10 April 2017 | By Billy Dowling-Reid
Ciara Riordan has extensive experience in broadcasting, working in both the UK and Ireland in Producer, Reporter and Presenter roles throughout the last decade. She is currently a Senior Broadcast Journalist with the Social News team for BBC News.
You graduated from the Institute of Technology Tallaght in 2004 with a BA in Audio-Visual Communications, before taking on the role of Radio Producer at NewsTalk 106-108 in Dublin. What was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your career?
Ciara: Transitioning was relatively easy as I started work experience at Newstalk Radio in the final year of my degree. It just meant I was putting what I had learned in university into practice sooner and because of this head-start, I was lucky enough to have a full-time job at that station as soon as I graduated!
You spent some of 2009 in Australia working as a Broadcast Journalist at ABC NewsRadio. Back in Dublin, you worked as the Volunteer Manager for the cause of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and as a Journalist on the Daily Show on RTE. What did you learn during those years?
Ciara: Wow, how long have you got?! I learned so much. 2008 - 2011 was a bit crazy but probably my most formative years.
I took a year out to go travelling as I had been working in Newstalk for five years. My trip was an education in itself. I travelled through South America, New Zealand and Australia. I thought I would take a complete break from journalism but when I arrived in Sydney, I couldn't help myself and I got back into radio again! The people at ABC Newsradio were fantastic, I was the only Irish person in their newsroom at that time but they made me feel very welcome. When I returned to Ireland, I was looking for something else, something different, so when the earthquake happened in Haiti, I was asked to become the manager of the volunteering programme for an Irish NGO "Haven". The aim was to educate volunteers about Haiti and then take 300 - 600 volunteers to Haiti to help build houses for some of the poorest people in the Southern Hemisphere. My role was very different to my previous one but I could transfer a lot of my skills. I had to make presentations to large numbers of people, I helped with the project management of the trip, I wrote their child protection policy and I even chartered huge passenger planes to take our volunteers to Haiti! After two emotional but successful trips to Port Au Prince and Gonaives, I was lured back into media but this time it was television. Working on the Daily Show in RTE (Ireland's public service broadcaster) was really interesting as I got to work on the main news stories of the day and I also got to do some of my own investigate stories such as confidential surveys with groups like taxi drivers.
You are currently a senior broadcast journalist with the social news team for BBC News. What does your typical day look like, and is there anything in your current job that you do differently than in the past?
Ciara: There is never a typical day in the world of social news but I will try and give you an oversight! Our team looks after the BBC News Facebook page which has over 40 million followers and we also look after the key BBC News Twitter accounts, BBC Breaking (30.7 million following), BBC News (8m) and BBC World (19m). We write all the posts and integrate videos and online pieces into each post. We respond to all breaking news and work with the online teams. Recently, I've been managing the BBC News Facebook live desk and this has been a fantastic experience. I was able to report and present lots of the Facebook lives too which was great. I think there are lots of things I do differently in this job but also a lot of similarities. I use to present and report for BBC World TV News and I suppose the difference now is that it's on Facebook. What makes it work is that you can engage with people watching when they ask you questions and you also can get immediate insights into how many people are watching and for how long.
We did our first ever 360 live in February from the World mobile congress in Barcelona in conjunction with the BBC Click team. You can watch it here. When I was the social media producer for BBC Breakfast television before this, we also produced a 360 behind the scenes video at the BBC Breakfast studio so although I'm in different roles, one always leads onto another. You always learn new things in each role. You do things differently in each job but it all goes back to making informative and engaging output. Here is the 360 BBC Breakfast. You can see the cameras, autocue and the technical crew which viewers don't normally get to see.
Lastly, we covered the Westminster attack on the BBC News Facebook page and it was our longest ever Facebook live. It lasted four hours and got over 13 million views. I, along with two BBC Correspondents Sangita Myska and Richard Galpin, provided live commentary. Again, my previous radio presenting experience in Ireland came into play here where I was able to provide live updates and cover rolling breaking news for over three hours straight.
Working with Social Media, in what ways do you think media students, graduates and jobseekers can perhaps utilise online platforms in order to make themselves more appealing to potential employers?
Ciara: Firstly, having a social media presence is key. You should see yourself as a brand. Twitter is public so you need to make sure you have a good blog, website link (if you have one) and follow some interesting people, particularly in the areas of news, politics, sport, tech and culture. Your tweets need to show that you're aware and interested in the latest news. LinkedIn is where a lot of potential employers are lurking, so having a profile on this is a good move. You can make connections which might lead you to a job down the line. It's important you know how all the social media platforms work and are up to date with their new features. Instagram and Instagram stories, Facebook, Twitter and Twitter moments, Snapchat and Pinterest - employers will want to see that you are passionate and can be creative about storytelling in these ways. It sounds obvious but your photo on all your online platforms should be presentable and when a recruiter searches for you on Google they should not be shocked at what they see!
Thinking back to your University days between 2000 and 2004, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career in Broadcasting?
Ciara: You need to be prepared to work really hard and work long hours but the pay-off is that you do a job you love and are passionate about. At the beginning, you may even have to work for free as part of work experience but that is okay as the experience you gain outweighs everything. It is a fantastic career where you get to meet amazing people, you learn something new every day (I was sent to the Papal's conclave in Rome for the appointment of Pope Francis for BBC World News in March 2013 which was an unforgettable experience). My last piece of advice... bear in mind that permanent jobs don't come around often and six-month contracts are something you'll get used to over time!
You can follow Ciara on Twitter: @ciarariordan and check out her Facebook page here.