#ThursdayThought : Student profile with Orlagh Shanks

#ThursdayThought : Student profile with Orlagh Shanks
#ThursdayThought is back again! This week, I am still intrigued in how people discover PR and the different journeys people take into the industry.
This week, I was lucky enough to interview the lovely Orlagh Shanks. Orlagh is a second year undergraduate student on the BA (Hons) Business and PR programme at Liverpool John Moores University. Alongside her degree, she also runs Orlagh Claire which has been shortlisted for the #BestPRblogs competition. She has managed to secure a placement year at Coty and is a strong advocate for experience and blogging. After reading her blog for a while, I thought that it would be really interesting to read about her journey into PR…

LE: What made you study PR? How did you find out about the industry?

Orlagh: It’s a bit of a long story as for a long time I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university, and what career path I wanted to follow. I was torn between the music industry, journalism and a career in finance. I kept thinking to myself – what would be the safest option? There’s always money in the finance business so that’s the direction I was leaning in.

I took a week’s work experience in a PR agency in Belfast in my AS Level year and even though I had absolutely no idea what PR was, I loved it. I was working on Belfast Fashion Week, running around stores in the city, attending photo shoots and helping out with the actual event. I then spent three days in an accounting office. The work was easy and the office setting horrendous. I felt like I was in a cage. That was when I realised money wasn’t everything.

Although the finance industry opened a lot of doors and was the expected route for me to go down, I couldn’t see myself in that kind of job for the rest of my life. A life filled with numbers and working out someone’s life expectancy for insurance purposes did not fill me with a sense of excitement.

So against my career teacher’s and parents’ better judgements, I opted for a career in the creative industries. And I’m so thankful that I made that decision for myself.

I wrote a post when I started my blog about how I found Public Relations, but the deal breaker was my best friend’s brother who had just graduated from LJMU on the Business with PR course and was working for a record label, travelling to LA and Nashville for meetings. To me, that was the dream. I could work in PR and also work in music. (He’s now permanently based in LA, so I’m pretty glad I followed in his footsteps!).

LE: What do you enjoy most or find most interesting about the industry?

Orlagh: I love that I can literally go into any sector that I want to after my degree. Every person, brand or organisation needs PR. It leads me to work with social media, journalists, brands and I can even dabble in marketing. It’s versatile. That’s what I love most.

I also like the Crisis Communications side of things. I’m particularly interested in companies that make a huge faux pas which goes viral within hours. Imagine working for Pepsi after that advert, or United Air after the video of the passenger being removed from the plane was all over the internet. Exciting!

I like how it’s a constantly evolving industry. With new technologies, new software, new ways of marketing, as practitioners we need to keep on top of industry trends at all times. A few years ago brands would have used celebrities to endorse their products, but now it’s regular bloggers like you and me.

Things are always changing in PR, we just have to try and keep up!

LE: Where do you see yourself in the future? If it is PR, is there a part of the industry that interests you the most?

Orlagh: I hope to go abroad once I graduate and work in PR in the Middle East, America and Europe. I want to see how PR operates in different parts of the world. PR is everywhere, so I want to be able to travel while I work. I have the urge to move around the world and move every once in a while, experience new cultures and new temperatures.

In the distant future, I hope to gather all of those skills and the knowledge I learn from working in PR internationally and start my own agency. I want to work with small brands, helping them gain recognition and press coverage. Living in Liverpool I’ve come to love the independents and choose to support them over mainstream chains and brands. I’d love to cover a wide range of sectors from fashion and restaurants to motels and hotels.

The music industry is always at the back of my mind and if the opportunity ever arose, I would love to try my hand at working with up and coming artists.

LE: Do you undertake a placement year or have you any experience? Do you think that this is important to have?

Orlagh: I’ll be beginning my placement year in a few months in London! I’ll be the PR intern for Coty, a large beauty company which owns brands such as Calvin Klein, Rimmel London, GHD and Marc Jacobs. It recently acquired Burberry too, so I have that to look forward to!

I’ve also got a bit of experience here and there. I’ve worked for a week in CMPR and Influential – two PR agencies. I also have a part-time job as Internal Communications Assistant which allows me to gain experience in the comms side of PR while I’m at university. I’m working there full-time at the moment while I’ve finished university and I really enjoy it and find it interesting, but it’s not what I want to do long term.

I have a four week placement coming up in May where I’ll be gaining experience in the celebrity, entertainment and media sector of PR – I’m extremely excited for this! I also worked as PR for my local nightclub back home which was a great time – I had shots with Basshunter and drinks with Mark Wright, perks of the job?

I think it’s extremely important to have experience, if not vital. Especially if you’re serious about a career in Public Relations. I think it would be pretty hard to find a job if you didn’t have experience. It shows initiative and a passion for the industry.

LE: If you could give someone thinking of studying PR one piece of advice, what would it be?

Orlagh: Do it. It’s the best degree as it allows you to go into any sector – health, sports, fashion, music, anything. Many people don’t know about PR or what exactly it is, (even I find it hard to define at times) but visit a PR office for a day or two and see if you could see yourself in that environment.

It’s not a 9-5 job, you may have to attend events, press days and launch parties but that’s what makes it so exciting. Do you really want to start every week yearning for Friday? Do what you love and love what you do.

I’d also say to anyone thinking about PR, get experience in both agency and in-house settings. I personally prefer agencies for the variety, but everyone has different interests.

Oh, and how could I forget, start blogging.


 

“It’s not a 9-5 job, you may have to attend events, press days and launch parties but that’s what makes it so exciting. Do you really want to start every week yearning for Friday? Do what you love and love what you do”
“I think it’s extremely important to have experience, if not vital. Especially if you’re serious about a career in Public Relations. I think it would be pretty hard to find a job if you didn’t have experience. It shows initiative and a passion for the industry”
Orlagh Shanks, BA (Hons) Business and PR student, Liverpool John Moores University, Author of Orlagh Claire

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I found reading Orlagh’s post very insightful. The points she really resonated with me. At the end of the day, we know ourselves better than anyone. Why choose a career you know you will hate? Do what you love. And don’t let anyone stop you until you are there. PR is such a diverse, exciting industry that Orlagh and I are just discovering. I find it so interesting to see how people ended up choosing PR as a career. Thank you to Orlagh for taking part in #ThursdayThought again this week.

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Be sure to follow Orlagh on Twitter. You can also find her on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to check out her amazing blog

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