Samantha Martin: English and Communication Studies

Tell us a little bit about the role you do now.  

I am Deputy Head of Media Relations at the University of York. I am responsible for delivering positive media coverage to enhance the profile of the University and specifically its research, teaching and the student experience by showcasing the University’s strengths to a national and international audience. I have a particular role to play in developing media strategies for large research projects and making sure that journalists are speaking to the right experts on breaking news stories.  

How did you get into it?  

I did a lot of work experience whilst I was at University, mostly on the campus itself, and this gave me the knowledge I needed to pursue a career that was suited to my interests and skillset. Whilst doing a PR internship with the Reader Organisation and working with the University’s Student Newspaper, I made contacts with the University’s Press Office, and this helped me secure a summer job with them after graduation. I was in the right place at the right time, when a role became  vacant in the team. I started as Assistant Press Officer and over the years I worked my way up to Press Officer, Senior Press Officer, Media Relations Manager and then Head of PR, which was a much broader role looking at both internal and external communications. The experience I gained working on international PR projects at Liverpool was one of the reasons I was able to make the move to York and back to media relations, to a role that had a particular international focus.  

How have you used your degree?  

I studied English and Communications at Liverpool and I certainly wouldn’t have got into the career that I did without it.  It gave me an analytical mind and the ability to research topics in-depth, all of which are crucial for the job that I do now.  Being part of the campus community allowed me to make valuable contacts, use the careers service for advice, and get work experience without having to go outside the University itself. I was a sub-editor on the student newspaper, a PR assistant at the Reader Organisation (which was based on campus at the time), and got a summer job in the University’s communications team. All of these things enhanced my CV and ensured that I was focused in my field of interest.  

What are your top tips for students wanting to work in your field?  

I would definitely advise getting to know the opportunities that are available to you on campus. Getting work experience with external organisations in the city is a great thing to do, but can be highly competitive and not always complimentary to your study commitments. For me getting involved with the student newspaper and the student’s union really helped me learn about what I was interested in and what I was good at. The University is also very well connected with other organisations, so speak to your tutors to see who they know, as they can provide you with some great contacts.  

I would also advise looking at post-graduate professionally accredited programmes. After I graduated I studied for the National Certificate for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) to ensure that my news writing skills were of industry standard.