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Inspired Festival: a BCU Senior Lecturer’s Journey from PR to Blogging

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 PR, runs a successful blog, To Become Mum, in addition to her 15 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.

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 she made the decision to have her blog as a hobby, as a creative outlet where she could explore her interests and life separate to what she does as a job. 

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 own interests have expanded over the years, now encompassing a bit of everything.

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 as it would have supported her if she had come across similar content in the past.

“I thought it’s important to show I do go out with short sleeve tops on and when I’ve gone on holiday, I’ll be wearing a swimming costume even though people have stared, and I’ve heard people ask questions to one another about it. [I do it] because I have to live my life and I thought if I share those pictures then other people will perhaps feel a bit better about themselves”.

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.

“That takes a lot out of you. And then having two children as well and doing two different school runs because they’re different ages, that’s obviously very demanding, and very rewarding as well”. 

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 was trying to find a new way of doing things and I thought other people will be as well, so I’ll just share the things I’m doing”.

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 she’s genuinely a fan of and being a Blogger Ambassador for several brands she loves. 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.

In particular, working as a Blogger Ambassador for places such as the National SEA LIFE Centre and Center Parcs, and the brand Epaderm was the most exciting. 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.

“That 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 something like me. It wasn’t necessarily so commonplace or talked about”. 

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 was nice when people go out of their way not just to like your photo but to send you a comment and say thank you for sharing this, saying it helped, or asking for guidance. That’s what’s really lovely, when somebody comes out of the woodwork like that to say they’ve enjoyed your content”.

What’s next?

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 of being just herself again.

“I would like it to be utilised a bit more to reflect my life and my life beyond children… I do have some thoughts about what happens when your 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? I would like it to be utilised a bit more to reflect my life and my life beyond children.”

To be part of Kelly’s journey of navigating motherhood and her journey to finding herself, follow her blog on To Become Mum.