PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Master the Career Fair

It’s career fair season. MSU PRSSA is hosting our second annual PR Links event – a career fair and reception for members and professionals to connect with each other. Not only is this a great way to find jobs and internships, but this is awesome practice for future public relations professionals. Keep in mind that you are your own brand – just your audience changes. In the case of this career fair, recruiters are your target audience so it’s important to plan accordingly.

Our Chapter recently hosted Brian Barthelmes, APR from Airfoil PR to talk about the elevator pitch and how to navigate a career fair. Here’s a video with Brian’s tips and advice:

I think the elevator pitch is so key for students to have, prepare and use, not only for career fairs. Say you ended up on an elevator with Harold Burson. What would you say? Would you even introduce yourself? This is where the elevator pitch comes in. A simple way to describe this is a quick pitch on who you are, what you do and why you are qualified. How many times have you been asked to talk a little about yourself or describe yourself? This is the solution, my friends!

Use this as a guideline when creating an elevator pitch. I also like this article from BusinessWeek about the importance of the elevator pitch.

  • Who are you? Skip over the “I’m a student at MSU studying PR.” Get right to the nitty gritty and talk about your traits and defining characteristics: “I’m a creative, out of the box thinking with a passion for the field.”
  • What do you want to do? From my experience with interviewing, I hear this line way too often: “I want this position so I can learn more about advertising.” How does that help the company? Replace it with, “I would like to contribute to the growth and development of the firm while picking up skills along the way.”
  • Why are you qualified to work for the company? You can answer this question in a couple of different ways, but ultimately, you want to find out what they are looking for in an employee. You can tailor the rest of the conversation to what they are looking for.
  • More talking points during the conversation: recent company accomplishments, the atmosphere of the office, what an average day is like, best part of the job, etc. Don’t talk about religion, politics, alcohol.. Just use good common sense.

Here are some more resources on the elevator pitch:

  • Perfecting your pitch – assume short buildings. Brevity is important because you don’t want to bore the recruiters. Keep in mind that they are talking to hundreds if not thousands of other people in your same shoes.
  • How to make an elevator pitch work for you. Practice makes perfect!

Are you ready to master your next career fair? Any other tips to add?

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Filed under: Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, , , , , , ,

Gaining Necessary Writing Experience

I attended a presentation last week given by Dr. Richard Cole and Andy Corner, APR. Dr. Cole is the Department Chair of APRR at MSU and Andy is an instructor in the department. They have been working on some research about the level of writing skills associated with entry-level public relations practitioners.

Dr. Cole blogged about the specific findings here, but here is a quick summary. The survey reflects the views of 848 PR practitioners from PRSA.

  • Only 14 percent of PR supervisors think their subordinates are good writers
  • Writing for the media amounts to around 20 percent of the entry-level PR practitioner’s time spent in the day
  • Supervisors graded their subordinates less than 3 out of 5
  • Nearly half the respondents have been reducing expectations of entry-level writing skills

Basically, we need to get our act together.

I think there’s a lot of reasons why this is occurring. First, if you look at the more seasoned professionals, many of them have degrees in journalism and/or worked at a newspapers. Now, many schools have a public relations major and that’s where much of the PR industry is recruiting from. Another reason. While I don’t have any research or stats to back this one up, it’s something I have noticed. Shannon Paul once told me that the future of the public relations industry will need to be able to balance new media with traditional practices, and I think that’s the best approach a student can take.

Writing

If  you’re not a journalism major, you can still saturate your degree with writing courses. I’ve found that my political science, English and foreign language courses to be the most useful now that I’m learning a different form of writing. I studied French all four years in high school and that taught me more about grammar than I ever learned in any English class (sadly). At least within my circle of PR students, many of us are intimidated by a “low grade” in a writing class, but sometimes we have to bite the bullet to make the most of your degree.

Here are some resources to improve your writing in addition to your classes:

  • Copyblogger. Read it. No questions asked.
  • Various AP Style exercises: Newsroom 101, Platform Magazine, OK Cupid.
  • Your internship experience should include not only agency and corporate components, but a writing component as well. Work at your college newspaper, write for various departments and offices in the university.. anything. Just make sure you have a supervisor who is willing to make your projects bleed.
  • Join the conversation on-line. Writing a blog will let you make those embarrassing mistakes that lead to you being called out. Just make the mistake and learn from it.
  • Proofing your work. Honestly, I used to never read my work (shame, shame) and I learned the hard way that this really is essential. By printing off your column or release and reading it over, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about proofing and writing.

The bottom line is that you need to be a good writer to be a solid public relations professional. That doesn’t mean you need to write a certain number of press releases, opinion editorials, etc. Remember when I talked about being a strategist rather than a tactician? Learning to be a good writer should be part of your career strategy.

How else can students improve their writing? Can writing only be improved through classes? Are there any other resources we should know about to help improve writing?

Photo by churl on Flickr.

Filed under: Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learning from the Critics

I don’t remember exactly how I came across this Web site, but I did last night. It’s called PR Watch and it is run by the Center for Media and Democracy. Here’s how they describe their organization:

“The nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media ‘of, by and for the people.'”

Ouch.

Then there’s this video featuring John Stauber, co-founder of PR Watch, who makes the argument that PR = Propaganda. Watch it here.

Double ouch.

I respectfully disagree for plenty of reasons, but that’s not why I’m writing this post (I’ll be writing posts on this later). After searching through the site and reading what they have to say on some different PR companies and campaigns, it’s easy to throw it away as garbage because we’re on the other end of the spectrum. I’ll argue that it’s important to listen to what they have to say in order to improve the industry.

So, as PR practitioners and students, we can take this in one of two ways:

  1. Do any combination of: whining, blaming, disagreeing, fighting, etc.
  2. Respect their opinions and move forward.

I’m thinking the second choice is a little better. The Ogilvy PR Digital Influence Blog has a post on how to deal with negative detractors in the social media sphere, and it’s pretty applicable to this situation. Here are their steps with my additions:

  1. Always say thank you. I like that they point out what they think is bad PR and bad ethics. It’s great that the industry is held accountable to PRSA’s Code of Ethics.
  2. Address the issue. Let’s acknowledge the faults and see what we can do to make it better in the future.
  3. Correct any misinformation. Opening channels of discussion to see what’s wrong and talk it out. I like to think that #journchat on Twitter is a 3-hour Dr. Phil episode that occurs each Monday evening where PR practioners and journalists talk about improving relations. I also think PRSA (and PRSSA) and SPJ should work together on this, too, as each both have ethical codes.
  4. Be transparent and honest. Even more important is regulating and enforcing these ethical standards.
  5. Opportunity is knocking on the door – it’s the future of the industry. Educating young PR professionals and PRSSA members on past mistakes can help make a better future. Teach us to take the right path for our careers.

I’ve found that you can learn the most from your critics. I’ve also learned that you can never learn enough. I’ll be perusing PR Watch and use it a guideline of things not to do in my career. Whether it’s accurate or not isn’t the point.

What do you think of PR Watch? Do you think it’s accurate? Can we learn from our critics? These are questions you should answer – here and in your career.

Filed under: Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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