Thursday, 13 May 2010


The end of my second year, studying public relations at university is fast approaching; from then on I will only have one more year fulfilling the poverty stricken, sleep all day, party all night, student stereotype. During my time at university I have worked with some very interesting people, some highly intelligent and several you wonder how they ever got into university in the first place!

A friend once summed up his life as a student for me; his words were ‘I would love to live this life forever as, being a student is like being on the dole, only your parents are proud of you’ Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I have tackled many fascinating subjects and assignments over the two years. However, I have found public relations to be one of the most intriguing of subjects as it appears to be constantly changing. For instance PR has moved away from its traditional concept of one-way communication and is very much focused on the notion of two-way communications and the rise of the blog, social networks, and organisations’ own websites, all things of great popularity amongst individuals of my generation. I am very curious to see how it will continue to change in the future.

Through the extensive research I have carried out during my time at university, it has only been on very rare occasions that I found a book, website; journal etc. concluding the same definition of PR.
Public relations is difficult to sum up in a couple of sentences as there are so many parts to the field. The public relations consultants association best describe it as:

‘Public relations is all about reputation. It’s the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organisation and its various publics.’

The role of the PR practitioner

There are many duties to perform on a daily basis for a PR practitioner. These may involve, writing/editing the in-house journal or magazine, arranging visits, editing company blogs, press releases, updating the website, and crisis management.

Broom and Dozier (1986) defined there being two major roles for the PR practitioner:

  • ‘The communication technician, who focuses on tactical matters such as writing, event management and media management.’
  • ‘The communications manager, who has a more strategic communication perspective and will normally create overall strategy, take and analyze client briefings and deal with issues and crises.’

PR practitioners work for an agency/consultancy, in-house, In-house agency/consultancy or freelancing. Working for an agency/consultancy means the practitioner would be performing as part of a company in their own right, so not being part of a larger organisation for which they have to provide PR. On top of this they have to charge clients for their services. The major advantage to sourcing an agency/consultancy is that the organisation gains an outsiders perspective of the situation. This perhaps enables them to think of new and creative ways to resolve situations. Working in-house means that the PR practitioner would be part of a large organisation; either for a public or private company, public sector body, charity or non-governmental organisation. The practitioner would not be able to explicitly charge for their services and have to work within a set budget. The major advantage to an in house PR team is that the team will know every last detail of that company, whereas sourcing an agency/consultancy will not have this advantage. Working for an in-house agency/consultancy is basically a hybrid of the two just described. It entails being employed directly by the organisation from which they provide PR, they are sometimes allowed to work for partner organisations but they have to fund their costs by re-charging for the services that they provide. And finally a freelancer is a self employed individual tending to work on short term contracts or covering absences or peaks in demand.

In seminars we touched upon which sector we could see ourselves working for; in house or agency. I came to the conclusion that after leaving university I would first like to work for an agency as this means I will be able to work with lots of different organisations rather than just one and hopefully gain a wider range of knowledge in different areas and gather a portfolio of contacts in the field. I have also discovered whilst at university that I do not like to be in one place for long periods of time as I feel familiarity breeds contempt. This may however be down to my youthfulness, with age I may decide that a lack of familiarity is unsettling and I might possibly venture down the path of working in house as by then I could certainly have discovered that I predominantly excel in one area or that I have become fond of a particular company.

I cannot say I know the direction I will take, as to whether I will work in crises PR, corporate PR etc. However I do know; I am never truly happy unless I have a challenge set at my door, in which I confront all my negative attributes and reform each one individually so that it is then referred to as one of my most prominent qualities. I live outside traditional boundaries and need to think ahead of the curve. I enjoy creating new possibilities and ideas, when others focus only on limitations. With my people skills, I have the ability to become a fearless leader who expects others to keep up with my head-turning pace.

Group work

Bruce Tuckman, in 1965 put forth a model on team development; he suggested that there are 4 main phases for a team to undertake in order to work efficiently together and reach a positive result. The first phase is the forming stage; people in the team are likely to stay relatively reserved in order to avoid conflict and as a result, keep themselves busy by organizing all the team members, for instance when everyone should meet and who should be doing what. The second phase is the storming stage, here group members compete to have their suggestions heard and considered. This phase can cause conflict and an idea may be hard to conclude upon. However, without patience and tolerance the team will fail to agree on a concept and will inevitably fail at his stage if motivation cannot be restored. The third phase is norming; at this stage team members begin to trust each other and motivation will increase as the team gets more acquainted with the project. The team may also feel a sense of achievement for getting so far, thus increasing motivation further. The final phase is the performing stage. Teams who reach this point should be able to function as a unit as they have found ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. Team members are now likely to be competent and independent. This leads me on to discuss one of our PR assignments where Tuckman’s model was clearly evident. The task was to act as clients in a team of four and give a brief to another team who acted as an agency. The brief we gave them was to create a campaign to generate a greater awareness and inform 18-25 year olds of the dangers of STIs, how to avoid them and where they can go for help. Then the roles were reversed and we acted as the agency and they gave us a brief to think of ways to promote a website selling festival merchandise. Our team consisted of Sarah, Hannah, Lizzie and I. To start off with, Sarah and I were unsure as to whom the other members of our team were as Hannah and Lizzie rarely attended seminars meaning that initially Sarah and I were doing all the work (this would relate to the forming stage of the model) However, eventually Sarah took it upon herself to organize everyone together, and quite quickly we all managed to identify one another’s strengths and weaknesses and together we made quite an efficient team. Like with most teams, a hierarchy was formed and individuals took on certain roles in the group; Sarah appeared to organize everyone together yet she and Lizzie didn’t put too many thoughts forward. Both Hannah and I worked well together, we feed off one another’s ideas and did the majority of the work; with Hannah doing more of the written work and myself doing more of the creative work. Hannah had a very paternalistic, managerial style as she was an energetic leader with a passion for the work which made everyone more optimistic and motivated. My leadership style was very much autocratic; I did hear other peoples ideas, but I certainly liked to have mine heard and I seemed to delegate who should be doing what, which may have made me come across quite bossy. In future projects, when working in a team I would like to take on some of Hannah’s leadership skills in the fact that I would like to pay more attention to others social needs as this motivated people into working rather than scaring them into working. I do believe that I will be able to adapt my leadership style in the future as Jago 1982 proclaimed:

‘Good leaders are made not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience’

The dream team

When at school and sometimes in the present day of my uni life I have the opportunity to pick the people I would like to work with in a team. I know I definitely always pick my friends first, as I assume that working with friends is easier as I already know their strengths and limitations. However, this is a common misconception that many people make, for working with friends can lead to greater conflict, due to a difference in opinion or on the other hand, little work will get done as a result of socialising. Therefore a ‘dream team’ or ‘successful team’ should consist of a number of different personalities and skills, not just comprised of all your friends.

Before the assignment of acting as clients and agencies everyone had to carry out a Belbin test, this is a self perception test to discover the role you play in a team. The results of the team I was working with were; Sarah came out as a RI (resource investigator, provides inside knowledge on the opposition and makes sure that the team’s idea can carry to the world outside the team) and PL (plant: Solves difficult problems with original and creative ideas, can be a poor communicator and may ignore the details). And Lizzie came out as a Tw (team worker: socially oriented and cooperative). The two results that I came out the highest on were CF (completer finisher, painstakingly orderly, conscientious, with a tendency to worry about all the small things) and RI (resource investigator, provides inside knowledge on the opposition and makes sure the team’s idea can carry to the world outside the team, explores new ideas and possibilities with energy and with others, good networker). I would by enlarge agree with these results especially that I am a ‘complete finisher’ as I am very much a perfectionist and am often told so.

After concluding the Belbin test I carried out several other personality tests to try and discover further, the characteristics of my personality. I revealed that I am very extroverted which I believe is due to the fact that I am incredibly fussy, out-spoken and very much not a shy person. I also rarely tend to work on instinct and would rather have some rationalization behind an answer/project etc. I also appeared to be very judging which can work both for and against my favour.

This test I took however, did not appear to be well recognised so I went on to take the Meyer Briggs personality test, it is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people make decisions and perceive the world and it is recognised in workplaces around the world. I do enjoy taking these kinds of tests as I like to find more out about myself. Isabel Briggs Meyers said herself:

‘whatever the circumstances of your life, the understandings of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your hearts desire.’

The results of my personality test came out fairly similar to the above chart. The results were that my personality type is ESTJ; this is an abbreviation of 1 of the 16 personality types. It apparently means that I am a much expressed extravert, slightly expressed sensing personality, moderately expressed thinking personality, and moderately expressed judging personality.

  • E – Extraversion preferred to Introversion: ESTJs often feel motivated by their interaction with people. They tend to enjoy a wide circle of acquaintances, and they gain energy in social situations.
  • S – Sensing preferred to iNtuition: ESTJs tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.
  • T – Thinking preferred to Feeling: ESTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions, they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.
  • J – Judgment preferred to Perception: ESTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.

The ESTJ type accounts for about 8–12% of the population and therefore is highly sort after in the work place so that there is a combination of different personalities. Some practitioners have speculated that George Bush is an ESTJ.

To make the ‘dream team’ there needs to be a combination of different team role personalities for instance there only needs to be one coordinator or Shaper (not both) for having more than one leader can often lead to conflict, at least one Plant to stimulate ideas, a Monitor/evaluator to maintain honesty and clarity, and finally one or more Implementer, Team worker, Resource investigator or Completer/finisher to make things happen.

After working with the team consisting of Hannah, Sarah, Lizzie and I; I believe we worked as an efficient team and managed to get all the work done. Yet we were far from the ‘dream team’, the ‘dream team’ for me would mean that everybody did the same amount of work and gave a similar amount of input into discussions and that everybody in the team wanted to achieve the same goals. I also discovered from this team work exercise that I like working with creative, intellectual, hard working and motivational people and have a very poor tolerance for people who do not have at least one of those characteristics.