Interview with Jessica North, Communications Assistant at BBC Worldwide

This week for my Interview Series we have Jessica North, a Bournemouth University student who just has just completed a placement at BBC Worldwide. Jessica will be talking to us about her diverse range of roles, working at the BBC Worldwide, running a blog and where she sees herself in the future.

1.      Having worked in such a wide range of roles; tell us about your career path so far.

I started in PR by completing some work experience at the local football club. Shadowing a press officer, especially one in the sports industry is certainly a unique experience; it really gives you a good idea for the speed of the industry.

From there I’ve worked in a couple of agencies and with clients on a freelance basis. I worked for six months at an agency that specialised in Healthcare where I worked across PR and Marketing, which was so interesting and now more recently at the BBC Worldwide.

To me, each role I’ve taken has been a step up from the last and I’m very lucky to have achieved what I have and met the people which have input so much time into developing me as a strong professional. The different roles and varying companies have opened my eyes to what I want to look for when I graduate. For me the most important lesson has been learning how different the same role can be depending on the company for which you work.

2.      When you were working as a Communications Assistant at BBC Worldwide, what sort of tasks were you performing?

I have spent the past six months working in the Global Brands departments of BBC Worldwide; it’s a very fortunate position to receive at 21. I work in a three person team covering the five global brands (Top Gear, Dancing with the Stars, Doctor Who, Lonely Planet and BBC Earth), live events and gaming.

The team handles both press and publicity. To say the team is busy would be a little understated and there certainly isn’t really such a thing as an average day here – it changes all the time but it keeps you on your feet. There have been some fantastic opportunities, my absolute favourite being The Stig driving me round the Top Gear track in a Lamborghini!

3.      Did social networks LinkedIn or Twitter play a big role in your job hunt?

I got my first placement offer through Twitter! I think both are really important but in very different ways. I think you should have a profile on LinkedIn and keep it up to date with your contacts, recommendations and experience – it can show a lot more at a glimpse than your CV can but I personally didn’t use it to search for roles in placements. I think it could definitely play a more crucial role in searching for permanent jobs.

As for Twitter, I know there are many people that don’t like it, but the fact is things happen online first now, whether it be news, releases, trends or jobs… it’s all announced through the internet and Twitter plays a huge part in that, if you see an opening position online you can apply within seconds and they can see a little more about you from your profile.

4.      You also run a blog “Simply PR” focusing on public relations, digital communication strategies and university – what was the main reason you decided to create it?

Oh my gosh, I’m sure I’m not supposed to admit to this, but we had to start it for a module at university! We had to blog about our lectures each week for one semester. I started blogging off-topic and just got really into it. I find the digital world and its affect on PR and Marketing fascinating, it’s so forward-thinking, I think it’s important to stay on top of it all and a fantastic tool to keep your writing in check. A lot of PR students use blogs to market themselves now but I think it can really benefit you if you can find a slight gap to put a more unique edge on yours.

5.      How important do you think blogging should be in a PR student’s job hunt?

I think it’s a strong advantage if you can start a blog. I’ve met some fantastic people through their or my blog. It’s a great networking tool and you can learn so much from your peers, it would be silly not to take advantage of that whilst you’re a student and still have the time to blog because trust me, you will not have time whilst working. I barely have time to sleep and eat, let alone blog frequently!

When I started at BBC Worldwide, they told me that one of the reasons they wanted me was because of my blog and social media knowledge… if your employers are looking at it, it’s just another way to set yourself above other candidates, prove you know what you’re talking about and show off your creativity. It’s yet another fantastic way to build up your reputation in the industry.

6.      Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you’ve worked in agency and in-house roles. Do you prefer one over the other?

One of my old directors told me that when you work in an agency you learn very quickly and build up contacts but you remain invisible whereas in-house you build up a reputation very quickly and if you do it right, you will never have to look for a job again, people will look for you. I guess that kind of stuck with me so I do sort of lean towards in-house roles, but I did really enjoy working in agencies so if the right opportunity came up then I’d definitely consider it.

7.      Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I wouldn’t like to judge really. As I said before; this has been a real learning curve for me. I’m really keen to get involved in some sort of graduate scheme. I’ve looked into a few so far with companies such as L’Oreal and Google but I definitely haven’t decided anything yet. After that, cliché maybe, but I’m completely dedicated to working my way up the ladder. I’ve always said this isn’t just a job for me – this is a career and my life.

8.      And lastly, what do you think are the 3 most important things PR students need to remember while on a job hunt?

I know everyone says it but that should just emphasise how important it is…

Work experience

It’s so much easier to get the jobs and experience you want when you’ve got basic experience under your belt. And when you’re a student – that’s the time to do it, you have such long summers, it’s the only chance you’ll get.

Keep up to date with the industry. 

Read PR week, Media Week, Media Guardian, New Media Age, Wired etc. Read the trade magazines of the sector you want to work in. I’ve set my home page to PR Week so even if I’m not going to read the whole article, I’ll still see the headlines at least once a day.

Use social media… and use it wisely.

One advantage a student can bring to any company, no matter how up-to-date they are… we have an advantage. We have the time to invest in these sites and learn how they work inside out. If you can offer a company some strategies for their social media and know and understand how to monitor and evaluate it, it’s a huge asset for you and definite advantage over other candidates.

Since the time of interviewing, Jessica has completed six months with BBC Worldwide and is completing the rest of her placement with Farrow & Ball.

***To get in touch with Jessica say hello on Twitter @JessicaNorthPR***