10 months in Leeds…

As the #prstudent blog competition is coming to an end I have been looking over the past few months. Over my studies, my blog, my personal life etc. and I can truly say I have grown a lot. Whilst going through this growth I have also learned a lot about myself.

Study life

When it comes to school I have discovered:

  • I am rubbish at closed books exams that count for 100% of my final grade.
  • I am not as good at small talk as I thought I was (I will however try to suck up all the questions and topics my hairdresser comes up with, next time I go for a cut).
  • I am very good at cooking, baking, cleaning (with a toothbrush even) and at upholstering furniture when I should be working on assignments (at least I have other things I could fall back on as professions if my comms path doesn’t work out).
  • When a person is 34 years old and a mother of 3 and doing a masters in England she might not party and socialise as much as she imagined before she arrived , as she’s likely to be the one of the oldest students on the course. She might also be the only mum and she might even get the nickname “mamabear” as she looks out for her co-students like she would her kids and friends.
  • Home cooked food and homemade pastry will make you friends anywhere, across professions, cultures, age, gender etc.

 

(On these pictures you can see my skills as an upholsterer, I’ll have that to fall back on if everything else fails!) 

When I started these studies I believed I had learned some stuff at my Icelandic uni when it came to comms and PR. However, I did sit down with other students and the Dean and we told him the course was lacking theory and tools. What I didn’t realise when I sat down with him was how right I was! As I finished my undergrads I said I didn’t have the confidence to say I was a PR person or even to claim I had much knowledge in the field. I did however have a lot of knowledge in philosophy, politics, ethics and some in media. All well and good and are all topics that will help in a PR career. However, recently, when I spoke to a girl that did the undergrads with me  I told her that there was so much we missed and that even though I will definitely need some real-out-of-school experience , I feel so much more equipped to work in the field now as I have lots of tools in my toolbox! Before studying in Leeds, I hadn’t even heard of a stakeholder map! Believe you me, it is so logical and so much common sense, but it BLEW my mind! As if you have never heard of it it’s not common sense.

One of the biggest surprises I have had since I started my masters course (apart from the pregnancy!) is the fact I am now considering a PhD. When I started I met other people on the course that only saw the course as a step towards a PhD and they knew that was where they were heading. I shrugged, I told them it was too academic and theoretical for me. I wanted to study something hands on and then go out into the world and start earning experience and money to provide for me and my family. Only about two weeks ago, all of a sudden, I changed my mind. Well, at least I started considering the possibility of doing a PhD.

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There are many things to consider in regards of further studies and finances are the biggest obstacle. I want to stay in the UK so I would want to do it here, however, it is very expensive as I’ll have to pay as an international student. This is probably my biggest frustration since I came to the UK. I have had such mixed messages from the university and I ended up sending an email regarding this to the admission team. I explained how I was being treated by society and the university as a person within the EU but then when it came to fees I wasn’t. This is a part of the reply I got:

“As an EEA citizen, you do not require a visa, and like EU citizens you have no time limit on your residence in the UK. In this context, you are not regarded as an International student. However, as a non-EU citizen, it is possible to hold ‘Overseas’ fee status. In Higher Education in the UK, ‘international student’ and ‘overseas fee status’ are not interchangeable terms as they refer to different things.”

So, basically they CAN charge me more and therefore they WILL. I have heard one can get funding for a PhD and I guess my next step is to look into that and see whether that would be a possibility for me.

A letter to the future me

When I started my course I came across many amazing teachers. People that were incredibly clever and full of information but I will never forget when I met my comms teacher. She’s an incredible woman, she’s so bright and expects a lot from her students but at the same time she has an infectious energy and positivity about her. Her laughter is what we would call “dancing” in Icelandic as it’s out loud, warm and comes from within. She wears the nicest clothes and they are as colourful as her personality!

If we wouldn’t say “Good morning” loud enough in the mornings she would make us stand up and do a little exercise. She was our Monday morning teacher and what a great and energised way to start the week! She has truly been an inspiration!

When the first semester started she gave us the task of writing a letter to ourselves. We were supposed to find a value or a quote we liked that resonated with us.

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My letter to myself

When the second semester started we were handed these letters again. I didn’t want to open mine straight away. I was still waiting for my results from the semester before and I just wasn’t feeling as “on top of things” as I wanted. Therefore, I waited. A few weeks ago I opened the letter. It brought a smile to my face. It read as following:

“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream impossible: the fear of failure” -Paulo Coelho

This year, to achieve my dream, I have to plan and be disciplined. I have to reach out and read more than what the teachers tell us to. Watch YouTube, follow the news etc. Having said that even though I have a goal, which is the degree and later on a good job, I must enjoy the journey. Enjoy the fact I live abroad with my family, that I’m in university etc. Therefore, I have to step outside my comfort zone, play, be goofy. Reconnect with the fun me!

                                                                        Live – Learn – Enjoy!

And have I done these things? Proudly I can say I have, in most cases. I have talked at another university when given the amazing chance to do so. I spoke at Club7 about myself and my story. I entered a blog competition and I am in an IABC committee that is planning a comms event.

Blogging now and then

As I have covered before, I started blogging when told about the #prstudent blog competition at school. I didn’t enter to win. I entered to make a portfolio and gain some experience in writing in English.

It took off a little and I was told I was one of the top contestants. I got competitive and put a lot of energy into it and at the same time felt it was very therapeutic. The only thing I knew, was that I wanted it to be real and authentic. That way I would never have to make sure I was “in character” as it was just me.

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I also used the blog as an opportunity to tell my story with my own words. Sadly, I know there are people out there that tell my story and they do not paint the nicest picture. One of these people uses every given opportunity to sabotage me and whatever I build.

I do not want to get into a fight, nor do I want to bring that person down. All I want is to tell my story from my point of view, with my own words and this blog seemed like a good way of doing so, when I saw it connected with the subject and when it was appropriate.

However, doing so threw me off track a little. I did have to take a break during Christmas as I simply had to prioritise all the things that were going on. Soon after Christmas I started writing again but never seemed to make the list. I didn’t understand it and enquired about it. I got the explanation the competition was for PR students and should cover related topics, one way or another. That was a very fair point and I started writing my blogs with that in mind. However, I knew I had missed the boat. I hadn’t been mentioned for a few weeks so I was not competing for one of the top places anymore. Nonetheless I decided to keep going, both because I enjoy writing and finally I was onto the comms/PR side of my studies (last semester was mostly marketing) but also because I wanted to push and compete with myself. I still wanted visits on my site, gain followers within the PR/comms industry etc. as this competition is more than just the title of winning. It’s the net of people that might know about ones existence, the people one could ask for advice, that one can learn from etc.

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The blog has also helped me to connect theory from uni to real events in the news or that I come across in life and that is very valuable as it deepens ones understanding.

I believe I will continue blogging, maybe take a short break while I finish my assignments. I may blog about comms, PR, being a mum, a fiancée, a friend and a human being in general. I will use it to keep connected while on maternity leave. I will also let you guys know what I decide on studies, whether I’ll study more or start seeking for a job!

….any pointers regarding PhD funding, jobs etc. etc are most welcome!

Have a great Easter break and take it from someone that is afraid of most things, fear of failure can be crippling  and can and will stand in the way of us achieving our dreams if we let it!

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Studying PR abroad

The reason I am doing my masters in the UK is that there is a total lack of masters studies in Iceland when it comes to Public Relations. As a matter of fact, I was in the first group that graduated in the field at a bachelor level.

When looking into people working in communications in Iceland what you notice is that the practitioners either got their education from abroad, or which is very often the case; used to work in media.

My undergraduate degree consisted of a lot of politics and philosophy. We also did some creative writing, some media courses and ethics and laws regarding that field.

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Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

We did one course in public relations which was taught by a guy that has been working in the field for many years. We had the options of doing some economics and marketing as well and I did a little bit of both. Therefore, even though I scored a very high average for my bachelors I didn’t feel like I knew enough about public relations and communications. The students I studied with talked to the dean in our university about these concerns and he said we were still equipped with so much knowledge about other things that it would amount to a good PR practitioner as one would have to have a diverse knowledge about society (the politics courses) and be able to build up a good argument (I guess the philosophy came in strong here). He made a decent argument himself, but I was sure I could get a deeper understanding and be able to learn more about the tools PR practitioners use. I was sure I should be able to gather enough knowledge in the field to feel comfortable about diving into the profession of communication. At that point I must admit I did not feel like that. I spoke to the tutor that advised me on my dissertation and told him how I felt. I told him that early on in my studies I honesty felt like I was about to conquer the world, but as I was getting close to the end I felt like I knew so little. There was so much more out there. He smiled and told me not to worry. He said that was a confirmation off how much I had actually learned. The way I understood him it meant I had learned to be humble and realised there is always more one can learn.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last semester at Leeds University we have mostly been focusing on marketing courses as my degree is a masters in “Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations”. As the communications and public relations part of it was the biggest attraction for me, I must admit I am really looking forward to this semester.

The future

In Iceland we do not tend to have internships or graduate jobs. It’s each to their own and sometimes who you know seems to help. I do not know people that could pull me into a nice, convenient job so I know I’ll have to make it on my own and believe that my character and knowledge will get me to where I need to/want to be.

Many of my course mates at school are talking about graduate jobs. I do not see that as an option for me. I have obviously worked for many years. I started working at the age of 16 (part time at that age) and have worked since then (apart from the few years I took off when I had my 2 older kids). Most often I did two jobs as one simply wouldn’t cover the bills. Most of these jobs were service jobs and jobs at kindergartens. I believe that experience should help me when in comes to my future career as once you have worked in service you have dealt with people from all classes and with all sorts of needs and preferences. Even the kindergarten job and being a mum must have prepared me as it involves a LOT of communication and at times clever negotiations. One has to be resourceful and tailor messages according to the audience!

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The other and maybe more obvious reason why I cannot really picture myself doing a graduate job is the fact I simply can’t afford it! I have a family of five, soon to be six, and the main reason I went through university at this (st)age in my life was to be able to leave the struggle behind, along with having to do two jobs and being treated like a doormat, as I wasn’t high enough in the chain.

We are hoping to stay in Leeds as we like it here and we can have a better standard of living here than in Iceland. According to my teacher in Iceland practitioners in Public Relations get a very decent pay, however, my fiancée will always be “a foreigner” in Iceland. He is from the UK and he does not have an education. However, he has years of experience which doesn’t seem to get him anywhere back home. While we lived in Iceland, he did long night shifts in service jobs where the pay far from covered the bills, it took student loans and me doing two part time jobs to be able to get by. On top of that we had to share housing with other people as rent is really expensive in Iceland. You do what you need to do but we both agree that giving our age and family size we like it things as they are now, just us, living together as a family. Over here he has a good job he likes and that actually pays the bills.

So, what initially was a temporary move to a foreign country to study something I couldn’t master back home might become a more permanent arrangement.

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Iceland what is going on? Is it time for another demonstration?

Since I have started my studies in the UK I have been meaning to follow English media. I am what one might call a media junky.

However, the main media I follow is Icelandic media and throughout the day. I read through the main media sites and then open other sites if they appear on any of my social media and I consider the articles or video clips interesting.

As I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations it is important for me to be on top of what is happening in the country I am studying in, the UK.

But the headlines and news from Iceland have just been so outrageous, sometimes funny, other times tragicomical and most of the time unbelievable.

Mayhem at the Mayors office

In Reykjavík there is an old barracks which was built in the second world war. The city of Reykjavík decided to take it under renovations and for that job the city had an estimated cost. The job is far from finished but the cost has already exceeded the budget by more than a whopping 1,5 million pounds.

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Sure, it is costly to renovate an old building but now that the invoices from the project have been published in the media people are outraged. One of the things the public in Reykjavík is paying for are imported straws from Denmark! The price tag on these copyrighted Danish straws is 4800 pounds. My friend who is a lawyer says one can apparently not get a copyright on straws. Even more shocking is the fact that these straws do actually grow in Iceland and therefore there is no need to import them from another country.

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A pictures of the straws in question

Cost of building a bar in the barracks was 16100 pounds, included are none of the appliances needed for the bar like coffee machine, beer pumps etc.

Bragginn Bistro nauthólsvík bar
A picture of the bar

Many of the invoices that have been published have raised more questions than they have answered.

For a number of days the Mayor of Iceland did not respond to medias’ inquiries about the matter. That is not a new story though as when a sewerage pumping station, which has the role of cleaning the sewerage before pumping it into the ocean broke down it was the same. The coast line in Reykjavík was contaminated with sewage for a few weeks and the Mayor avoided speaking to the media, which made people even angrier and come up with different hypothesis of why that was the case.

Conveniently a guy that has now left his position at the city of Reykjavík has claimed to be responsible for how badly the estimate exceeded the actual cost. Some people wonder what he got in return for that confession.

A bakery in the north of Iceland saw a window of opportunity in all this chaos as it has sold cakes called Bragginn (the barracks) for almost 50 years.

Braggakaka
The original cake

Due to all the media coverage on the barracks case the bakery made a special edition of the original barracks cake which has been sold in bulk, sales increased by more than 10-fold. The bakeries spokesperson even went to the town hall and handed a few cakes to the city council.

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The new and improved cake, surrounded by straws

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The city council with their cakes

Minister of Justice that doesn’t trust the Justice System

The current Minister of Justice Sigríður Á Andersen has been fighting her own justice system. When she had to appoint new judges at one of the Icelandic courts she got a list from a committee that had evaluated the applicants for the positions. When it came to appointing judges for the roles she disregarded 4 applicants that had been evaluated as qualified for the positions. Instead, she hired her former co-workers. The Supreme Court has ruled on the matter and declared that the Minister of Justice had in fact broke laws when she did so. The government (and thereby the Icelandic public) had to pay the compensation that the qualified applicants got for being mistreated like that. She is still firm in her belief that her actions were not illegal nor unethical.

"So what makes you think you're the right person for this post?"  "Well, I'm highly motivated, outgoing and independently minded.  Isn't that right, Dad?"

The same Minister knew about the declaration of rehabilitation of a sentenced child molester. The declaration was made by the father of the then sitting Prime Minister, now Minister of Finance and Economics. When this hit the papers in Iceland there were such powerful demonstrations the government had to step down and call for elections.

The Minister does not think there should be a law regarding a gender quota in each company as she thinks the government shouldn’t intervene in matters like that, it should be each companies own decision. This quota was legalised to try to close the gender gap when it comes to wages. One should not be surprised though as she claims there is not a measurable difference in wages between the genders, even though it has been proven.

When it was 100 years from Icelandic women getting the right to vote the parliament came together for a celebration meeting. The day is called the “Day of Women Rights”. In this meeting the parliament voted in favour of forming a fund to support gender equality. The Minister of Justice was the only one that voted against the proposal.

The Teflon-Man

The current Minister of Finance and Economics and former Prime Minister (Bjarni Ben) has been involved in a lot of controversy. For some reason he is still going strong.

One of the first things that came to the publics attention was when the Ashley Madisson leak occurred. He was there under the name “IceHot1”. The description he posted there was the following:

 „Its about being interested in a nice looking woman, wanting to have an intelligent and fun conversation and good…very good sex. Im not from the States but do travel quite often.“

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He and his wife made a statement and said they had made the account together for curiosity sake.

A company called Valdís, which makes ice-creams used the opportunity and put an ice-cream on the market called “IceHot1”. It was made with white chocolate and chilli.

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The IceHot1 ice-cream

This is not the only leak that the Ministers name has come up in as he appeared in the Panama papers. He brushed that off like any other scandal that he has been involved in.

As mentioned before he had to step down and call for elections when his father was involved in clearing a child molesters name, as he knew about it but didn’t see it as something he had to share with anyone.

Leading up to the financial crisis he got involved in insider trading. He had information from a bank manager on where everything was heading and used the information and sold his shares. He sold them for 763.000 pounds. Around the same time his father and uncle sold their shares as well. Just before the last elections the media got information about these insider trading and stated covering the story. Quickly there was an injunction on them so it was prohibited to cover the story. After the election a higher court ruled that the injunction should be lifted, by that time he was back in power.

The International Monetary Fund has made serious comments on the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority. They have stressed their concerns as this is the body that should make decisions on things like whether the Minister should be prosecuted for his actions. The problem is that the committee is appointed by the Minister himself and the IMF concludes that therefore, it is not independent enough to make unbiased decisions.

He has claimed that people that say there isn’t an economic boom that benefits the majority are crazy and that people that are struggling are financially illiterate.

For some reason no matter whether his practices are illegal or unethical, nothing seems to stick which has caused him to be nick-named The Teflon-man.

Pub banter recorded

The most recent scandal appeared in the media less than two days ago. Six members of the Parliament from two different parties were recorded while drinking at a bar close to the Parliament, while they should be at work. The whole scandal has been given the name #klausturgate on social media, referring to the Watergate scandal.

The 6 MP’s were unaware that another guest at the bar was recording their conversation. The guest claims he couldn’t believe what he was hearing and concurred they were relevant to the public of Iceland. He recorded almost 4 hours of what the MP’s have disregarded as banter. He says the MP’s thought he was a foreign tourist.

They made homophobic jokes, made fun of a former MP and her disabilities, called women degrading names and talked about shady goings on when it comes to appointing ambassadors abroad.

Some of the remarks they made were for an example:

“Who’s that bi***? Fuck that bi***!” About another MP.

“She’s a cu** that cried her way into the parliament” About yet another MP.

Made the sound of a seal when talking about the former disabled MP.

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“Now I am going to say something really dirty. She’s young but starting to age quickly. She’s a lot less hot than she was 4 years ago”. “From a distance she’s really hot but….” About the Mayor of Vestmannaeyjar.

“Welcome to politics!” Said by one of the MP’s to another whilst trying to persuade him to jump ship and join his party.

“You have this absolutely crazy cu** as a leader!”. “She’s fu***** crazy”. About another MP, in fact the leader of the party that two of the MP’s at the bar are members of.

“He got through it like butter on Friðrik’s Ómars condom”. Friðrik Ómar is a gay Icelandic musician.

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The musician made fun of remarks on social media

One of the members has received awards from UN’s HeForShe while on the recording he shows a disrespectful attitude towards women.

Two of the MP’s are taking a temporary leave. Two have been fired by their party but they are still going to sit in the Parliament. To begin with they disregarded this as drinking banter and focused on the fact they were being recorded without permission and one of them even claimed they had probably been bugged by George Soros.

The pub where the conversation took place has posted a picture on social media with the caption: “ABSOLOUTLY CRAZY Christmas punch throughout December! CRAZY Christmas atmosphere and cosiness. Pop in at Klaustur, the worst kept secret in Reykjavík”

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The pubs post on social media

Another company has made wall stickers that say: “Welcome to politics!”

Yet another pub posted the following on their social media: “We are open today at 16:00 and close at 01:00. Enjoy having a good beer in a good and calm atmosphere. Talking behind peoples back and wiring equipment’s are completely forbidden at Ölstofan!!!”  

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Ölstofan’s post on social media

People are voicing their discontent

Due to all this turbulence and unbelievable news lately, I just haven’t been able to take my eyes of Icelandic media. I will keep a close eye on it for a while longer as a demonstration has been planned and will take place tomorrow on Iceland’s 100 year birthday of Sovereignty. Has the public had enough? Will Icelanders see the 3rd parliamentary elections in as many years?

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Blogging: Investment? Diversion? Maybe both?

Why am I blogging? Why do I take the time and sit down each week and share the things I write on this platform?

Well, I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and one of my teachers posted a thing on Facebook about a blog competition for PR students in the UK. I looked at this post and thought to myself “That might be fun!”. As I talked about last week I have always enjoyed writing, however, as I have also talked about before I am the queen of self-doubt and therefore I started telling myself I would probably not have enough to talk about and that little old me had no business entering a COMPETITION, let alone one where I had to write in English! Therefore, I put it aside but kept wondering.

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A few weeks later I asked my teacher to send me the details about the competition again, so I could have a better look at it. Somewhere I had read that having a blog as a future PR practitioner would be like being a designer and having a folder with his/her work in it, it could be my portfolio. That sounded less scary, I wasn’t doing it to win but to practice and make a portfolio (one that became a lot more personal than I realised it would be when I started).

When I looked at the details about the competition, I saw a post from Orlagh, who won last year. She described how she did it and it was quite inspiring. I decided to enter. Just for myself of course. No one would notice. I would practice. I could always delete it all later anyway. If, to my surprise, it would be any good at the end I would have a decent portfolio.

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The search for content

My biggest worry was concerning the content. I was sure I would run out of things to write about. To my surprise things kept coming to me, sometimes while having a conversation with people, sometimes while sitting on the bus in peace and quiet, often when my head hit the pillow at night and even sometimes while cooking for my family. Each time an idea popped up I pulled out my phone and made notes, a few sentences or words I could revisit when the time came to sit down again and write a new post. I keep adding to the notes, but only once have I had to look to them for material.

Most of the time something is pending and takes over and rather than looking at my notes. I think about it for a while, I let it brew. When I did group assignments while doing my bachelors I often worked with a friend I got to know at the university. The two of us would then add people to our team as needed for each assignment. After meeting up with a group I would go silent for a little while, for  a few days I wouldn’t say much to the group. When other group members would ask my friend what was going on with me and whether we shouldn’t start putting thing on paper he would always tell them to stay calm and not to misjudge my brewing time. He knew how I worked. I would then have articulated my thoughts and would sit down and write like the wind (if the wind could write that is!).

My first blog post for the competition was about myself. I was so new at this that I wasn’t even sure how to use the PRstudent hashtag to make sure the post would find its way into the competition. Therefore, I emailed the editor at PR Place and told him I had entered. He had seen my blog before he saw my email and encouraged me to keep going.

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Since then I have blogged about myself and things I believe can either come in handy for other people, help, or inspire them. I have also written about PR. My blog took on a life of its own. All of a sudden, I was sharing a lot more about myself than I had planned to but the thing is, when I entered, I decided to be authentic and true to myself as if I would try to be someone else it would come across fake and at some point I would be bound to contradict “my-alter-web-ego”.

How it spreads

Once I started posting I had to post it on Twitter, a media I am not used to using, but as soon as I did that I was sharing it with anyone following the PRstudent hashtag.

Then I thought to myself, if this is my “portfolio” I should probably share it on LinkedIn. So I did.

I haven’t shared it on Facebook yet. There are two main reasons for that. One, I am curious to see how big of a crowd I can reach without it being my friends and family. Two, I like being “unknown”, to simply be me and not someone I feel like I should be as we all have certain roles when it comes to the people around us.

With these few actions I have had more reactions to my blog than I would have imagined. For an established blogger my numbers are far from impressive but for someone that started with no one knowing who I was and thinking I would be talking to myself I am quite impressed with myself!

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Ok, these numbers are not huge, I know! But they are all I need, for now anyway. I am being noticed and people from countries all over the world are stumbling onto my blog. I know the PRstudent hashtag has a lot to do with that. That is great! It is a great way to get known and to build a network.

Since I started blogging, I have been approached by Richard Bailey, the editor of PR Place, who asked me to come to Leeds Beckett University and speak to his PR students. Once I got there he asked me about personal branding and blogging in general. It was so much fun! And I learned so much by doing this. Can you imagine, I didn’t even realise until put on the spot in front of these students that that was exactly what I am doing?! As I am a fairly quick thinker, I could still inform them about me and my personal branding!

I emailed the girl that did the talk I blogged about earlier. I told her that she had inspired me to write and therefore I wanted to let her know there was a blog out there partly about her. I also admitted to having stolen a picture on the internet to link to the post and that I hoped that was alright. She emailed me back. She liked my post and said, she in return thought I was inspiring and that my story needed to be heard and asked if she could share my post on her media. I was overwhelmed. She’s a big influencer. I knew as soon as she had shared it as the number of visitors on my blog spiked, and I had not just released a new post.

I have followers on Twitter I didn’t have before I started blogging (I now feel a bit of pressure to become more active on Twitter) and I have professionals looking at my LinkedIn profile.

All of this amazes and brings me joy.

What about the ROI?

Richard Bailey challenged the PRstudents in the competition to look at data and told us to connect with our inner geek (my inner geek loves words but makes little sense with numbers).

I still took his advice and looked at the analytics on my Twitter account:

Twitter

Pretty impressive right? As I was almost none-existent on Twitter before the competition it is probably not a surprise, but it still looks good!

But having said that I have to admit I had to google the term ROI while I worked on this challenge. If there is anyone out there as ignorant as me it means: “Return On Investment” and Wikipedia explains it as following: “it is a ratio between the net profit and cost of investment resulting from an investment of some resources. A high ROI means the investment’s gains favourably to its cost”. So, if I understand it correctly it basically boils down to whether what you are doing is actually worth it. Regardless of data and numbers my personal answer is YES!

The reason is simple and came to me while having a conversation with a fellow student at Leeds University. She told me she didn’t understand how I had time to do it all. Study, run a family, host visitors regularly from Iceland AND blog. I hadn’t really given it a thought but as I spoke to her, I realised how much it gives me back. I told her it was not about BEING ABLE to manage, it HELPED me manage. With all the things I have to do and think about each day, these 2 – 3 hours I take every week to sit down, alone, maybe a glass of rosé by my side and a few candles are my meditation. They bring me back to myself in all the clutter I manage every day, week and month of the year. I enjoy writing. It is my me-time. I have always meant to write more but never given myself the time to do it, always used the excuse “I will do it when things calm down”.

When you lead a busy life, when things are hectic there is never more of a need than to sit down and meditate. I am a very impatient person, so the typical way of meditating doesn’t really agree with me as I start wondering how far into my 10 minutes of breathing in and out I am, but this I CAN do. This is how I bring myself together and channel myself. Being a part of the PRstudent competition gives me the framework and discipline to actually do that, follow through and take the time to sit down.

So, all in all, my numbers are up, I am being noticed, I am making a network but last and not least I am getting rewarded by the satisfaction of doing something I enjoy and helps me focus.

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What is the worth of a good reputation?

“If I was a CEO I would never pay my PR practitioner less than my lawyer, I would pay him even more!”

These words came from a friend of mine back in Iceland. She’s a law student, a mother and works as a team leader in a big production plant in Iceland.

As many people don’t really understand what it is a PR practitioner does they don’t understand the value they bring to a company. It can be hard to measure the financial value they actually bring, however, when a company doesn’t have someone to integrate their communication and respond professionally when a crisis hits, they can really feel the impact of not having someone trained in the profession at hand.

When I conducted my interviews with the PR practitioners in Iceland for my dissertation it blew me away how varied their job was. They were training CEO’s and spokespeople in how to speak in public, at interviews etc. and how to react when facing challenging questions. They were writing news releases, they were planning social gatherings for their costumers’ clients as even though they are not event planners as such. The whole look and execution of events has to echo the message they’re trying to send out.

An example of someone who would have benefited from some PR training is Barilla’s chairman in 2013 when he said on Italian radio: “I would never do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. []. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. If [gays] don’t like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

Barilla’s slogan: “Where there is Barilla, there is a home” Became a target for a play on words for those offended by the comment. Posts like: “Where there is my home, there is no Barilla” and “Where there is Barilla, there is homophobia” surfaced on social media.

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One person commented this on the company’s Facebook site: “I’m Italian, I’m gay, I’m married legally to a man, I have three adopted children. I had Barilla pasta for dinner last night. Today, tomorrow and forever more I will choose another brand of pasta. Good bye Barilla! You lose!”

My brother is gay. He made sure I knew about this. Therefore, it’s safe to say it hit the company at a larger scale than “only” through its gay customers. People conscious of human rights also boycotted their products.

2 months after the comments Barilla pasta was on 25% discount in the main supermarkets in my home country, Iceland.  However, it is hard to find evidence of how hard the comments actually hit the company as its privately owned and didn’t reveal how the boycott hit their sales figures. But it’s not only sales figures one has to consider, it also has to do with the brand and the brands reputation.

Barilla did bounce back and learned from their mistakes. Only a year later they featured a gay couple in an advert, they were donating money for gay rights causes and expanding health benefits for transgender workers and their families. All very positive, however good news seem to travel slower than bad news and until I started researching the case further for this blog post I hadn’t heard about this turnaround. I only heard the negative news back in 2013.

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Another company that could have hugely benefited from having integrated communication plan is United Airlines. This is a case I covered in my dissertation as it shows how by not responding a relatively minor event can spiral into something huge.

What happened was that the musician Dave Carroll and his band flew with United Airlines. When arriving at their destination he noticed that airport staff unloading the plane threw bags between them, including the bands instruments. Once Dave got his Taylor guitar he discovered the neck was broken. For 9 months he tried contacting the airline to get some compensation, he tried many different ways of communicating with them but had no luck. After getting nowhere he wrote the song “United breaks guitars”. He uploaded the song onto YouTube and when this is written it has been watched 18 million times. He wrote two more songs about his experience and went onto radio and TV to talk about his experience. On YouTube people have written comments about the songs and their own experiences with the airline.

( You can see the video here )

If the company had responded and shown some empathy, things wouldn’t have had to go this far but with social media and power of the masses things can quickly spiral out of control.

In both cases there are other companies however that seem to be quick to realize opportunities, companies that are indirectly connected to the crisis in question.

Barilla’s competitors Bertolli Germany responded to Barilla’s crisis by publishing an advert which they had published 2 years prior, which featured a gay couple. They also posted a picture with the caption: “Pasta and love for all” on their Facebook site.

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While United Airlines didn’t seem to realize how important it was to respond to their customers’ needs Taylor guitars did, even though they weren’t prompted. They compensated him by giving him a new guitar and they uploaded videos onto YouTube about their repair services and on how to travel safely with their guitars.

This shows that having a communication/marketing team on their toes can hugely benefit a company as they will seize the moment and grab the chance of positive publicity when it presents itself. As these two examples show, it doesn’t even have to be expensive, just seen and acted upon!

So, going back to the beginning of this post, I believe my friend hit the nail on the head.

A good PR practitioner is worth their weight in gold. If they listen to the market, are responsive, creative and on point they can in many cases avoid major upheaval. At the very least respond to it in the most efficient way. They will also be able to spot potential opportunities when a crisis hits someone else.

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