Wellington Urban Consulting - Wellington, New Zealand
- Bachelor of Communication Studies
- Public Relations
- Leadership Communication
What courses should PR students take at University?
I majored in Public Relations and Leadership Communication. PR professionals do a lot of business strategy as well, so Strategic Management is a good one to have alongside PR. Other subjects that seem to go well with PR are Human Resource Management, Marketing, and languages/ linguistics.
What have you been up to lately?
I work for a company called Wellington Urban Consulting. We’re an agency of just three, plus our designer. We’re super busy at the moment. One of our main clients is a hotel management group, and they own two hotels and three different backpackers in Wellington, so I’ve learnt a lot about the tourism/ accommodation sector. Some of our other clients include restaurants, a housing developer, and we recently worked with the Wellington Lantern Festival.
My day consists of a lot of different things such as meetings with clients, social media content, writing press releases, media scans, creating advertisements, I do a lot of random stuff and it’s different all the time!
So, how did you get the internship?
I heard about the internship through public relations lecturer Margalit Toledano, who put me in touch with my now boss, and after some emails and a phone interview, I made the move down to Welly. So I definitely recommend networking!
One of the big things when I look back at uni is that I think it is important to become BFFs with your lecturers! I remember in first-year I was kind of like ‘I don’t want to talk with my lecturer, weird’, but now I am like ‘Oh my god, I should’ve gone up to them after every lecture and asked questions’!
You just kind of forget at uni that your lecturers are people who are at the top of their field, they have worked in your industry for years, and they know people and know how to do things! They’re experts in one particular field and that field is where you want to be. Make friends with your lecturers!
What challenges have you found with being an intern?
The main thing that I have found with the transition from uni to an actual job is that at uni you get to decide your own hours, for example, you have two weeks to do an assignment and you can do it in the last two days. But with work, your boss will be like ‘write up this whatever, and get it done in the next two hours’ and you’re just constantly working on a tighter timeline.
I was talking to my boss the other day saying that the amount of work I do in a day at work could almost equate to the amount of work I used to do in a week at uni. I was exhausted for the first few months that I was working - I would just go home and sleep. It’s like being in lectures or a tutorial; listening and then going away and actually doing something afterwards, and then going back again and getting someone to look over it! It’s constant, which can be exhausting.
So what’s the key to being an intern?
My main feedback is to be adaptable, push yourself, but if you don’t know what you’re doing; ask! Go with the flow and learn what you can.
How have you found moving to Wellington?
It’s been great, I love Wellington, it's a super cool city. I would definitely recommend moving here, although there are way too many good places to eat and drink which is mainly where my paycheck goes. My advice for students is to move away to the bigger cities like Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch as there are so many opportunities for communications work! Spread your wings and get out of Hamilton!
Do marketing and PR really work quite closely together?
Yeah we do. When we work with our hotel client, we work with their marketing team. It’s often for advertising; we will create content like artwork and copy for them. So, they will say ‘hey there’s this deal that needs to happen’ and we will come up with an advertisement or campaign around it and get our designer to come up with some artwork. We’ll send it back to them and then help them figure out where it needs to be put out. So yes, we do work with marketing a bit.
That’s the other thing with PR, you work with every part of the company. So you need to have good knowledge of every aspect of the company you work for. One of the things I’ve learned is that the PR person in the company or working for the company needs to know everything that’s happening in order to effectively comms it. If someone comes to you when a crisis is about to happen, and you know absolutely nothing about what’s going on, it’s going to be a lot harder to try and fix it.
How do you find the lobbying space?
I don’t do a lot of lobbying myself but I’ve watched my team. It’s interesting because my boss is often found talking to the council and media; such as when reporters write articles about something to do with our client, we have to pick out the misinformation in the article and then we will send off letters to the media trying to get things changed or taken out. It’s a whole different side of PR to the social media and press releases; not the generic stuff that people think PR is.
How do you feel when people stereotype PR into just social media and press releases?
It’s very much like ‘Oh you do PR, so social media?’ and well yes, I do create content for socials, but that’s a small part of my work; which to be honest is still super important.
Like one of the things I was doing before Coronavirus was our hotels were coming up to a Qualmark rating - the star assessment of a hotel - which I found out that you can only be a 5-star hotel with a pool. So for this, one of our jobs was to help elevate the hotel and to see how we could improve it to increase its Qualmark rating.
One of my jobs towards this was to create a new exhibition for the art gallery within the hotel; so I got to look at different artists, started to organise the opening event, coordinate the website and all that jazz. Until Covid took over and all that was put on hold.
Another thing we do is relationship management, especially with the hotels, since there are so many moving parts that make up a hotel such as hotel management, restaurants, sales, corporate contracting. We have to make sure that these different parts are navigating issues they encounter with each other and ensure that problems can be solved; for example we will often chair meetings and take minutes to ensure problems are sorted and things that need to be done are actioned.
What are you guys doing at the moment with Covid-19?
Covid is so intense, oh my god! In the weeks leading up to the pandemic I was doing a lot of research each day into how Covid- 19 was affecting other countries and how their tourism sectors were coping. I think this definitely helped us to understand what was coming.
The week before we went into lockdown, we did some crazy hours due to being involved with hospitality and hotel clients; it went crazy with all the cancelled flights and no guests coming to stay. This is where I experienced the side of PR that is crisis comms! And man shit's crazy, we did lots of strategy and putting plans together for the hotels. I felt so rushed around and worked about 60 hours that week. It was mental!
We had to come up with a whole lot of new hotel policies, signage and processes. We had to decide how we were going to keep our guests safe and our staff safe, what things need to come into action to maintain not only safety but also reputation. We created a limited contact registration for our hotels, came up with a bunch of ways that we could make sure that our hotels stay clean.
Also figuring out how to comfort our staff and keeping them happy during this stressful time was hard too. There was a lot of contingency planning and coming up with different scenarios so we would be prepared in any event as well. One of the other hotels in Wellington had a case of Covid-19 in their hotel which resulted in a major drop in occupancy, so we wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen to any of our hotels.
Like I said before, maintaining reputation is also super important especially for post Covid-19. We came up with ways to minimise the chance of having a case in one of our hotels and also tried to seize opportunities to have our hotels feature in positive news stories. You may have seen our ‘pay what you can’ policy for people who had to cancel overseas trips in the news.
Do people take PR seriously in the industry?
At the moment I think PR is highly valued and it’s being taken seriously since we are in the middle of a crisis. But in other times, when things are normal I don’t think people always see the benefits of PR/comms until it's too late and there’s a crisis to clean up.
Do you enjoy what you’re doing?
Yes for sure! I’m glad that I did it. At the start I was kind of like ‘This is hard’ and ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’. You know imposter syndrome? I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not meant to be here. But it’s turning out alright so far.
Five things people still at university should know?
1. Network! Network, network, network. Your lecturers and your peers are going to be super useful in helping you get started and further down the track. This also means going to uni events and talking with lots of different people.
2. Apply for everything when you’re leaving university. Even if you don’t think you’ll get it, writing up those applications for internships and jobs gives you good practise for the next one. You can always use parts of applications multiple times!
3. Do your readings! I personally didn’t do many readings (oops), but now I wish that I had because surprise, surprise, the theories you are learning do pop up in your work life and real life. Those text books and readings are also super useful to go over even once you’ve graduated and are working. You’ll always need a refresh.
4. Join clubs like MCSA (Management Communication Students' Association) and actually go to the events, run to be on student boards, volunteer, be a student mentor or an RA, or many of the other opportunities you get at university. Even if it’s just one of these things, the more you do and the more you put out the more prepared you will be. Not only does it look good on your CV, it also gives you a broad range of skills, helps you meet more people and gives you a sense of accomplishment outside of your studies (not to mention it can be super fun).
5. Be adaptable. When you’re at uni, you’re a part of such a tight knit community of clubs, papers, classmates. Everything is so nice and accessible! When you leave, it can be a bit of a culture shock and hard to find your feet. Being adaptable means taking up new opportunities or maybe putting things on hold until you figure things out.