A glance into PR outside of university

Written by Verity McRae, 2017 PRINZ Student Ambassador, Massey University

Student life is great; I’m not going to lie. You can sleep in, choose a cruisy schedule and is the perfect opportunity to make lifelong friends. However, something that is a daunting thought for many students whilst studying is what the heck am I going to do after my degree and how do I even get a job?

On May 31st an event was held by PRINZ for Wellington students who wish to pursue PR careers. This networking and career pathways event was held at the Trade Me headquarters, which was appealing to many due to their in-office slide, and consisted of four guest speakers who all work in PR. The event hoped that students would get a gauge of how these guest speakers have gone about their impressive careers and provide us with an insight into what the industry is like. The four speakers were Mark Blackham from Blackland PR, Daniel Paul from The PR Company, Gail Marshall from Community Comms Collective and Fiona Cassidy from F R Consulting as well as working at Massey University.

The first speaker of the night was Mark Blackham, who I have had the privilege of knowing for many years now however, I never knew his life as a professional. Mark spoke about how he started his career as a Press Secretary for the Government and then with his ability to think innovatively began to specialise and move into PR. He now works as the director of Blackland PR, an agency based in the hub of Wellington City using his witty and original thinking daily. Marks stories of success and knowledge of how the industry works impressed students and attendees as well as me, making me feel honoured to know such a person.

Daniel Paul spoke next, providing the audience yet again with a story of the beginning of his career and to where he is now, specialising in strategic communication planning and media management at The PR Company. His remarkable career and ideas he shared with the audience again fascinated me and began to make me feel incredibly excited for what lies ahead in a career of PR.

After hearing two powerful speakers came along Gail Marshall. Gail talked about her free-lance work and role as a co-founder for the Community Comms Collective which included helping community-based organisations have a better presence in the media and more. She encouraged us as students to volunteer ourselves when possible to gain experience in the industry as well as it being a good deed for the community. Her character and passion for what she does were inspiring to hear, as I think many people today find it hard to volunteer their time and energy for something non-profitable unfortunately.

Fiona Cassidy was the last speaker of the night, who in fact was my tutor for a media skills paper last year. She never fails to impress me with her strong presence and always has such a knowledgeable voice to listen to. Many students in the room knew her due to her work with Massey University however, hearing her talk specifically about her career in PR and all the amazing experiences she has had in New Zealand, as well as overseas, was captivating. Fiona with her warm smile re assured us of how cool it is that we are studying PR and attending events such as this which will only enhance our paths for the future.

At times during the event, these amazing people’s careers felt overwhelming and almost daunting due to their knowledge and expertise. It almost felt like it would be impossible to reach their success. However, Lily Ng who ran the event spoke at the end bringing it to a close but also reminded us that we are students now with only 1-2 years’ knowledge of PR vs the people who spoke who some had of 30 years. We must not forget as students that we are only at the beginning of our careers and most definitely still in the learning process. It’s okay to fail because you’re only going to keep learning from your mistakes which will ensure we do have successful and amazing careers much like the speakers of the event.

This event was great as it provided me with the answers that textbooks and lecture slides can’t, and what it is actually like to work in PR. It has only made me more motivated to study PR at Massey and I can’t wait to begin my professional life in the industry.