What I learnt during my PR work experience

Kate Chipchase spent two weeks on work experience with Fortitude Communications, after graduating from Durham University with First Class Honours. Here are Kate’s insights into what she did and what she learnt during her placement.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been part of the Fortitude team. The opportunity was not only lots of fun, but I’ve also learnt so much and gained invaluable experience and insight into the world of PR and communications.

It’s been great working with Greig and the rest of the team, who have all been so welcoming and allowed me to get stuck into the wide variety of work they do at the Oxford based communications agency.

Every day was so different — I attended client meetings and helped to address their various PR needs and participated in off-site marketing call-out days. Plus created a range of different communications materials for clients including press releases, website articles and blogs, and social media posts. I was also able to attend the photo shoot day for the launch of Oxford City FC’s new first team shirts. 

This experience was invaluable in learning how to create and tailor communications for the benefit of all stakeholders. Fortitude is such a varied agency, with a range of corporate clients as well as clients in the sports sector. Having attended school in and grown up around Oxford, I’ve particularly enjoyed being able to work with local sports clubs including Oxford City Stars ice hockey club. 

Adapting your writing style to grab attention 

One of my main responsibilities over the last couple of weeks was writing press releases for clients. It is a totally different style of writing than I’ve ever done before, and I’ve learnt how to create snappy, pointed pieces that engaged readers quickly and delivered core client messages. 

It was a valuable experience learning how to tailor releases to different clients, dependent on their overall communications strategy and the various key messages they wanted to highlight and to who. This was also something I also learned to apply when creating plans for the social media accounts of various clients. 

Social Media is important

Creating content plans in particular really opened my eyes to the value and importance of social media as a communications tool, and the importance of getting the messaging of the posts exactly right.

Every client has an individual brand, identity, tone, and message they want to get across. This was something I really had to consider when drafting social media posts as I needed to ensure they fitted into each individual communications strategy.

I was given an insight into the depth of consideration, research, planning and effort that goes into effective social media strategies and account management.

Posts aren’t simply created and shared for the whenever for the sake of ticking a box. They are pre-written and form part of Fortitude’s advanced plans designed to effectively represent clients, spread brand awareness and engage audiences. In addition to creating content in advance I also discovered the importance of being on top of daily news agendas to maximise live opportunities for clients via organic posts.

Unique communications strategies 

It has been especially exciting to be able to meet clients face-to-face and find out more about the various challenges individual businesses face, and how PR can offer them effective solutions. Equally I discovered an insight into how businesses communicate their vision and values via PR.

For example, working with Oxford Bus Company was interesting given impact the pandemic had on public transport and the current issues relating to transport infrastructure in Oxford. What I discovered was the company has a clear focus on re-building patronage and an unrelenting commitment to delivering excellent customer service and working closely with key stakeholders to improve the overall transport network. 

I discovered how important and closely aligned its communications strategy is to ensure the company communicates effectively with its customers and key stakeholders in multiple ways. I wrote press releases on Oxford Bus Company’s Brand the Bus! Competition and its investment in technology to help make passengers’ experiences smoother.

PR is intrinsically linked with journalism 

Having always had a keen interest in current affairs, and having worked on my college newspaper whilst at university both as an editor and a writer, it was revealing to see over the last two weeks how intertwined the communications sector is with journalism.

For example, representation of a client in the press can be incredibly beneficial, but it is also important to be prepared to respond to the challenges presented by certain coverage. Seeing how PR advisors respond to the news everyday has been interesting. 

I’ve had some great opportunities to sit down and discuss where the stories in the media our papers really come from. This has been a completely new way of reading the news for me and is certainly a new perspective I’ll take with me. I’ve also come to appreciate the value of the media, across print, digital and broadcast, as a communication tool.

This experience has also allowed me to expand my areas of coverage. I was given the opportunity to carry out first-hand interviews myself with clients like Championship Rugby League Club the London Broncos. I then used the interviews to create articles that were used both on clients’ websites and placed in the media. 

How did it change my perception of PR?

Before my work experience here, I certainly didn’t fully grasp the importance of a communications strategy and the difference it makes to clients in communicating clearly and effectively. Furthermore, I didn’t appreciate how PR agencies fully manage client’s whole external communications briefs. It is way more than media relations. PR agencies provide expert advice that is strategic and aligned to business goals. They also produce content that is adapted and used in multiple ways to provide great value across multiple platforms. 

It was fantastic to see the wide variety of clients Fortitude work with, which really demonstrated to me the value of PR to all businesses and organisations. Throughout the fortnight I was with Fortitude, I worked on accounts including an IT firm, a property surveyor, a national restaurant chain, an apprenticeship training provider and multiple sports clubs. 

The placement flew by and I’ve genuinely enjoyed every second. Each day presented different challenges and I’ve gone home each evening having learnt so much. It has really opened my eyes to the variety a career in PR offers. 

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