PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 4

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’ve made it to senior year! The most important thing to keep in mind about being a senior is to keep up the hard work throughout the entire year. Don’t get lazy, keep up the job search, join PRSA and enjoy your last year in college. Here are my tips for a successful senior year:

Maximize your PRSSA membership

Believe it or not, you can still genuinely benefit from a PRSSA membership during senior year. The most important thing to keep in mind, job or not, is that joining PRSA is the key to continuing your professional development. Keep that in mind as you go through the year and prepare to graduate. Here’s what I would do to maximize your PRSSA membership senior year:

  • Continue to take on leadership roles on the executive board and on committees, but also make sure you are serving as a mentor to the younger students.
  • Continue attending local, regional and national events. Even during senior year, attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are still great ways to enhance your public relations knowledge and network with your future colleagues. If you’re lucky and serve as Chapter President, you’ll be able to attend the Leadership Rally and learn from students just like you.
  • Apply for national awards — still. PRSSA has many scholarships and awards seniors qualify for and can help put you ahead of the game. Check them out here.
  • Finally, join PRSA. Did you know that as a member of PRSSA, you can join PRSA as an associate member for up to two years for only $60 per year? How sweet is that?! More information here.

Tip: After years in PRSSA, the best thing to do is continue your professional development and join PRSA. Keep learning!

Don’t be afraid of post-graduate internships

Finishing up your senior year, you will probably looking for full time positions with your dream company. It’s important to be aware that you will probably have to intern with a company before you work for them. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but I wouldn’t count on you being the exception. Also, even though you might have had four or five internships in college, you still might be to intern with the company before a full time position. That’s OK, too.

The reason for this is simple economics: for any one open public relations entry level position, there will be a ton of applicants, so the employer can be more selective. That means they can have their top candidates “try out” for the position before hiring them on full time.

Tip: Don’t rule out post-graduate internships and don’t be surprised if you get offered one. This is the company’s way of making sure you’ll be a good fit and will do well full time.

Avoid senioritis like the plague

I’ll be honest: I think senioritis is the biggest crock of BS I’ve ever heard. It’s a state of mind and you will only get this “disease” if you let it happen. So, to make sure you have a productive year, surround yourself with highly motivated and hard working folks. Make sure you remember that just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean you can stop trying.

Tip: Don’t get lazy and pride yourself on the work you accomplish senior year.

Understand strategy and work a campaign from start to finish

One of the biggest differentiators between a tactical PR professional and a strategic PR professional is their understanding of “why.” That said, working a campaign from start to finish can be one of the most beneficial things a student can experience.

There are a couple different ways to get this kind of experience. One way is to participate in the Bateman competition through PRSSA. Another way is to stay in an internship for more than a semester. Even if you can’t take part in these above experiences, you can learn about strategy simply by asking your supervisor “why.” Why is a press release going out after the media advisory? Why write three blog posts per week instead of five? Why target this audience? These are all questions you can be asking those you work with in order to better understand public relations strategy.

Tip: Enhance internships and other PR activities by understanding and taking part in public relations strategy.

Know how to network

I mentioned this in one of the previous posts and I hope you listened! The best kind of network is one that you don’t need at that moment, so if you have been building a solid network for the past couple of years, the job search process shouldn’t be long and painful. Remember that networking is not about how someone else can help you; it’s about how you can help someone else. If you help a professional with a freelance project, or volunteered some time to help, that’s what real networking is all about. Continue to build a strong network, even if you’re planning on leaving the area. The PR community is smaller than you think, and local professionals might be able to help you in other areas.

Tip: Hopefully you have been building a strong network for the past several years so you can get advice from mentors and look in the right places during the job search.

Patience, grasshopper

In case you didn’t know, the public relations industry is not really like other industries. Companies usually don’t consistently recruit a certain number of graduates each year. Also unique to the public relations industry is you probably can’t show up to a career fair without knowing anyone and land an internship after. Getting a job in public relations takes a lot of time and work, and chances are you probably won’t find a job before you graduate. The key here is patience — don’t let the job search distract you from finishing up the year strong.

Tip: During the job search, keep your chin up, don’t get too discouraged and know that something will find you.

And for this last post, here is what my Twitter network had to say:

@MelissaHackett (she cheated and wrote three!): Well, I will be a PR senior next year and I think it’s important to realize that it is your LAST year in college. If you haven’t been, become very active in organizations. Soak in as much experience as possible before graduating. In this economy, you need more than a degree. You need skills, and you get those through experience.

@beckyjohns Reach out to people in your network that can be professional mentors. Having a sounding board is so helpful in a job search. Try to involve yourself with as many different types of PR as possible. Use the skills you’ve developed to become well-rounded.

@rossmanmckinney Learn to write w/3 c’s: be crisp, clear, concise. Be curious, ask questions. work ur butt off. do everything!

@kellee_m Start sending out resumes early in the year so agencies have you on their radar. Apply again when you graduate.

@FrancoPRGroup Graduating PR seniors MUST have great writing skills! also need to find a way to distinguish themselves..what makes them unique?

@samemac Work harder than you ever have before. Try something new and dream big.

@heatherhuhman Apply for internships and entry-level jobs simultaneously. You never know what opportunities you might uncover.

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

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, , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Breaking Down the Walls

For me, 2009 is going to be a year of breaking down the walls. I’m talking about changing the traditional college paradigm that has resulted from the increasingly competitive job market. 

break-down-the-wall

More then ever, students are pushing themselves through difficult curriculums, taking on leadership positions in student organizations and getting a job or two. The days of going through college and getting a sweet job are over. Hopefully there is no one out there that honestly believes that.

As a result, college is competitive and stressful. The college setting is meant to test and prepare us for “real world” situations, so the question then becomes is the real world as competitive and stressful? 

As students, sometimes we get caught up amidst the competitive atmosphere. We’re all competing for the top internships, the best grades and ultimately the best jobs. Too often we forget about our peers and their own professional pursuits. I was always taught to treat others the way I want to be treated. Just like in social media, cultivating relationships with your colleagues takes time and work, but it pays off in the end.

Here are my goals (note: not resolutions) for breaking down the walls this year:

  • Build my network and share it. I love networking and meeting new people. My friend puts it best: “I can’t keep my PR legs closed.” This year, I want to connect the good people in my network with the other good people in my network.
  • Improve this blog so that it does help people. I like to share what I learn, who I meet and new trends with you guys because I learn from you. I hope to continue to product worthwhile content and please let me know if I start going senile.
  • Look beyond the short term and always look for the long term. Questioning old practices and replacing them with new, more effective practices is what I’m going for. 
  • Connect Michigan PRSSA students with each other. I’ve been in contact with some really great people at other Michigan PRSSA Chapters and we all share in similar pre-professional pursuits, so why not help each other out? I had dinner with Jared Bryan from Wayne State University and Stephanie Scheer from Eastern Michigan University and I’m looking forward to working with them over the next couple of months.

This past year, a friend and mentor of mine, Jennie Ecclestone, who happened to be the MSU PRSSA Chapter President at the time, nominated me for a Central Michigan PRSA award. Typically, the award goes to a senior who has dedicated him or herself to their PRSSA Chapter and made a dramatic impact. Even though I and a couple other people nominated Jennie, her recommendation that she probably put a lot of time and effort into got me the award. This completely selfless action taught me more about leadership then any conference or book. Jennie was breaking down the walls and she will always have a friend and colleague with me. 

When it comes down to it, people make the difference in my life. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such dynamic, dedicated and funny people. They keep me sane and drive me nuts. But because they have help me so much in my career, I would do anything for them. Public relations and other industries are often based on who you know, not what you know. I hope I will be able to repay the favor to Jennie somehow.

This year, I challenge you to break down the walls in your own pre-professional career. Ask yourself, “why the hell not?” Value honesty and listen to your peers. And most importantly, don’t forget your friends and colleagues. 

Photo by rulosblack on Flickr. 

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tips on Generating Content

If there was one thing that held me back from starting a blog sooner, it was my fear of not being able to generate content. I quickly learned some things that help me come up with a post every couple days. Hopefully the information is useful, and remember that I’m still learning, too!

Here’s some things that I do to generate content for this blog:

Read new things.

You should already be reading up on your daily news from The New York Times, CNN and The Wall Street Journal. With so many things going on in the news, it’s hard not to draw blog posts from how it’s affecting you, your career or your industry. If you’re into PR and advertising, it wouldn’t hurt to subscribe to PRWeek and Advertising Age. I got each subscription for $50 – look for deals and promotions!

Besides your typical news outlets, it’s also important to check up on what your friends are tweeting and blogging about.  If you take it one step further and see what your friends’ friends are tweeting and blogging about, you will be introduced to a whole new realm of conversations. Join them and write about it.

Also, keep an eye on what’s going on with things that might relate to you. As a PR student, I try to balance my PR news and blogs with social media and career sites. Here are some new great finds:

  • Mashable is a blog with reviews and how-to’s of the latest Web tools.
  • The Creative Career is a blog by an MSU alum in Chicago with tips and tricks for those pursuing a creative career. The podcasts are pretty cool, too!
  • Having an unmotivated day? Check out Pick the Brain, a blog to motivate and inspire. It really is a great pick-me-up on those not so great days.

Meet new people.

Get off your computer. Get out of your apartment. Go meet new people.

If you’re not a social butterfly, it’s hard to walk into a room of complete strangers and start talking to people. When meeting someone new, find their twinkle spot. Get your mind of the gutter. The twinkle spot is that one conversation subject that really gets someone going. It could be about gardening, bicycling, swimming or even the new Nintendo Wii game. Once you find out what interests that person, you’re golden.

If and when you get over this hump, meeting new people will let you see new perspectives on things. Incorporate those perspectives on your existing paradigms of your career, industry, etc. Not only will this help you improve, but it will also help your readers, too.

Join new organizations.

See a common trend yet? Besides joining the professional association of your chosen profession, don’t be afraid to join young professional groups, interest groups or even just-for-fun groups. These meetings and events often strike up some cool ideas.

It’s important to not limit yourself by having a narrow perspective on what you want your blog to be. Don’t have an agenda — keep your options open.

Listen to new information.

Listen first, talk second. A social media rule of thumb is to not ramble and self-promote. Remember, you’re here to learn and channel what you learn to create your own content. At Shannon Paul’s CMPRSA presentation (I was there in spirit!), she talked about 4 steps to joining the conversation:

Consume – Respond – Reference – Promote

Listening builds your credibility. Credibility builds your network. A larger network means a larger flow of information. When you consume all this information, you learn and are able to share your expert opinion.

In general, do new things. I am a big believer in jumping in the deep end of the pool. Immersing yourself in the conversation is the best way to learn. Hey, you might even have some fun along the way.

How do you generate content? Where do you get your inspiration? I would like to add to this list, so comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

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