Name: Jane Scott.
Job role: Director of Marketing and Communications.
Employer: Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.
After I finished my undergraduate degree in English Literature and Language, I studied for an MPhil in Publishing Studies to combine my interests in writing, editing and project management. On graduating, I gained a marketing role with a publisher in Edinburgh and, gradually realising that my interests lay with communication and marketing generally rather than publishing per se, I studied for Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications in my free time. I then went on to further marketing and communications roles in the higher education and publishing sectors, joining Queen Margaret University as Director of Marketing and Communications in 2005. In 2009/10, I completed the CIPR Diploma at Queen Margaret. As well as providing me with a well-recognised professional qualification in PR, this let me see the university that I work for from the perspective of a student.
What do I do?
I love the variety of my job. Encompassing Queen Margaret University's flagships of health and rehabilitation, sustainable business, and creativity and culture, my role focuses on promoting the university's research expertise, student recruitment, internal communications, liaison with politicians and policy makers, community relations and fundraising work. In a single day, I might find myself communicating with students via social media, attending a cross-party group on education in the Scottish Parliament, drafting a briefing to staff on developments in Government policy, chairing a community forum on campus and writing to a prospective donor.
What motivates me in this job?
I am proud to be able to contribute to the development of a fast-developing and innovative university that delivers education and research which is immediately relevant to the issues affecting society.
What skills do I need?
I need to be able to explain complex issues simply, so that, for example, the general public can understand what a science-based research project is about. Given that my job – like that of most communications professionals – is pretty broad-ranging, I also need to be able to juggle a number of tasks and prioritise them. Also important to my role is having a thorough understanding of the issues affecting higher education as a whole and of developments in the university's niche areas of expertise. So it helps to be curious, and to have a real interest in current affairs. Above all, I feel strongly that the PR function works best if it's at the heart of the strategic planning process within an organisation. For that reason, I think that it's crucial that PR professionals can think strategically and that they have a good grasp of strategic planning concepts.
What did I gain from my CIPR qualification?
Having worked in PR for some years without a formal qualification, I found the course a great confidence boost. It also forced me to step back from my everyday job and consider new ways of approaching tasks. Perhaps just as valuable was the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others on the course. Keen to learn from others, I focused my dissertation project on the university sector in Scotland. In doing so, I gained some very useful insights on the role of PR in other universities and strengthened my own professional network.
Where do I go next?
Over the years, my role at Queen Margaret University has expanded, which has kept it stimulating. I look forward to what the future brings.
What advice do I have for someone starting out in Public Relations?
Whilst studying, do everything you can to get part-time work that has some connection to public relations. Wherever you work and no matter how junior your role, give it your very best and take advantages of all opportunities to learn new skills. And learn good time management skills – I really do believe that ultimately that is the key to success.