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Carol and Liz's story

Liz Lean PR (LLPR) is a communications firm in Dorset set up by BU PR graduate Liz Willingham (nee Lean). Its offices are often the envy of the people who visit, situated on the Sandbanks Peninsula in Poole with views of the sea on all sides.

Liz is well known in Dorset, it is hard to find someone that hasn’t worked with Liz, or hired her company at some point, but perhaps lesser known is that Liz was one of the first graduates of BU’s PR course when she graduated in 1993, something she remembers fondly: “My year was the very first year of the course. I think PR graduates are just taking over the UK – we were a bit of a rarity and now they just seem to be all over! I learned loads from the course and it’s created a great career for me, so happy days!”

The company has been going for 18 years, but it was never Liz’s original intention. She explained: “I had no intention of setting up a business at all, it just evolved and I was very fortunate that we were in the right place at the right time and it just grew and grew. Clients found us, the reputation was rolled out and I think being one of the first graduates in PR really did set me up for creating a business and having a great career before that in agencies and in-house – working with the charity sector as well as the commercial sector, so I’ve had a really good broad base in my background. And now I run a business and employ a team of graduates, not just PR graduates but communications, marketing… all sorts!”

One such graduate is Carol Middleton, also a graduate of BU’s PR course in 2000 and has also been integral in Liz Lean PR’s success. Liz continued: “Carol was literally my very first full-time recruit, who joined at the same time as another individual who stayed with us for a good five or six years. Carol’s been with me now for 13 years so it’s been great to be able to extend the family from BU and bring more into the team full-time.”

Carol said of her role at LLPR: “When I graduated in 2000 I went back to my home county of Hertfordshire and worked in-house for the Dixons Group, but through getting to know Dorset from my time at Bournemouth University the location drew me back! I got into the water sports scene and wanted to relocate to the area and was lucky to find a role with a PR agency in Poole – in Sandbanks!! It was good to join Liz at a time when she wanted to expand the business. To be one of her first recruits was amazing.”

As LLPR has grown, its affiliation to BU has remained and the team often bump into BU graduates in their line of work. Carol said: “We’ve got several BU graduates on the Liz Lean PR team now, which is great!” Liz agreed, adding: “Often, we find that our clients are also BU graduates.”

So if you wanted to follow in the footsteps of Liz and Carol into a career in PR, what would you need? Liz outlined what she sees in BU graduates saying: “BU graduates have knowledge of the area that is always really useful. We try and recruit DNA that’s going to fit with us as a team, and personality wise, there’s a DNA we seem to get with BU graduates, there’s a real can do attitude - they’ll get their hands dirty and get stuck in – I’d say that’s probably the biggest trait.”

The placement opportunity that Bournemouth University students get is often a vital step in securing a job after university, as Carol can attest to: “I think the placement year was critical in gaining experience, actually using the skills learnt on the course and getting to know the industry by working in it – it was a really important part of the degree and one of the reasons why I chose it.”

This is also backed up by Liz who, as an employer, offered this advice to current BU students: “Get as much experience as you can! Don’t think that any job is beneath you. Get out there, meet people, and network. Offer to do some work for nothing if necessary because it will endear you – if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes.”

Liz Lean PR is going from strength to strength in the communication world, growing from a media relations company to offer a range of marketing and communications skills to its clients.  Recently it has opened an office in London’s Marble Arch where the team meet clients as the business expands. Liz concluded: “We’re very proud to be Dorset-based and we’re very proud of an amazing home in Sandbanks but we also do an abundance of national work. We’re dealing with national media and working on national campaigns all the time – many of our clients are not based here (in Bournemouth) they’re based all over the UK, so we’re not colloquial in our approach, we do much more than just Dorset.  

“In the last 12 months we’ve recruited wider skills than our traditional PR management offer. We’re looking for video, social media, photography, digital – everything – it’s a multimedia world!”

To find out more about Liz Lean PR, visit http://lizleanpr.co.uk/