I recently spend a few weeks with Ketchum Pleon as an intern. Apart from having a great two weeks and learning lots of valuable real life PR, I also had a few conversations with some professionals that challenged my future planning.
Ever since I started my bachelor degree I always though that I would do a master afterwards. An investment in my future, which would eventually pay back. I never decided precisely which one, or which precise area, but since I only have one year to go on my bachelor I started thinking and researching possibilities. But after my internship I’ve started wondering if a master is the right way to go if you want to work in PR. A few professionals told me it would be unnecessary and that it wouldn’t make a big enough difference to justify taking another year as a student. They mentioned that in the long run it is the experience that counts, and that considering my age (26) it would be wiser for me to get out there in the real PR world. They did mention though, that if I really want to do a master, at least work for a few years, make sure I like the work I do, and then possibly do one part time if it is relevant.
So yeah, my world and beliefs have been turned upside down a little, which is not a bad thing. Do you really need a degree to work in Public Relations? Opinions are of course different. Some employers will say that a degree is vital, whereas others will value creativity, experience and drive much higher. But even if a PR degree is not vital, surely the basic skills you learn during 3 years at university will be useful. Presentation skills, persuasion, self-motivation, team work and presenting ideas to others. Most people I’ve talked to have acknowledged this, but also said that 3 years is more than enough to learn the theory of PR – In fact most said that 2 years would do. The rest comes from getting out there and actually doing it, again, and again and again.
But getting a job is all about being different – Have skills that no one else have, have experience, been involved in relevant projects. I thought, maybe wrongly, that a master would do the same for you. Considering that tuition fees are now so high that it will put most people in debt by at least £20.000 once they are finished at university, it makes sense for many professions to offer alternatives – hence PRCA offering apprenticeship schemes. But is that more valuable than a university degree?
As I looked through LinkedIn and went through some of the professionals’ educational background it became clear that many of them didn’t have a degree in anything coming close to PR or Marketing. But they had experience. Some of the younger professionals did have degrees, and compared to the older people in the field, a much larger percentage. I guess this means a PR degree is becoming more common, but for it to be valuable it needs to be combined with experience and drive, and a knowledge of everything affecting the clients you might work with – not just dry facts of how to build a press release.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have cursed myself for not having a photogenic memory in the last 2 weeks. Or the times that I have wondered if there is any other way than hard work to remember all the facts, processes and definitions that marketing and PR exams contain.
The answer I’ve come up with is no. Sadly. There is no easy way around exams. I guess the best bet is to keep up with the reading throughout the year, but even if you do so, if you are anything like me, you’ll spend the days before the exam going through the possible subjects in slight panic and repeating process steps over, and over, and over to yourself, wondering why you just can’t seem to remember anymore information.
And sometimes, when you have reached the point where anything you are reading or citing to yourself is just not attaching inside your brain, it’s better to take a break and get some fresh air and a sunburn, and throw some balls around. Which is what I have been doing on a few occasions during this exam period. The sunburn was actually obtained during a last minute revision (I know you shouldn’t do that, but it makes me feel better) before a Market Research exam, which probably explains why I didn’t pay attention to the fluorescent red colour appearing on my skin.
And now, with only one exam to go, although my brain feels really tired, I am extremely motivated. Only one more opportunity to put in an extra effort. It would be stupid not to, really. At least summer is just around the corner. Friends, travel, work, interning and adventures, which is probably the biggest motivation of them all.
From top left: Sunburn before Marketing Research exam, candles making revision nicer, handing in coursework and the good/terrified feeling that comes with it, procrastination-muffins, hardcore revision at the library on a sunny day with Therese and Lina, a ‘time out’ day in Kennington with petanque and mandatory moustaches (middle), another coursework farewell, revision material, aka things I had to remember for my Consumer Psychology exam.
Saturday night at the Birdcage. It is a typical small London bar, completely packed with a mix of East End hipsters, middle aged men, and your typical London crowd. All there for one reason; Karaoke. At a first glance, it’s all fun and games. The middle aged men are the only ones brave enough to climb the stage and sing a cheesy tune to the audience. And they sure love it. Joel and I watch with a hint of disbelief, a hidden laugh and some admiration. It quite quickly become clear to us that to the group of 10-20 middle aged men, this is no joke. They take to the stage one after the other, and give it all they have. Most of them dress the part too, in shiny suits and unbuttoned shirts.
And then there is Cliff. Cliff is one of the group. As he patiently awaits his turn in the bar, he tells us that he comes here almost every Saturday to sing Karaoke. On most nights his wife will accompany him and make videos of him, which he will then go home and watch afterwards, and see where he can improve. He watches the other performers, and applauds them. But despite the friendly atmosphere, it is clear that all Cliff really wants to do is get up there and show them all how it’s done. Just like the rest of the middle age men (and one or two ladies).
He tells us that he is managing a YouTube channel of his own, and is more than happy to write it down on a napkin for us, along with his twitter account and Facebook fan page. It is clear that Cliff takes this very seriously. For him, Karaoke is not just a late night drunken activity, it is a hobby, and a very serious one too. Finally it is Cliff’s turn, and he takes to the stage with a not often seen confidence, and sings Coldplay’s ‘Paradise‘ to an exstatic audience. He never once glances at the screen, oh no, he knows the lyrics by heart as the true performer he is.
As the night progresses, and the young hipsters reach a certain drunken level, the karaoke takes a turn towards what one would expect karaoke to be; Bad, laughable and silly. As two young men are trying their best to perform Aqua‘s ‘Barbie girl‘ on stage, Cliff turns to us with a smile and says “Karaoke can be such a drag sometimes”. And there I was, thinking that drunken people making a fool out of themselves was the very essence of karaoke. Apparently I was wrong. Karaoke is a very serious and competitive business, even spreading into the world of social media. Who would have known?
The new advertising campaign for the 5th season of Mad Men is definitely touching the boundaries of good taste. Especially considering the American history and one date in particular. Does people jumping from skyscrapers and flying through the air ring a bell?
If it is reasonable or not to compare Jon Draper to 9/11 is questionable, but this campaign has surely created attention, positive or negative.
I guess this raises the eternal question – Is there any such thing as bad publicity?
I personally find the ads and the trailer beautifully visual and designed, and the way they are left unfinished undoubtedly creates interest in the audience. But are they bad taste? Possibly. I will leave that up to you to decide.
The Mad Men campaign was developed at The Richards Group by creative director/copywriter Lennon Courtney, creative director/art director Craig Anderson, copywriter Gina Roberts, art director Kyle Kelly.