Q&A with Emerging PR Star Michael White
This post is the twelfth Q&A in an on-going series looking at the usual topics of PR, employability and other hints on making an impact in the workplace, albeit with a particular focus on digital. I’m delighted that Michael White, a blogger well-known for his forthright views on everything from PR to politics has shared his thoughts with us.
Michael is coming towards the end of 14 months at Microsoft as a Multinational Account Manager and will shortly be returning to Gloucester University to complete the final year of his BA (Hons) Public Relations course. But Michael’s talents don’t end there; he is also an accomplished radio presenter, published poet, #AddMe Social Media conference organiser and was previously an online columnist for Your Local Guardian. Not a bad list of achievements, made all the more impressive by the fact he’s still in his early twenties (here’s an interesting list of 21 things to by 21 to achieve Graduateness without a degree).
I’ve only met Michael on a single occasion, but he’s one of the many people I’ve managed to network and form a kind of online professional relationship with thanks to blogging and Twitter. We also seem to have several things in common; having both studied PR, been taught by Richard Bailey and are keen bloggers. You can find out more about Michael from his blog, Tweets and Linked In profile.
1. As a Multinational Account Manager for Microsoft, what does your role involve on a daily basis?
Each day I manage online advertising campaigns which span across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The core responsibilities of my role are to ensure my clients receive their Return on Investment (ROI) whilst at the same time confirming my Account Executive achieves their revenue goals.
It is a challenging role which requires one to have excellent organisational abilities due to the hefty amount of tasks which I encounter each day. I have been responsible for 14 clients in total which have traversed across 12 different countries.
2. What’s it like to work at Microsoft and how does it vary from the other positions you have had?
Positions in the past have included a variety of work experience roles which were managed alongside degree studies. All of these have been at smaller companies (with the exception of MindShare). Microsoft is vast! It is a technological beast constructed by a number of separate brands (such as Office, Xbox and Windows) and it takes time to understand how hundreds of teams communicate with each other. The biggest difference with my role is the multinational aspect, each week I am in communication with at least six different countries.
Let’s not be shy, the entertainment side of Microsoft (ie, employee morale boosting) is incredible. Speed boats, glamorous restaurants and London attractions have been on the agenda before.
3. How did you manage to land the year-long internship at Microsoft?
I applied for the Microsoft internship online. The process involved filling in an online application form, submitting a CV, doing a telephone interview and then attending an assessment centre. At the assessment centre I went through five different interviews (one of them was a group task).
Without a doubt I am one of the lucky few who made it through each stage. Eventually I found myself sitting in lecture theatre at Microsoft UK HQ and we were all told that for each of us had been in competition with 50 other individuals for each of our roles. I was shocked. I am still shocked.
4. You’re well known for your forthright opinions in the blogosphere. Why did you start blogging and what have been the benefit?
My journey into the blogosphere began in 2005 and was caused by my love for writing. Over the years I have started and deleted blogs, eventually I stuck with mikewhite.co.uk to keep things central. As I am a keen reader of factual books, current affairs and philosophy it has been difficult to avoid opinion. Some of my greatest influencers are George Orwell, John Stuart Mill and Christopher Hitchens – online is all about freedom of the media and I am thankful for blogging as a medium. It allows me to communicate with friends and followers but invites others to also share their opinions.
Keeping a blog helped me secure a place at the University of Gloucestershire, gain various amounts of work experience and assisted with me achieving a place at Microsoft. The only reason I keep a blog is because I love writing. It can be hard work.
5. The Apprentice! Do you think you’ll get on to it? And win?
I was offered an audition for series 8 of The Apprentice a couple of weeks ago but after much thought and advice from others I decided to turn the interview down. The Apprentice is an entertainment programme, a reality TV show for those interested in business and the £250,000 investment offer is enticing. Yet appearing on the show is a risk as one has no idea how their personally will be edited together. As my degree is more important I decided that The Apprentice is not for me. I’ll be sending out many graduate job applications soon and would not want to risk them for BBC One stardom… that is if I had even managed to make it through the audition!
Would I win The Apprentice? Of course! Although if another candidate like Helen Milligan appeared then it would be a challenge.
6. Should students bring a hard copy portfolio to an interview? What
do you think about e-portfolios?
Always bring a hard copy portfolio to an interview. Most of the time a potential employer will browse through and ask questions based on it. Hard copy portfolios are marvellous for a student to show off their abilities and to sway interview questions towards more comfortable territory.
I have never emailed a potential employer afterwards with an e-portfolio, if anything I tackle that before the interview. On my CV I include the addresses of my Facebook, Twitter and blog. They all serve as my e-portfolio and demonstrate how active I am online. Anybody wanting to go into Public Relations should demonstrate with URLs that they have already built up an online following.
7. You’re currently studying PR at University of Gloucester – do you feel that your university degree prepared you for the world of work?
In the past I have been critical of the PR course at the University of Gloucestershire. During these turbulent financial times Universities across the country are struggling to find money. It just so happens that the PR course at my University has suffered badly because of it; a number of staff have resigned and the course has been restructured. Despite these challenges to the University I am confident that I will have built up a number of skills useful for the working world. Yet I don’t rely on degree alone, most of the learning at University happens outside of the lecture hall.
8. What are the 3 most important skills interns need to be successful?
Being a successful intern relies mostly upon personal traits, rather than just business acumen. Your mentality towards your work will affect the way you approach it. Having said that these three skills are vital:
1) Organisational skills: University is easy, work is tough. If you are organised the “real world” becomes less painless. Nobody will employ a disorganised person.
2) Be willing to learn: Do not think that learning stops after University. I have learnt more at Microsoft than in the last two years of my Public Relations degree.
3) Networking: Make no mistake, being an effective networker is a skill. Whilst on your internship meet new people and build up those business contacts. If you want to be part of an industry then you need to know people who work in it.
9. Your blog covers marketing, public relations, advertising and stuff – which discipline do you think your career will lead?
At this stage I have no idea where my career will lead. The American business culture would have me draw up a list of business goals, put together a five year career plan but such planning isn’t for me. If I were offered a graduate job at Microsoft within a role I enjoyed then I could see myself working there for years to come. Yet the world is so open still, lots of paths remain. We shall see what happens…
10. If you were a student about to decide where to take your year placement, what advice would you give them?
Do not be surprised if you don’t have a clear vision of where you want your career to lead. It helps if you can choose the industry you enjoy. For instance I love technology and so the selection of companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple and Facebook were targets for internship applications. Keep applying to companies, don’t stop. You will be against intense competition, so don’t underestimate the importance of proof reading any document you send off. Finally, remain positive with your search and don’t lose hope.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Michael for taking time out from his busy schedule to share his thoughts with us. I wish him all the very best as he returns to Gloucester University for that all important final year. I expect we’ve not heard the last from Michael and am sure he has a bright future ahead of him, whatever path he takes.