropolitan University and help its student members to develop even further as PR practitioners.

It’s an exciting project to be a part of and I’m extremely grateful to the committee members for making us feel so included!

Joe Cullen

MSc Public Relations student @ MMU

CIPR North West Committee Student Representative

What’s the big iDEA? Receiving the Bronze Award…

iDEA AwardI’m so amazed at the wealth of opportunities that are afforded to us here at Manchester Metropolitan University. One such example of this was the iDEA award, championed by our SPDSMC lecturer Jeff McCarthy.

The award itself is a programme designed to help people of all ages and walks of life to develop digital and enterprise skills that are industry recognised and will make you stand out from the crowd. The Bronze award is the first to have been launched and I am proud to have been one of the first recipients of it!

Today, the Business School at MMU were awaiting the arrival of HRH The Duke of York to hand out these awards, but with a stroke of misfortunate (á la fog) with his travel arrangements, he was unable to attend. However, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, the Lord Mayor of Manchester and the university’s very own Vice-Chancellor stepped in to make the occasion just as special.

iDEA GroupTo achieve the bronze award, you are asked to learn skills from a variety of different digital and entrepreneurial sections. From learning coding skills to creating your own animation, you are sure to find yourself challenged and engaged!

So the next step is to achieve the Silver Award, which will be launched very soon… Onwards and upwards!

Joe Cullen

MSc Public Relations student @ MMU

CIPR North West Committee Student Representative

Our first networking opportunity… Meet the employers @ MMU Business School.

Meet the employersThe Faculty of Business and Law at Manchester Metropolitan University laid on a fantastic event for Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising students on the 18th of October… A chance to meet our future employers!

150+ students turned up for the event and the employers attending, from a range of PR, Digital and Marketing agencies (including a sprinkling of in-house practitioners), all stated how fantastically well we represented the university.

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I myself managed to meet a wide range of different employers, starting with the guys at ‘The E Word‘. Michael and his team were really engaging and were also really interested in who we all were, which was great to hear!

I then met the team from ‘MC2‘, who spoke at great lengths about the amazing culture they have at their Manchester landmark offices at The Boardwalk.

Moving on, I then met Adam from McCann Manchester, whom I’ve met already at another event. As usual, he really demonstrated how McCann’s integrated nature can be really beneficial for them!

Finally, I got round to meeting Jacqui and Meabh from Smoking Gun PR who managed to illustrate how varied their jobs can be and how exciting and vibrant agency work is.

With this being our first opportunity to network with practitioners within the industry, there were 3 takeaway ideas around networking that I personally realised were effective…

#1

Research and plan who you are going to speak to!

In doing so, you might just impress them with your knowledge of who they are and what they do. It will also generate some questions you’d like to ask them!

#2

Show them who you are…

In demonstrating your personality to potential future employers, they can get a feel of what type of person you are and whether you would fit in with the culture of their workplace. It’s much easier to show off the great things about yourself in person than sending a black and white CV to them, hoping that you come across in the right way.

#3

Ask for their contact and LinkedIn details…

Make sure you do this in the most speedy way possible. This really ensures that you are memorable as a potential candidate, that you are proactive and that potential work experience/internship opportunities will arise in the future.

 

There are many more events, guest lecturers and other opportunities coming our way at MMU and we’re all looking forward to them with great anticipation. This event couldn’t have happened without the fantastic employability and careers team at the university and we are eternally grateful for their help!

Joe Cullen

MSc Public Relations student @ MMU

CIPR North West Committee Student Representative