Hanif Leylabi #socialstudent

Appearing in Behind the Spin’s #socialstudent list for a phenomenal 18 out of the 19 weeks, Hanif Leylabi was ranked #1 for 16 of those weeks. Hanif is from Newcastle and currently studying a Masters in PR at the University of Sunderland after graduating with a BA in Politics and Parlimentary Studies from the University of Leeds, where he also completed a placement with Love Music, Hate Racism as a Communications Assistant in 2009.

Behind the Spin’s #socialstudent list uses Klout and Peer Index to measure a user’s influence over their social network. But can Klout and Peer Index be trusted to be an accurate measure of your influence?

I think each metric on its own can have its strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately they are always going to be partially subjective and reflect the views of the designers. Is frequency of tweets more important, or is being retweeted more important for example? There isn't always a right answer to these questions. A strength of Klout is that the score changes more in real time, so it's easier to see what is working and what isn't working - though a weakness is that things like birthday messages on Facebook can artificially boost your score. Ultimately making an aggregate of Klout and Peerindex was a good idea, and goes some way to mitigating the subjectivity of individual metrics.

PR has seen a real shift over recent years to digital platforms for example Facebook, Twitter and Blogs. How do you think using these tools affects your career?

PR is all about getting your clients noticed for the right reasons, to the right people, in the right way, and at the right time. That's why I called my own blog 'turning heads'. If you can do this for yourself in terms of promoting your own 'professional brand', then it can give confidence to employers that you can do it for them. Social media is a fantastic way to demonstrate to employers that you know how to communicate messages in relevant way that is appropriate for the platform being used.

And in your opinion, how does social media impact the current PR and Marketing campaigns?

In a word; profoundly. I'd say in three main ways.
1.              It is so much harder to control or manage a message.
2.              Social media has, to some extent, democratised communication, propelling user generated content up the ladder of importance.
3.              It has made organisations more accountable and subject to scrutiny. These changes pose challenges and opportunities for PR and Marketing. A chance for more accurate, integrated and segmented feedback, and a chance for greater scrutiny to drive up ethical standards. 

So why did you want to go into PR?

I had worked for organisations before that had fantastic objectives, dedicated staff, and multiple engaged audiences. But the lack of an effective and professional PR (and marketing) strategy was always a barrier to development. I wanted to be able to bring those skills to an organisation or consultancy and help it grow. 

Do you think a degree is a necessity for people wanting to work in the industry?

I don't think a degree is strictly necessary for PR, especially if people move into the sector later in life. However I do think the ethical grounding that some courses offer give graduates a significant head start. In an age where Social Responsibility comes as standard, and when social media has made scrutiny easier, having an understanding of PR as a concept with an ethical framework will become more important.

Why did you choose to study it at Sunderland?

The University has a reputation for a well resourced and new media centre. The course is also the only MA course in the North East that is approved by the CIPR. These factors made it stand out.

Have you had a notable mentor at any stage?

All of the tutors I have had have been really easy to talk to and incredibly helpful, especially when it has come to preparing ourselves for being in the PR job market. 

What has been your favourite module so far?

I've enjoyed the social media module the most. It's something I'm very interested in and something that is always evolving. There are so many platforms and analytics out there, along with huge opportunities for organisations to exploit in terms of bettering their communications. It's also been refreshing to be assessed on something like a blog, which feels relevant to what I will be doing in the workplace.

Where did you complete your placement?

I completed a placement in London during my undergrad that was basically a PR role. The best thing about it was having real responsibility for communicating with the media, updating the membership databases, and publicising events. It was hard work, and often took up weekends as well, but it was fantastic experience and it is what opened my eyes to doing an MA in PR.                    4/5

What are you planning on doing after university in such a tough market for jobs – which sector do you see yourself going into

Well I have an interview for a paid internship coming up soon, so fingers crossed for that! I will continue to try and meet new people in the region, especially in the CIPR. I'm very open-minded in terms of the sectors I'm interested in. Third sector, public sector, multi sector consultancies, they all appeal!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Ideally a few years into a great PR career - living to work rather than working to live! Hopefully I will have worked out whether consultancy or in-house feels better, or I'd have had a great opportunity that will have made that decision easier. And constantly learning - I very much want to continue my development. In a sector like PR, if you don't have this approach you will get left behind.

What is your favourite campaign?

I really like the Barnardos Silver Spoon Campaign. I'm not convinced shock tactics always work, especially in the third sector, and this campaign did get a lot of complaints. But I think it made people ask a very fundamental question about young people with various problems. Why? And I think even in the media coverage of the complaints, they managed to get this message across. 

Top tips for students:

1. Don't be shy. Ask your tutors for help and advice, and ask employers for work experience. 
2. Hit the ground running. If you're not sure about social media, or blogs, start learning as soon as you can.
3. Don't worry if you feel you are out of your depth in some aspects of PR. Nobody knows it all!

Check out Hanif on Twitter @hanifleylabi and his blog to discover just what makes him a #socialstudent.

Jessica North

Author & Editor

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