Veronica recently had a chat to Laurel Hetherington to celebrate her career in PR for Northern Insight Magazine.
Laurel is well-known across the PR and marketing comms scene in the North East and has been instrumental in developing nesma’s CIPR students at every level of their career development. With so much experience she is a PR powerhouse and inspires everyone she teaches.
You’ve run your own business as consultant training PR professionals and in-house teams, a university lecturer and tutor for nesma. What do you enjoy most about teaching, and what do you hope your students take away with them?
I was the PR student from hell and thought I could do better, so I’ve always looked at any course I deliver from the perspective of how would I feel if I were an attendee; would it interest, excite and challenge me? Confidence is an important factor too, once people understand how things fit together, it gives them a significant boost.
It must be great to be in a position where your reputation goes before you! What have been the most rewarding elements personally of your career?
Seeing my former students progress onwards and upwards, and then send their own staff onto courses I’m involved with because they know they will return to work engaged and motivated. Two Fellowships were very pleasing, but most satisfying was to be appointed as one of the CIPR’s 70 @ 70 in 2018 for outstanding contribution to PR education and training.
What do you think have been the most significant changes in PR and communications?
Originally a lot of my training was media relations based, now the emphasis is on strategy and using research to set SMART objectives. When people can see the links between these, the budget, and then how to measure and evaluate it is often like watching a light switch on – then I know I have really succeeded. I have two PhD students at Newcastle University to supervise until they finish their PR theses – unimaginable when I first started out.
How significant has good communication been during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Communication has been key throughout the pandemic, but unfortunately, not all of it has been good! Like many others, I have sat and watched interviews and statements, U-Turns and protests and often cringed. Interestingly all of the nesma CIPR students continued working for their organisations throughout as well as continuing their studies.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of PR and communications as a career?
Practise what you hope to preach! So start blogging, volunteer to help promote a cause close to your heart, be an avid media consumer (and not just in your own social bubble) and get a qualification – either at university or through CIPR workshops and training. This means you have more choices in your career options.
Marketing and communications is a vibrant, ever-changing discipline. To be successful you need to be engaged in continuous professional development. But, finding the best source of learning can be a challenge. If you are considering starting a CIPR qualification this autumn nesma’s tutors are always available to shed light on the courses they teach and their relevance to your career.
Anne-Marie Lacey, Chair of CIPR North East, Managing Director at Filament PR, CIPR Fellow and Chartered Practitioner has known Laurel for many years and says.
Laurel is like my PR Mum – she’s taught me pretty much everything I know from being a post-grad student to volunteering with the CIPR to running my own business – she’s always looked out for me and helped to keep me on the right track with my career.
Take a look at the CIPR qualifications you can study with nesma here.