The launch of the Inspired Festival is important in creating inspiration within the university. In addition to the graduates, there are several members of staff who are active beyond their roles at BCU. In particular, Kelly O’Hanlon, a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations, runs a successful blog, 'To Become Mum', in addition to her 16 years of working in the PR industry. We spoke to Kelly about what inspired the creation of her blog, how she finds motivation to share her personal thoughts, and the most surprising aspects of her blogging career.
Media and communication graduate
Where did Kelly find inspiration for her blog?
During the pregnancy of her first son, Kelly was looking for a support network as none of her friends or family were at the same stage in their life. Hoping to share updates about her pregnancy journey with loved ones who lived across the country, Kelly decided to create a blog as a creative outlet, hoping to share something about herself and to connect with other people.
Working as an academic is Kelly’s full-time job and so the blog is personal, creative outlet where she can explore her interests and life separate to what she does in her BCU work.
'To Become Mum' was created to reflect the journey of becoming a mother, including navigating maternity fashion as the high street didn’t seem to cater for pregnant women. However, it has also expanded as Kelly’s family has grown and to reflect more of her own interests, now encompassing a range of parenting and lifestyle themes.
Another inspiration for the content Kelly has shared is body positivity. Kelly has been very vocal about her journey with psoriasis and she felt it was incredibly important to share photos and her treatment experiences as it would have supported her if she had come across similar content in the past.
“I thought it’s important to show the real me, not just the posed shots like every other blogger or influencer out there might share. Even at the height of my condition, I would go out in short sleeve tops on and when I’ve gone on holiday, I’ve worn a swimming costume even though people have stared, or whispered questions to one another about it. [I do it] because I have to live my life and I can’t do anything about my skin, and I hoped that by embracing my psoriasis and showing the reality of the condition, I could help inspire others to feel more confident in themselves too.”
How does Kelly find motivation to continue making content?
Being a full-time academic and parenting two young children makes for a demanding schedule. Kelly also sits as the Vice Chair on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Midlands Committee, and she is the Marketing and Recruitment Lead for the Birmingham Institute of Media and English, with blogging remaining a hobby.
“Being a working mum is a juggling act, and that’s really what To Become Mum is all about – navigating parenthood without losing myself. I am passionate about my work at BCU and in PR, but you need time and space to be you”.
While juggling such a busy lifestyle, Kelly emphasises the importance of having a space where she can remember what it was like before having children, not to pretend they don’t exist but to have a space where she can just be herself and not be ‘Kelly the lecturer’ or ‘Kelly the mum’.
“I find blogging and Instagram to be a fun outlet to express myself and share my ideas, interests and experiences with other likeminded people, from food and wellbeing to days out, beauty and interiors”.
Has anything surprising or unexpected happened because of Kelly’s blog?
'To Become Mum' is set to reach its nine-year anniversary in November and this journey has come with many memorable experiences for Kelly, such as working on creative campaigns with brands from small businesses to household names, and she’s been featured in influencer publications such as Blogosphere. It has been incredibly rewarding for Kelly to know that there’s somebody out there listening, and this has in turn benefitted her professional job as Kelly gets to talk to her students from experience; discussing influencer relations from both sides of the fence, as a PR professional and as an influencer.
In particular, working as a Blogger Ambassador for places such as the National SEA LIFE Centre and Center Parcs, and the brand Epaderm were amongst the most exciting opportunities. Epaderm is a skin care range for people with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis; Kelly has suffered with psoriasis for 10 years and she won a competition to be their Blogger Ambassador.
“It was great to have people recognise the types of things that I was sharing but also to feel like I was helping other people who were going through a similar experience. It wasn’t necessarily so commonplace or talked about, and I like to think I have made a difference”.
Another rewarding aspect to come out of the To Become Mum blog is the engagement with her audience, such as when people leave comments about how they have enjoyed her content or that it’s made some kind of difference in their lives. Kelly has received comments from people thanking her for sharing her story, saying things like ‘I remember following you during your pregnancy of your first son and now I’m pregnant’ or ‘I’ve really loved watching your journey, I love seeing all of your pregnancy updates’.
“It’s always nice when people go out of their way not just to like your photo but to send you a message and say thank you for sharing this, saying it helped, or asking for guidance. That’s what’s really lovely, somebody saying they’ve enjoyed your content, because that’s why you do it”.
After running the 'To Become Mum' blog for almost a decade, the next challenge for Kelly is to make the blog a space that still does the things it was originally created for but to evolve it with her journey of not just becoming a mother, but her journey beyond parenting.
“I don’t have the time or inclination to invest in my blog or social profiles to the extent of full-time influencers; although I know what you need to do to grow an audience and create compelling content, because of my profession, my blog is not my job and so I have the freedom to do what I find fun and fit it in as and when I can.
“I would like to develop my blog to reflect my life beyond children… I do have some thoughts about what happens when my children get a bit older – will it be embarrassing for them to see themselves online? Do I start to fade out their inclusions on it and move it on a little bit? These are interesting questions for me, as a blogger and an academic, so who knows what the next chapter of To Become Mum will be?”
To be part of Kelly’s journey of navigating motherhood and her journey to finding herself, follow her blog on 'To Become Mum'.
Jaskeet graduated from Birmingham City University with a first-class degree in Media and Communication. Her experience writing for online and print publications, creating content for social media platforms, and her time studying abroad in Australia has led to first-hand experience in writing for different audiences. Jaskeet’s passion for media began through radio production, including scriptwriting, recording, and editing audio for radio stations. Her flair for writing has led to a passion for journalism as she enjoys using storytelling as a way to bring communities together.
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