PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 1

I’m writing a four-part blog post on how to have a successful collegiate career for those interested in public relations. I’m basing this largely off my own experiences (a lot of what I’m including reflects what I wish I would have done during college, particularly in my early years) and those in my network. Please share and comment — with enough feedback, I may write another revised post.

For many, freshmen year is a time to transition and learn a new surrounding. From my own experience, a lot of people didn’t have a job or even a declared major, but one thing I learned is that freshmen year is a great opportunity to start your career. Here is a list of what I think are the most important things to keep in mind during freshmen year:

On selecting a major

The more and more I think about what major you choose, the more I think that it’s not necessarily the most important thing you should focus on. I think the key item to take away when choosing a major is that you should weigh your options and carefully choose. Another important thing to remember is the more writing classes you can take, the better off you will be in the long run. Here’s a list of preferred programs:

  • Public Relations-If your school has it — great! Similar programs that will probably have a lot of PR stuff include Advertising, Communication or Mass Media. Make sure the program has plenty of writing classes, but also make sure to take classes in other fields (i.e. business, political science, psychology) in order to become more competent in other areas.
  • Business- If you want to work in corporate communications or in an agency setting, a business degree is a great idea, just make sure to take more writing classes. If you emphasize your classes in marketing, this will be especially helpful.
  • Journalism- Knowing how to write (well) is arguably the most important skill a PR practitioner can have, but also know that PR practitioners write to persuade. That’s why if you’re planning on studying journalism, it’s good to have another major or minor to complement this.
  • Social Science- My other degree is in political science, and truthfully, it’s kicking my butt. However, I’m learning a lot of research (I’m surprised at this), analytical and writing skills, too. I’ve heard this from others, so it’s probably not a bad idea to consider a social science major. Dr. Rick Cole, the chairperson for the APRR Department at MSU, once told me, “Don’t forget the business is communication but the science is social and the science separates the real leaders from the technicians.”
  • Other- You’ll find that many practitioners “fall” into PR — as long as you are strategic with your career approach and make smart decisions, there are many other degrees that would prepare you for a PR career.

Tip: choose wisely, and seek input from many people.

Join PRSSA and other organizations

I truly believe that if you take advantage of all the opportunities PRSSA has for its members, you will start off on a successful career — not just a job — in public relations. I could keep going about how PRSSA is so helpful for PR students, but I think the most important thing to remember is that you need to take advantage of the opportunities. While you’re at it, join another organization that is service-oriented. Volunteering can be an integral asset on your resume, so while you have time freshmen year, help some people out.

Tip: become active in PRSSA, apply for leadership positions when possible and join another organization (not necessarily PR-related) that will allow plenty of volunteer opportunities.

Get a job

There are not any legitimate excuses why freshmen can’t have jobs. Seriously. Going from high school, when you’re in class for nearly 40 hours per week, to college, when you’re in class for around 15 hours per week, gives you plenty of time for a job. Even if you have to work in the cafeteria or telemarketing, just get a job. And try to save some of that money (like I said above — this is what I wish I would have done).

Tip: try to get a job working with people or on teams in order to develop phone and other communication skills.

Internship or no internship?

As a freshmen, I think it’s better to spend the year preparing for an internship rather than actively seeking one. That means building your resume (with the tools listed above), networking with professionals and learning the right skills. I would take a look at trying to find an internship after freshmen year.

Tip: you probably won’t get paid at your first internship, and maybe in future internships. Don’t be afraid to work with a nonprofit or small agency, especially during your freshmen year, while you still have your high school graduation party money.

Facebook is NOT for drunk pictures

I’ll tell you what no one told me as a freshmen — professionals are on Facebook and will “friend” you. Anticipate that down the line, you’ll need to have a clean online presence. Enough said.

Tip: don’t think cameras at parties are safe. And don’t be dumb about what you leaved tagged.

On networking

I’ve been in PRSSA for three years now, and each year brings a new class of freshmen who think they don’t have to start networking until their junior or senior year. If you learn one thing from this post, learn this: the best time to build a network is when you don’t necessarily need your network. If you start networking during your junior or senior year, you will undoubtedly face the awkward resume pass-on. However, if you have a strong network, you will be more likely to avoid this.

Tip: attend PRSA events, get to know leaders and members of student organizations, and attend your professors’ office hours. Network well and make sure people know you, especially in a good way.

I also asked my Twitter network what they thought, and here is what they added:

@carolinejones Use every mistake/pitfall as a learning opportunity to build knowledge and grow as a person.

@MKMasson Get involved RIGHT AWAY. PRSSA is the best experience, even if you don’t even know the definition of public relations yet.

@kellee_m Start early and get involved on campus. If you’re connected to people within campus, you can get hired before you even graduate

@GuyMCampbell Advice for PR freshmen: take extra writing classes and learn to pitch by phone & f2f, not just email. I learned in “real world.”

@CharlieCurve Intern early. Intern often. Internships provide valuable experience, but more importantly, they help you build relationships.

@LJZuber Volunteer to do things PR related, even if you don’t know what you’re doing – it’s a learning process.

@Charlotte_Marie Don’t be intimated by professionals. Most of them are more than willing to help you out and give valuable advice

@YMoffitt I can offer nothing better than “Get involved early on. It might seem daunting, but the sooner you catch on, the better.”

What else do you have to add?

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

Investing in Your Career

Back in my freshmen year, I served on our PRSSA Chapter’s committee to host a regional activity. This was the first event (of many) that triggered my passion for the public relations industry. We had some great sessions and I learned a lot. But if I can remember anything, it was Rhoda Weiss’ keynote address to us.

While this regional conference was occurring, Rhoda was serving as Chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. I could go on about her accolades as an industry leader, but suffice it to say that she rocks.

She talked about investing in your career as one of the best things that you can do as a pre-professional. For some of us students, professional development can be expensive. Add up traveling to conferences, membership dues, magazine subscriptions… you can easily drop a couple of grand in a year. I recommend planning out your year and setting aside money with each paycheck to be used for professional development. I don’t want to disclose any details of my sad bank account, but I do have a separate account strictly for professional development things.

Here’s a list of some of the things a pre-professional should be spending their money on:

Professional association membership
If you know me, you’re probably heard me say, “you know, you really should join PRSSA…”At the beginning of the semester, I promised our eager group of students that if you make the most of this organization, you will walk out of MSU with a job. And I mean it. The economy affects the amount of jobs, the changing indsutry affects the amount of jobs, but if you make the most of your student career, you can prove your worth to any company.

After discussions with a couple professionals, there are three general things companies look for: education, professional experience and professional development. You can get good grades in school and have a couple of solid internships, but there will be people who have done the same as you AND been involved in student organizations and associations. Don’t underestimate the power of networking with your peers – after all, you will be working with them when you graduate.

Professional development seminars
Your group or organization that you join will most likely have some kind of conference. Go to it! It makes a world of a difference when you list your group on your resume and being able to answer the question, “so what did you do with _______.” Recruiters will know the difference between an active member and a non-active member.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

For PRSSA, the most common objection I hear is “it’s too expensive.” I’m not made of money. But I do have my conference registration saved up for next year. And the year after. Professional development takes priority in my pre-professional career over a new car or spring break. I’m not saying don’t spend money for fun, I just can’t emphasize enough the importance of saving your money for the right things.

Dress the part
You will be judged if you don’t look your best at interviews. Once you get the job, it’s important to stay on top of your appearance, too. Make the investment in a really good suit or two that will last for a long time. A good friend of mine, Jenni Lewis, pointed out to me that she will buy expensive business clothes because she knows they will last a long time. Also, keep in mind that people look from the bottom up. Give a nice pair of shoes, too.

Industry publications
Making yourself knowledgeable of the current industry news sets you apart from other interns and entry level employees. You never know when you’re going to run in the CEO of your company – it’s best to have something to talk about.

The good thing about industry publications is that most will have student discounts. PRWeek and Advertising Age both do – check them out. Also, pay attention to when these publications are seeking participants for surveys interviews. It’s a nice way to get some ink before you graduate and makes you look pretty cool to potential employers.

There’s a nice supplement to the above list. Please note that I did not say alternative – it’s important to do both. You can do some of these things online! Read blogs and news. For blogs, get started on Alltop.  Check out podcasts – you would be surprised what a quick search of “public relations” or any other industry search shows up on iTunes. Also, follow the right people on Twitter and you will hear about Web seminars and discussions.

What else can you do invest in your career? Is there a way to invest too much in your career? Not enough?

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