PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

What If You Start PR Later In College?

During the past couple of weeks, I wrote a series of posts on how to prepare for PR in college. The advice was directed at a hypothetical freshmen about to enter PR studies in college, though the advice can be applied to different parts of a career in the field. Now, I want to write to a more realistic crowd — the sophomores, juniors, seniors and new graduates who just found PR.

Before I start giving some advice, I want to make it clear that you don’t need to have four years of solid PR experience in college to get a job when you graduate. Sure, it would be nice to do all of the things I mentioned in the other posts, but is it completely realistic to do what I recommend each year? Not for everyone. If you start PR even as late as senior year, you can still get off to a great start to your career. Here is what I recommend:

Draw on past experiences

If you were pre-med, philosophy, math or even underwater basket weaving, it’s important to draw upon past experiences and apply them to the public relations field. Chances are, if you majored in biology before you changed to public relations, you have some interest in science or technology. The great part about this is you can use this to your advantage. As a public relations practitioner, you’ll probably represent a company or organization that does things the public won’t understand — and that is where you come in. When you can bring a specialized background to the PR industry, it makes you that much more valuable.

Tip: Apply what you’re learning in other classes to your PR career — it will help you to be a more effective practitioner.

Get solid public relations experience

Although you may be worried about catching up in classes, especially if you changed majors later in college, it’s important to immediately seek solid opportunities that will help you enhance your public relations skills. You will be able to get the most out of an internship if you have a mentor guiding you throughout your time with that company/organization and if the program is somewhat structured. Sure, there are exceptions to those, but if you can find a company with some talented professionals and value their interns, you will probably have a good experience.

Something I forgot to put in my last posts is a list of resources of finding an internship. So, here are some great places to start:

  • You college’s career network will probably be the most helpful in finding an internship near your college, unless you’re in a big city.
  • PRSSA JobCenter is the job bank of National PRSSA. It’s a great resource with tips and job postings.
  • EntryLevel-PR.com is a great resource for finding internships and full time jobs.
  • Reach out to your own network — make sure people know you’re looking for a job/internship and you never know what might happen.

Tip: Find several diverse experiences before you graduate in order to make yourself more marketable and find out what you want to do in your career.

Get active in social networks

The beauty of using Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others for professional use is the ability to build your network so easily. Reach out to public relations professionals, especially at companies you would like to work for, and communicate with them. Another really good place to be is PROpenMic. It’s a network for public relations students, practitioners and faculty members — check it out.

With all of the joining and networking you will do, it’s important to maintain a sense of professionalism. Talking about how drunk you got during the weekend on your Facebook profile used to be OK when Facebook was just for college students. That’s not the case anymore. Know that what what you put online is fair game for potential employers and bosses to read, so make sure you think about what you post.

Tip: Get online and start participating in conversations. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from a strong online network.

Get active in PRSSA immediately

Even though it might be intimidating to join an organization with students already active in their profession, know that many people are in your same shoes. Here is my advice on how to maximize your PRSSA membership later in college:

  • Don’t be afraid to take on leadership roles on the executive board and on committees. By building relationships with peers and learning from them, too, you’ll be able to learn and grow.
  • Attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are great ways to help you get caught up from what you missed for the past couple of years. I’ve heard from a lot of people that these conferences ignited their interest in the public relations industry. I mentioned this before, but make sure to network with your peers — someday, they will be your colleagues.
  • If you have the opportunity to work with members of PRSA, do it! If you can serve on a committee or help plan an event, it’s a great way to get to know some pros.
  • Applying for national awards is not just for the members who have been in the organization forever. Apply for them, and at least they will be good practice for the future. The link to the awards is here.

Tip: Get active in PRSSA immediately and start building a network of students and professionals.

No excuses, play like a champion

Is studying public relations at all like Wedding Crashers? Maybe. I like this quote and I think it applies to this situation perfectly. Even though you joined the game a little late, it doesn’t mean you have to stay miles behind the rest of the crowd.

Tip: Don’t make excuses — get active in the public relations industry.

And here is what my Twitter network had to say:

@kellee_m Start networking as soon as you can online, in person, in class and in student organizations.

@sheesidd Immerse yourself in social media & read trade publications like PR Week.

@heatherhuhman Intern ASAP – it will help you land an entry-level job after college sooner. Plus, it will confirm your interest in the field.

@aribadler The best thing you will ever learn is that you haven’t learned enough, so never consider your learning completed.

@maryhenige Need to understand business in order to advise C-suite clients.

@aubzim join PRS(S)A, volunteer, write! Never too late for gaining experience. Work on worthwhile causes; don’t spread yourself too thin

@ssiewert you don’t need 5 internships to succeed! Immerse yourself in the industry, get involved in PRS(S)A, build a network, write a lot.

@AmberMShinn Me: late-in-college PR person. Tips: Get as much varied PR work experience as possible; be willing to volunteer to get it.

What advice do you have for PR students getting active later in the game?

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

Recap of NMDL

If you haven’t heard me brag about my New Media Drivers License class yet, here’s a post that will do a lot of bragging. It’s been a great nine weeks and I’ve learned so much about new media and how to use it. Each topic, whether it was Google AdWords or search engine optimization, took a lot more than reading the assignment description. I had to research and practice these new online tools. I learned a lot, but I also realized how much more I have to learn. I plan to continue my new media education through this blog.

Overall, I learned that the traditional public relations principles are the same online, too. This goes along with the new age of public relations – our generation needs to balance their knowledge of tradition methods with new skills. You can’t just know Facebook and studying cases from 1984 isn’t completely helpful either. The industry is changing quickly and by staying on the forefront, you’re offering high value to your clients or company.

Here is what I plan to present to my class when we meet again on March 21. I’m going to primarily focus on strategy vs. tactics. I blogged about this earlier and it still keeps me thinking. I’ll then talk about four main areas that I think are so key:

  • Creating a personal brand online. What are the rules of showing your personality? What social networks should you be on? How do you stay consistent?
  • Ethics in social media. What are the lines ethics in new media? How does ghostwriting play in social media? How does ethics play into your brand?
  • The power of an offline network. We’re good at making friends online, but how do you transfer that to an offline network?
  • Continuing your education. Why continue your blog? What should you be doing now?

We’re also reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. It’s pretty intriguing and I’m hoping to refine my presentation skills before the final class. Whether you’re in advertising, PR, marketing or other fields, you’re probably going to be doing some presenting now and then. Check it out – it’s a pretty quick read.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be preparing a slide show and will definitely be posting it. Stay tuned. Until then, please feel free to comment on what you think I should include in my presentation.

Filed under: New Media Drivers License, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , ,

University Code of Ethics

In my public relations tactics course, we were assigned to write a letter to anyone we wanted. Most wrote to companies supporting products or to legislators supporting the smoking ban. I wrote a letter to the President of Michigan State University asking to adopt a code of ethics. Go figure.

A view of MSU's north side of campus.

A view of MSU's north side of campus.

I’m not posting this because I’m frustrated with the university – in fact, I kind of think MSU is the greatest place in the world. I wanted to post the letter to see what you think about it. Do you think a university should have a code of ethics? Is there any public relations value in having such a code? Would students care about this? I think yes to all of the above, but what do you think?

“Dear President Simon,

As a student at Michigan State University, I cannot put into words how grateful I am for the opportunity to live, learn and grow on this campus. I arrived at MSU in 2006, and I am proud to say attending this university has been the best decision I have ever made.

However, I believe that the university is missing a key component in its quest to educate students. This component is a code of ethics, and it is incredibly important for any business or institution to adopt and implement. Part of the MSU Mission Statement describes how the university strives to provide outstanding education to students so they can “contribute fully to society as globally engaged citizen leaders.” I believe that now more than ever, it is essential for this university to demonstrate a strong ethical base to shape future leaders. While there are several ethics classes offered in the university, there is not any single thing that ties everything together. This is an opportunity the university can use to be a leader for its students, faculty, staff and the community.

I was disappointed to see that ethics was not part of the university’s core values. Quality, inclusiveness and connectivity are all important ideals and the university does a tremendous job integrating these in various forms throughout campus, but a commitment to ethics is just as important as these values. In my own experience as the Chapter President of the Public Relations Student Society of America, our code of ethics is a driving force behind the organization. We strive to educate and inform our student members about the importance of making ethical career choices. The public relations industry is often a punching bag because of critics claiming we lack principles and morality, but our organization is working to overcome these perceptions. While the university does not have an unethical reputation, I believe that an overlying theme of ethical behavior on campus would greatly contribute to the education of every student.

The University of Virginia Code of Ethics, which is available on the university’s Web site, demonstrates how a code of ethics can be integrated within the goals and purpose of the university. If MSU truly strives to “advance knowledge” and “transform lives,” having an ethical base is key to success.

One challenge facing a code of ethics, whether it is within a business or organization, is holding the members accountable to their actions. However, by challenging everyone affiliated with the university, including professors, administrators and students, to uphold the highest ethical standards, I believe this university can leave a mark on each individual. Furthermore, these individuals will be able to share and spread their knowledge and values.

Ethics is essential in any field of study and these principles will take MSU to a higher echelon of professional development. I genuinely hope that you will consider adopting a code of ethics university-wide in order to serve as a model for your students.”

Photo by Eridony on Flickr.

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

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