Students at the University of Chester were given the opportunity to quiz the managing director of a PR agency on what crisis comms looks like at the coalface, and the skills they need for the world of work as they prepare to graduate.

Anthony Bullick of Outwrite PR spoke to an online forum of third year students on the university’s marketing course about online reputation management and how brands can’t always control the narrative, as well as offering advice on what soft skills they’ll need to land that first job.

Anthony said: “As they approach the end of a long period of study, it’s heartening to see so many still willing and eager to learn as they approach putting everything into practice.

“Taking on communications for a client during a crisis scenario requires a great deal of trust, which is built on soft and hard skills alike.

“Employers will be able to see very quickly that you can put together a press release, edit a video or plan a social media campaign but being able to get on the phone and be as comfortable talking to the chief executive as you would be talking to a new starter straight from school is in many ways just as important but much harder to demonstrate.

“Those skills are what will get you through an interview, get you that first job and put you in the position to build a successful career in PR.”

Outwrite has been recognised for its work in crisis communications, winning gold in the best issues, crisis or reputational campaign category at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ (CIPR) PRide North West awards in 2017.

The specialism has changed beyond recognition in the past decade, with social media meaning brands can no longer control a narrative in the same way.

Anthony added: “The golden hour PR agencies once spoke about as the time in which a response is needed has shrunk down to perhaps a golden five minutes, if that.

“However, social media and online marketing tools also offer brands the chance to put credit in the bank, so to speak, without having to rely on media outlets, and it’s important they take the opportunity to do just that by being proactive and starting conversations on their own terms.”

Jane Martin, senior lecturer and leader for the marketing programme at the university, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for our final year students to gain some professional insight into the industry and some of the key skills needed when they embark on their graduate careers.

“The students were really inspired by Anthony’s thought-provoking session and have really benefitted from seeing a different side to PR and communications.”

The presentation was Anthony’s fifth at the University of Chester and latest to an academic audience, having previously given lectures at Bangor University and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The agency’s clients include housing association Grŵp Cynefin, business advisory service The Alternative Board, Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK, and specialist residential care provider Meddyg Care.

The agency specialises in integrated PR and SEO (search engine optimisation), crisis PR, online reputation management and social media training.