Published On: Mon, Oct 6th, 2014

Reflecting on Five Years of Blogging & Working: Where it All Began [PART 1]

Leeds Met UniversityYesterday, this blog celebrated its fifth birthday, and I’d like to cast your mind back five years once more, to when I published my first post on Social Web Thing. A lot has changed during this time. I’ve been lucky enough to meet great people, worked on exciting projects and learnt more than I ever thought possible. So much has happened that trying to document the past five years in a five part series over the next five days (bear with me) probably doesn’t do it justice.

Anyway, let’s go back to the start of my career…

Where it all began
I graduated from the excellent PR course at Leeds Met Beckett back in 2008 with a 2:1. This was an interesting time to be a graduate and I consider myself lucky to be one of the last of the ‘golden generation.’

Let me expand for a moment on what I mean by lucky. I feel immensely fortunate to have paid low tuition fees, graduated with relatively little debt (in comparison to today’s students) and at a time where entry-level PR jobs were plentiful. In fact, all of my friends found PR roles (a combination of agency, in-house, graduate scheme and public sector roles) before we even graduated.

I started working on the university’s outstanding, but sadly now ceased graduate trainee scheme in 2008, and got to tailor placements around my career goals. As a PR graduate this meant working in the university Communications team, Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s media team and the Centre for Public Relations Studies.

After nine fantastic months on the scheme, things started to change in 2009. Talk of increased tuition fees became commonplace and it was clear that the public sector was not the place to be at this stage in my career. So I began the process of trying to land an agency role.

And to begin with it wasn’t easy. A piece of advice I continually give students is to get agency experience while at university. When looking to land an agency role I was turned down on a couple of occasions as someone always had ‘more agency experience.’ It was a source of (and still is) huge frustration, but I’m now grateful — as this challenge made me go away and think about what I could do to stand out. The world of agency-land is unique, but the prevailing attitude that only people with agency experience should be considered for an agency role is stupid. And around this time many agencies, feeling downward pressure from clients, started to replace junior roles with low or unpaid internships.

This part of my story is where blogging comes in. After thinking long and hard about my plan to stand out, I came up with a PR campaign of my own. I set my objective (be offered an agency job), identified my audience (decision-makers at Edelman, and a few others), came up with a strategy (network with PR decision-makers) and defined my tactics (blogging campaign and networking on social media).

As I’ve mentioned I began blogging while working at Leeds Met back in 2009. I had blogged previously as a student, but Social Web Thing would be used to showcase my writing and demonstrate understanding of the PR industry. I also started following people on Twitter, replying to their tweets, getting connected on LinkedIn, and generally doing what I could to network — without seeming pushy.

As these online relationships developed, I asked some people if they’d like to be involved with a Q&A on my blog and I managed to secure posts from Marshall Manson, Matt Churchill and Toni Katsambis — three very talented Edelman employees. The guest posts enabled me to network, but also added greater credibility to my content as my audience and reputation grew. Then Edelman offered me a job.

In the space of a few short months I had started blogging, networked with industry leaders, won an award for my blog and landed my dream job. Social Web Thing wasn’t the only factor to help me the land the job, but it definitely helped my cause

So off I went to join Edelman…

Visit Social Web Thing tomorrow to hear about my time at the world’s largest PR agency.

About the Author

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Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at Ben-Cotton.com and Chief Quaffer at CraftySwine.org .

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  1. […] B) If you don’t yet have any agency experience, try and get some fixed up over the Christmas break. Not having extensive agency experience (I had just one month under my belt) by the time I graduated is my biggest regret, and was a stumbling block earlier in my career, but part of me is also grateful as it forced me to get creative. […]

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