BA (Hons) Public Relations student Dom Stephens is about to complete his placement year with the RNLI. He shares his placement story…
"This programme is designed to give you the best chance of employability upon graduation - so make use of it. Showing initiative and interest can only help you progress and get noticed."
What was your placement?
My role was the Communications Student Placement in the PR/Newsdesk Team at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea by providing a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service, seasonal lifeguards, water safety education and initiatives, and flood rescue response.
What made you want to undertake a placement? Why that particular role and organisation?
The Public Relations degree at BU is one of the few courses where a year's placement is mandatory, and that's one of the reasons why I chose it over other universities. I was initially applying for London-based TV/Film-related placements, but also applied to the RNLI and I’m so glad I did.
I’ve ended up probably doing more projects involving broadcasting aspects and production companies than I would have done in a media-based placement. I’ve also made (written, directed and co-starred in) training films which will be shown to Lifeboat Press Officers all over the UK.
What sort of roles and responsibilities did you have during your placement?
Every day has been a mixture of answering phones and organising interviews on short notice as well as planning, researching and pitching larger projects.
What was the best thing about the placement? What are you most proud of having achieved?
The best thing about this placement has been the variety, quantity and quality of opportunities.
There have been so many amazing aspects to this year - I've driven a £2m lifeboat, written statements and quotes for the Chief Executive, and organised a 50th anniversary remembrance event of a dramatic rescue for survivors and their families. This was also pitched to, filmed and aired on the One Show.
However, I think I'm probably most proud of how I got a RNLI crewmember to be featured on NBC Universal Channel’s series of idents (adverts for the channel), broadcast to the nation multiple times a day.
As a big fan of Law and Order, when I got a call from Universal Channel wanting to feature an inspiring crewmember to represent their channel’s slogan of ‘100% Character’, I really pursued it.
I sought out potential crewmembers from our databases, got in contact with half a dozen, pitched them to the casting director (who pitched to NBC), liaised between the chosen subject – Lorraine Galvin – and the casting director and organised all of the filming with help from the RNLI’s Irish Press Officers.
It’s amazing feeling to be home on a Saturday, watching an episode of New York’s finest fighting for justice, hear the famous ‘Duh-Duh’ sound, it cut to an advert break and see the touching film of Lorraine and her RNLI heroics that I know I had a hand in creating.
What did you learn through completing the placement? Do you think it will help you with the rest of your degree and, ultimately, your career?
The first thing is confidence. I’d never worked in an office before, and would always prefer to email than phone. Within a few months, I found myself perfectly happy to pitch stories to major news outlets over the phone (and have done to AP, Guardian, BBC, ITV and several others successfully!)
I also tried to get help in honing skills I was interested in developing. For example, knowing that I'll have a module on Campaign Planning in my final year, I asked to spend a fortnight with the Campaigns PR Team learning what stages, opportunities and pitfalls I should look out for. Similarly, I've learned gained experience running events, writing press releases and pitching articles confidently.
I'm also interested in pursuing speechwriting as a possible career path and so organised a meeting with the RNLI's main speechwriter, who's written for royalty and the Chief Executive, to learn as much about the process as I could. (On his recommendation, I've now become a member of the European Speechwriters’ Network.)
Also, because of my deep interest in politics, I managed to meet the RNLI’s Public Affairs Manager and was invited to accompany her on a visit to Parliament. Over the course of the day, I toured the Houses of Parliament, visited the Department of Health, and met several parliamentary aides. Having always wanted to work in politics, this experience has made be very keen to work as a parliamentary assistant and I’m looking forward to applying for such a role upon graduation from Bournemouth.
What advice would you give to any BU students who are looking for a placement or about to start?
Firstly, don't fix your sights solely on one location. Remain open to possibilities. I was determined to have a placement in London and almost didn’t apply to the RNLI, which is based in Poole, for that reason. But I’m so glad I did as it's turned into probably the best, most varied and valuable placement experience I could have asked for!
Secondly, make sure you can leave your placement thinking 'I got the most I could possibly get out of that'. This programme is designed to give you the best chance of employability upon graduation - so make use of it. Showing initiative and interest can only help you progress and get noticed.