Meet Ben O’Connell

Home » Student Stories » Meet Ben O’Connell

Ben is the External communications and marketing manager at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and a CIPR Professional PR Diploma (L7) graduate.

Why did you choose this CIPR qualification? 

Having moved to a communications role following a 10-year career in local journalism, I chose to study the CIPR Diploma in PR to develop my skills and ensure I had a solid grounding in PR and communications to go along with the expertise I brought from my previous role. Media and community relations were my bread and butter, but of course, PR and communications is about so much more than that, particularly now.

How has studying with nesma helped you in your career? 

The studying process was good in helping me achieve that goal of enhancing my skillset and thinking more deeply about how I went about my role, but I also really enjoyed the interaction with both the tutors and my fellow students. It was positive to share experiences and discuss issues with fellow communicators in different roles and sectors.

What did you enjoy most about studying with us? 

Completing the CIPR Diploma in PR has given me more confidence in my interactions with others to share my professional expertise, develop plans and make recommendations about how to proceed from a PR and communications point of view. I am more comfortable in my day-to-day decision-making, knowing that my instincts have a solid grounding. I have also taken the knowledge and learning that I gained from the qualification and shared it with colleagues in the communications team wherever possible, not least through trying to drive a more systematic and strategic approach to planning, managing and evaluating our campaigns.

What words of advice would you give anyone considering a career in marketing/PR? 

My main advice to anyone considering a career in PR/comms is, to do it! I have no regrets about my career change and love the variety I have in my day-to-day work now. My other advice is to take learning and professional development seriously – PR sometimes has a bad reputation, but if those who work in the industry are as professional as possible, then that can help counter it.

What are the significant changes within your industry at present? 

The NHS is facing a turbulent time at the moment, with public perception at record lows and media coverage at a national level often overwhelmingly negative – a far cry from the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. PR has a key role to play in maintaining confidence in the services we provide among patients, staff and other stakeholders, providing assurance to our communities through positive communications that often run counter to the national narrative.

Studying the CIPR Professional PR Diploma will enhance your skill set as well as industry knowledge. It’s a masters level equivalent qualification which will help you take a strategic approach to PR and prepare you to lead at board level.