Kenneth Murray #socialstudent

Appearing in Behind the Spin’s #socialstudent list with the end ranking of third, Kenneth Murray is the most influential PR student in Scotland. Currently in his third year at Queen Margaret University near Edinburgh, studying Public Relations and Marketing, he has a keen interest in Crisis Communications. Most recently working in political campaigns, he is the Vice Convenor and Former Director of Communications for the SNP Youth. Alongside his studies, he has helped in the Scottish elections and been working for independent groups voluntarily. 

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

The use of these services to measure influence isn't the best. They measure Retweets, likes and unique replies. Kim Kardashian could have an amazing #socialstudent score one week because she posts a picture that offends everyone but folk retweet it and tweet her to tell her she is a disgrace. Now, yes she would be influencing but she wouldn’t be influential. 

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

I feel that social media and blogging help my career a lot. I've learnt much more about the industry since I started tweeting and facebooking around it. I've learnt even more since I started blogging; it works for me as a form of personal PR. I've seen my blog go through several rebrands and change of content due to the reactions I've got from an audience. To me, that seems like PR in action. 

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

It can kill them or make them. You could spend millions on a PR or Marketing campaign only for a few tweets mocking them to spread and for the campaign not to be taken seriously. On the other hand though, it can create a phenomenal response for your brand or client, which in turn works in your favour if done correctly. Social media as a whole has "democratised" Marketing and Public Relations as a TED speaker put it. It's made the working situation easier and more difficult at the same time.

So why did you want to go into PR?

Funny thing is, I didn’t originally want to go into PR. I left school with every intention of studying law but due to family problems I had to take a year out. I decided that in this time I could start an events company. To get a head start in the basic knowledge of this I applied to a number of courses. The events management course was full, so I ended up doing a HND in Advertising and Public Relations at City of Glasgow College. This course was amazing and taught me a lot and developed my passion for the industry. I had run my own business from the age of 14-17 selling t-shirts. I never realised at the time but the stuff I enjoyed doing for my company was in fact the PR and Advertising side.

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

For me, yes. I mean don't get me wrong I hate the fact I need a degree. I learnt much more about PR and the practicalities doing a HND as it is a much more practical course. However the fact remains that many employers in the tough industry, while preaching certain things most likely don't give you a second look unless you have a degree. A degree is for academics but it's sadly become a necessity.

Have you had a notable mentor at any stage?

There are a few people I'd say were notable in their mentoring of me. John Heuston, the head of course at the City of Glasgow College. He was the reason I chose to do the Advertising and PR course in the first place and he helped me think differently about the world. Michelle, another lecturer at City of Glasgow helped me become more analytical in my thinking too.

Have you completed a placement at all?

I've not really done a placement as such. I’m lucky with the experiences I have had but I'm against unpaid internships and organisations that do not feel the minimum wage laws apply to them. I've done a lot of PR work independently for clients ranging from political causes, clubs, sports teams, council groups, music and a few others. I am currently looking for a placement or part time job within PR and Marketing though.

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

I’ve worked a lot in Political Communications but I’m not sure that’s where I’ll stay. I would love to experience some more of Crisis Communications as I love the pressure, but I’m aiming to spend some time working in the states. I guess I’m open-minded at the moment! I just feel that working in different organisations around the world can only add to your skill in PR.
Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, working for a great organisation contributing as best I can. The thought of working in another country in five years time would be fantastic. That's a whole new market and culture to learn about and then pitch to. Imagine the pressure in that! 

What is your favourite campaign?

I have two favourites.

This campaign really speaks to me as I feel it was managed amazingly. It made me see the impact PR can actually have, whether you agree with it or not.

I also love the BP management of their crisis. Even though it was disastrous, it made me really think about the idea of crisis communications as a career and what you can do to hopefully avoid stuff like that happening.

Top Tips for Students

Teach yourself the small practical stuff that matters and read the news. Not just the celebrity stuff, but all of it. You'd be surprised the number of my fellow students who can tell you about Kim Kardashian but don't know what SOPA was or who Anonymous are. These are two massive ideas that are influencing culture just now. 

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

Jessica North

Author & Editor

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