PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 3

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.

You’re half-way done with your college career by now, but you’re hardly heading down the hill. As a junior, you should know a lot about public relations and what you want to do when you graduate. In a lot of ways, the jump from sophomore year to junior year is huge: you’ll be taking upper-level classes, you qualify for more scholarships and internships, and your younger colleagues will look up to you for help and advice. Here are my tips on how to have a successful junior year in college.

Maximize your PRSSA membership

I’ll ask this again… If you haven’t already joined PRSSA, what are you waiting for? Junior year is a great time to not only be an active member, but a leader and mentor to your peers. As a leader, you should have strong skills and be able to demonstrate how to be successful in PR. Here’s what I would do to maximize your PRSSA membership junior year:

  • Take on leadership roles on the executive board and on committees. Build your relationships with peers and learn from them, too.
  • Continue attending local, regional and national events. Attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are great ways to learn more about the profession and network. If you have been to one of these events before, don’t think you won’t get anything out of attending another year. Also, make sure to network with your peers — someday, they will be your colleagues.
  • Get published! One of the most practical membership benefits is that you can get your work published from the local to the national level. Consider writing for your Chapter’s newsletter (or even start one). You can also write for national publications and submit press releases to Chapter News.
  • 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.
  • Apply for national awards. Did you know PRSSA gives away around $20,000 in scholarships and awards? Check them out here.

Tip: Again, your membership will take you miles if you get active. What are you waiting for?

Choose your summer internship wisely

It’s really important to recognize the fact that this internship might be your last before you graduate. As such, if you do a good job, the chances of you getting a full time position with that company when you graduate significantly increase. Work hard, learn a lot and check out my tips on interning here. Also, getting a top-notch internship doesn’t mean you have to go to Chicago, LA or New York. You can get quality experience anywhere as long as you make it a quality experience.

Even so, you might find that you have a negative experience at the internship. Make sure that you make the most of the position and don’t burn your bridges with that company.

Tip: Choose a company that you can see yourself working for when you graduate. Prioritize what you value and look for companies that are similar.

A word on what you submit professionally

I’ve heard this too many times to ignore putting this in my post. When you submit your resume, cover letter or professional work samples, make sure it’s absolutely perfect. That means no spelling, grammar or AP errors. If a recruiter sees a single error on something you submit, chances are you’ll be out of the running for that position. The reality is that for one position in a PR jobs, there will probably be a ton of applications, especially at the agency level. Make sure your work is the best that it can be and that you and people in your network proofread it.

Another tip that has helped me is make all of your work follow AP Style. In your resume, make sure your states and dates follow the correct abbreviations, don’t write website anywhere (it’s Web site, according to AP) and follow the correct capitalization rules of titles. Again, have this proofread by as many people as possible.

Tip: If you haven’t already, get yourself an AP Stylebook and learn the rules. Some supplemental quizzes are here, here and here.

Get to know the industry

Truthfully, the best way to learn about new things going on in the public relations industry is to read about it. Knowing about account changes, new trends (especially in the digital sphere and best practices will help you learn the lingo and know what’s going on. I’ve included my recommendations as to what to read in order to learn more — I definitely recommend you check these sources out, both in print and online.

Tip: Subscribe to these publications/Web sites to better understand the world of public relations:

School is still important

I participated in a recruitment event for MSU a couple of years ago, and amid a conversation with a future Spartan, I realized something that is often forgotten when career advice is discussed. In my spiel, I talked about how many opportunities he will have to prepare himself for a successful career, but admittedly, I didn’t talk about classes. He then asked me, “so classes really aren’t that important, are they?”

Unfortunately, this is a bad attitude that a lot of over-achievers tend to spread. Sure, gaining internship experience, getting involved on campus and everything else is really important, but doing well in school is a given on the road to success. Even more discouraging is that GPA isn’t the most important thing to a public relations student. I think a better attitude is to treat college like a mini real world: there will always be things you don’t want to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not important.

Tip: Challenge yourself in classes, and do a good job in them — it pays off.

Here’s what my Twitter network had to add:

@ckeppler Obvious, but they should take the opportunity to build their resume with internships and volunteering over the summer.

@LJZuber Make sure to go to networking events as well as run for leadership positions!

@kellee_m Get PR experience to build your resume in any way that you can, even if the job doesn’t pay

@AllisonLeAnn Create & perfect your resume, portfolio, blog/website & interview skills; Network, Network, Network!; Don’t procrastinate!

So, what do you think PR juniors should be doing to stay on track? Anything else to add?

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Filed under: Internships, PR Book Club, Professional Development, PRSSA, , , , , , , , , , ,

Social Media Etiquette

For someone just entering the social media sphere, like many of my friends and colleagues at MSU and PRSSA, there’s a couple of important things to remember. While there are many cool things about sharing content on Twitter and other social networks, it’s easy to make mistakes, too.

One of my favorite bloggers and colleagues is Shannon Paul. Not only did she write a great post on how not to be that guy in social media and did a presentation on it, too. Here’s the Slideshare version:

I’ve come up with some tips and reminders for the younger crowd on how to participate. I think many of us do know how to participate, but there’s some preventable errors we all make. Check out this list:

Consistency is key

As part of branding yourself, it’s important to be consistent. This doesn’t only apply to keywords, titles and social networking user names, but it also applies to your personality throughout the Web. Primarily, this is concerned with our wacky college lifestyle and how professionals use social networks. The biggest thing I’ve run into is my Facebook “personality” versus the “personality” I show on Twitter, LinkedIn and my blog. So, you have two options: keep Facebook for social uses, or add it to your list of general networking tools. I went with the latter. This article sums up Facebook use pretty well.

When is it OK to tweet?

Sharing information is one of the best things about social media, but it can get you into trouble. If you caught the story about an agency employee posting a negative tweet regarding the city where their client is located, it’s a perfect example about posting the wrong thing at the wrong time. The recap is here. It’s good to have a personality online, but make sure that when you’re sarcastic or joking around, people won’t always take it as a joke.

Also, especially as an intern or entry-level employee, it’s important to make sure you should not be revealing or announcing any client information that should not be revealed. If you let any detail slip, it might ruin your media or audience outreach strategy. Whenever you post something about your client online, make sure it’s OK with your supervisor.

Share

When anyone asks me why I’m on Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., I say that I like reading and finding new information.. basically, a news junkie. And that’s the beauty of the Internet – you’re able to find all the information you’ll ever need. But remember, share other information more than you share your own content. You’ll quickly find out how soon you lose credibility if you shamelessly self promote yourself all day long.

Disclosure

As interns, it’s cool to share the projects you’re working on with your fans. But just because you are an intern doesn’t mean you don’t have to disclosure your affiliation with the client. Frankly, it’s not ethical when you fail to disclose the relationship. Be honest and upfront when you’re working on a client project and make sure that you’re not getting your company into trouble.

Networking – old school style

As a student, you’re probably using social media to build your network and learn. I know I am. Make sure that while you’re building your network online, you’re doing it in the right way. Remember that relationships are built through conversation and helping others out. These same principles apply online, too. For some tips on how to take this network offline, I wrote a guest post on Rachel Esterline’s blog about the importance of an offline networking – check it out.

One last rule of thumb

In my public relations techniques class last week, we talked about ethics regarding media relations. We came to the conclusion that if you don’t want your e-mail conversations or any other written communication on the front page of The New York Times, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it. The same goes with social media. If you’re talking about how drunk you were last night or how much you hate your boss, chances are all the wrong people are going to see it. It’s not a chance you should be willing to take.

There you have it, some tips and advice when it comes to social media. Any other tips? Have you seen these mistakes being made?

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

Goals in the Workplace

This post is coming to you from a guy with experience in sales, but what I learned in that position can be applied to every industry.

Goals are an important part of any job. Setting goals, working to achieve them and eventually accomplishment is a three-part cycle that will help guide you to success. Here are some tips on how to set goals, especially as an intern, and how to keep improving.

Make goals

Think it sounds simple? It’s harder than you think. Coming into an internship, you’re there for a limited amount of time to learn. Make sure they are measurable and specific. Sounds like a PR campaign, doesn’t it?

Some good goals:

  • I want to improve by AP fluency through such writing projects as press releases, media advisories and company newsletters.
  • I would like to work on at least one writing project a week.
  • I would like to experience all practice areas of the company in my time with the company.
  • I would like to help plan _____ event and assist from start to finish.

The point of these goals is to show that you want to learn and help. This sets you apart from the rest of the crowd and shows that you’re serious. Once you can build a positive reputation, you’ll be able to take on more and more.

success

Let your supervisor and other coworkers know about your goals

Now that you made your goals, make sure your team knows about them. Set some time aside in the beginning of your internship (probably in the first week) to meet with your supervisor and talk about the things that you would like to accomplish during your time with the company. Pay attention as to how the different titles of the company operate and be careful not to overshoot. Listen and learn before you take on too much responsibility.

It’s also a good idea to talk about what kinds of experiences you’ve had in the past. You can talk about what you’re good at and what you would like to improve on. Also, be careful not to turn down functions of an intern. Saying you don’t want to get coffee, file or answer the phones can put you far behind. Have an open mind, especially in the beginning, to make a solid first impression.

Constantly evaluate your progress

There are a couple of different ways to keep track of what you’re doing. I have seen some career blogs in which the authors talk about what they are working on and what they have learned. Some meet weekly with their supervisor to check up, get projects and see what they can improve on. Whatever you do, try to keep track of what you work on. This will help you to show future employers what you work on and it will allow you to keep track of your own progress. No matter what you do, be careful as to not get too specific on what you’re working on. You never know who is reading your work.

At my internship this summer, I created a “weekly evaluation” of sorts that I could fill out and send to the team. Here’s how I kept track over the summer. I took off the client names, but the information is all still there. In case you can’t tell, I do like to have a good time so I had some fun with it. But it was my way of showing the rest of the staff what I was working on and what I would like to work on. After all, you’re at an internship to learn and contribute!

What did you learn?

You should have learned something. Look over your goals and see if you accomplished them. If you did, great! If you didn’t, see what you could have done and try it again at the next job. Maybe your goal is too big or too general; if that’s the case, make a stepping stone goal to get you to the promised land.

Also, when you are done with your job or internship, sit down and add your best work to your portfolio and update your resume. I made the mistake of putting my portfolio together after two internships and a job with relevant work, so needless to say it took me a long time. It’s so much easier to have everything ready to pass on to future employers. When you scramble to put everything together, chances are there will be a mistake.

Just like in public relations, you don’t want to do something just to say you did it. You need quantitative and qualitative data to show others what you worked on. It might help you move on up, but it will also help you to learn and grow as a young professional.

How else do you keep track of what you worked on or accomplished at an internship? How did you employers feel about it?

Photo by aloshbennett on Flickr.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Intern Office Etiquette [Reminders]

I had coffee with some of the leadership from our PRSSA Chapter at MSU, including our professional advisors. Russ White from MSU University Relations, Kelly Rossman-McKinney of the Rossman Group and Jennifer Holton of the Michigan Department of Agriculture all gave their input on how we can make our students more prepared. The three of them all come from very different backgrounds in the public relations industry and we had a great discussion.

Some of the things we are planning for next semester include sessions on crisis communication, research and planning, media training, and others. But we also talked about one major thing students need work on: office etiquette.

I got some feedback from our advisors and Twitter, and I put together this list of things student workers in an office need to be more aware of:

  • You’re an intern, so act like one. Bring a pen and pad of paper wherever you go, ask a ton of questions, offer to help all the time and always have a good attitude.
  • Know how to interact with your co-workers. Talk and get to know with everyone in the office. If you work for a company with multiple offices, go work at the other offices. That’s how I landed my gig at the NAIAS starting next week.
  • It’s OK if your boss or anyone else asks you to get coffee. If they are in the board room and ask you to get coffee, consider it your access pass to the board room. Getting coffee for a superior is not a demeaning thing and no one is above it.
  • Moreover, you are not above doing anything in the office. Sometimes, you have to move the boxes, deliver notes and other not so glamorous things. Get over it.
  • Don’t be afraid to answer questions or make suggestions. Think it through before, though.
  • Answering the phones isn’t below you, either! I believe that every phone call is practice for the “real thing” – as a PR intern, I would make a lot of calls to the media and my phone experience helped a lot.
  • Don’t justify going on Facebook for hours at as time as “social media practice.” That said, try to stay as “billable” as possible.
  • Even though you’re an intern, don’t be afraid to ask for/take on more responsibilities.
  • Respect your co-workers. Don’t put the phone on speakerphone if you work in a cube and try not to have loud conversations on a break around co-workers who are working.
  • Don’t drink Diet Cokes that aren’t yours. But you should bring in leftover cake and other communal things to share. Hey, who doesn’t love a treat?
  • Especially with public relations internships, know and understand social media. You will be working with baby boomers and generation x’ers that don’t know how to use it but expect you to. Take on a social media project and be able to take ownership of it.
  • Always have something to do. If you aren’t assigned project, ask. If you still can’t find something, don’t be afraid to start your own project. Clean out the supply closet, create a company newsletter… anything to add your worth to the company.
  • As a college student, you probably live a crazy and wacky lifestyle, but never bring that to the office. Your co-workers probably won’t appreciate it.
  • After your internship, go back to the office once in a while and stay in touch.
  • Finally, you should never be “too busy” to help someone in the office. Refer to my “why I don’t say busy” post. Yuck, I hate that word.

It might sound blunt, but these principles help me every day. Truth be told, there is a large generation gap between our generation and past generations. Teresa Wu wrote a great guest post on Chris Brogan’s blog summarizing our generation. Although we may feel entitled to many things, we still need to adapt to the current work place.

All throughout high school, I worked both as a lifeguard and a swim instructor. Needless to say, I didn’t have any office experience before I started interning and working for The State News. I think alot of it has to do with your environment. If you learn from those around you, it will help you to fit it a lot more quickly.

*Southwest Airlines (@southwestair) contributed their thoughts to this post. Guess which airline I’m flying on my next trip?

Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, , , , ,

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