Students are doing it for themselves

PR Fraternity: PR brothers-and-sisters at arms
PR Fraternity: PR brothers-and-sisters at arms

 

This is an article by Joanna Ayre.

As studying public relations is becoming increasingly popular the demand for a student-led PR society became more apparent. “The PR Fraternity” is a group of students and alumni with a passion for PR. It is a platform that provides networking opportunities and access to exciting guest speakers.

From small beginnings, it has established itself as one of the biggest societies on campus.

Since the Fraternity became an official society last year, there has been a stream of insightful guest speakers.

These have included Colleen Harris who was PR to Princes Charles, William and Harry and a trailblazer of diversity within the PR industry; and John Whaite, BBC Great British Bake-Off (2012) winner and Greenwich local who spoke about his sharp rise to fame and gave students advice on talent management, and a client-side insight.

The Fraternity uses Pinterest as one of its key social media channels, as well as Twitter and Facebook. Each member is invited to upload a picture of themselves with a quote about PR. Paul Simpson, Senior Lecturer, who helped found the society says:

“Pinterest acts as a shop window for students to employers, to each other and to potential new recruits, as well as putting our learning and PR theories into practice”

The network effect

Some of the original movers behind the PR Fraternity included a group of around ten students who left LCC in 2011 to follow Simpson when he moved across to begin lecturing at the University of Greenwich. That group, together with many of Greenwich’s own alumni now provide a formidable network of graduates in successful PR employment – another strong pillar to the Fraternity’s membership base.

They include Tove Nordstrom, who won the Euprera Jos Willems Award (2012) for best bachelor dissertation in public relations, and is now an account manager at The Good Agency; and Thom Will, a publicist with Ian Johnson Publicity, working on comedies and entertainment for BBC One, Two, Sky One, Starz and HBO.

Students have also found employment opportunities through the society. One of the strongest supporters of the PR Fraternity is the Channel 5 press office, which is run by the Outside Organisation, who regularly offer month-long internships to Fraternity members. Nick Caley, who was Head of Press until December 2012 has also been a popular guest speaker.

Alumni who have gone on to find successful PR roles use the Fraternity as a way of finding new talent and advertising job vacancies. Emily Payne is now a senior account executive at Feref, whose clients include Disney and Warner Brothers. After graduating in 2012, Emily takes care to keep in touch with the Fraternity, keeping members informed of opportunities where possible. Former Fraternity president Michelle Amos, now working at Freud Communications, remains a link for alumni on the executive.

Some organisations have used the PR Fraternity talent pool to help them come up with creative campaign ideas. Last year, a project led by the organisation Positive Signs pulled together a group of students for PR advice on their work championing British sign language services, and encouraging inclusive apprenticeships for the young deaf. This year, Greenwich alumna and entrepreneur Ingrid Asoni and her consultancy Asoni Haus gave a group of students the opportunity to work with her on a real-life PR consumer campaign for a piece of haute couture jewellery.

Ambitious plans

Future plans for the Fraternity are up for discussion amongst the membership, but ideas include setting up their own agency within the Fraternity, to provide more opportunities for students to try out their own PR skills, and reaching out to other PR students (and those non-PR students interested in a career in PR) across London.

Members are currently working on a West End networking event, to bring together all members with alumni from across the years. They are hoping to do it on the same evening as a trip for students to the HQ of Weber Shandwick, being coordinated by another alumni of the Fraternity, Leila Mountford. She secured her position at the global PR company after some effective networking following CEO Colin Byrne’s guest speaker session at the Fraternity last year.

Having a dedicated PR society has proven to be an invaluable tool for networking at the University of Greenwich. I would encourage other universities to create their own PR societies and take advantage of the benefits available. Maisie Goldney, second year PR student and current President of the PR Fraternity agrees:

“The society gives students the opportunity to come together and discuss their passions and thoughts about PR. It gives another dimension to studies with the opportunity to network with students on other courses and meet professionals in the field. Unique ideas can fly around the room and students can ask the professionals any questions they want! It’s exciting to bring the outside world of PR into the university and for students to get their faces out there in the industry!”

By embracing the vocabulary associated with the campus societies of the US, the ‘PR Fraternity’ seeks to tackle head on issues associated with equality in the profession, and to stress, in more European uses of the term, that the society seeks to foster a sense of brother- and sister-hood in support of each other’s professional journeys.

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