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?

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

Timeless Tips I Found in Chicago

During the weekend, I attended a PRSSA Regional Activity in Chicago. It was a great event with a lot of useful information, no matter your level in college. I also will disclose that I’m a bit of a conference junkie and hop any conference I can fit in my schedule. This was was particularly well planned and the programming was fantastic. I give my props to the planning committee from Valpraiso and DePaul.

I even got to stop by the office that I'll be working at over the summer. It's near the top of this monster. Cool!

I even got to stop by the office that I'll be working at over the summer. It's near the top of this monster. Cool!

I found the interviewing workshop to be the most useful for me. Below I’ve recapped some of the tips I got from the event:

  • Prepare your toolbox. Have a strong handshake (not too strong), bring extra copies of your resume and cover letter, have your portfolio in hard copy and on CD (or online if possible), prepare your elevator pitch and have business cards.
  • Research your prospective companies. In public relations, finding an internship can be extremely challenging, so many of my colleagues tend to apply for 10+ internships each summer. That’s fine, but it usually works out that you get the interview with the company you know the least about. Make sure you do your research and set up Google Alerts on each company to keep in the know about news and developments.
  • The core elements to a successful interview are as follows: 40 percent attitude, 25 percent image, 25 percent communication and 10 percent job qualifications. Note: your job qualifications are the lest important. While this may not be true for every company, the take-away here is that if you get the interview, you can sell yourself on your attitude, image and communication skills. Basically, come in there with a smile, think beforehand about some questions that might come up and answer clearly.
  • When answering questions, use the PARK model: problem, action, results, knowledge gained. In situational questions, keep this in mind. Also remember that it’s OK to admit you’ve made mistakes; if you have learned since and corrected the problem, that demonstrates maturity and skill.
  • Utilize grouping answers in threes. When the interviewer asks about your strengths or weaknesses, give three each time. One isn’t enough and four or more just sounds too much.
  • If you’re asked to start with “a little about yourself,” use this format: education background, what you’re passionate for and why you’re applying. Skip the “well, I’m…” and “uh.” This is one that you can easily prepare beforehand.

The last thing I learned was something that I think is timeless. I went to lunch with some friends that I see at PRSSA events and one of the things that came up was how knowing fellow students eventually turns into professional relationships. It’s hard to think that all of the people going to these conferences with you will soon be your colleagues, but it’s imperative to build your network with them, too. Don’t cut them off in line at the career fair and don’t ignore them.

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

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?

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

PR Book Club

A couple of weeks ago, Rachel Esterline sent out an idea on Twitter she had about a PR book club. I’ll be quite honest – I need to read more books. I read books for class (most of the time), subscribe to way too much on Google Reader to feed my news junkiness and make time to read The State News in print every day. But I don’t pick up too many books.

Thus, the PR Book Club for students and professionals begins. (We’re looking for a new name and we’re looking for suggestions!)

In case you haven’t heard me ramble about this, one of the things I’m most passionate about is professional development. Yes, more reading on top of what you are assigned as a student or your workload as a professional (or sometimes both), but I think you can and should make time for this.

Here’s my current book list on deck, and hopefully we’ll get to some of these:

new_rules_book_cover1The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. Although it’s part of my New Media Drivers License class, I’ve had this for a while, just haven’t had time to read. I started reading it yesterday, and it’s incredibly engaging.

groundswellGroundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book has been recommended by me way too many times for me to ignore it.

stephen-covey-7-habits-of-highly-effective-peopleThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey. This, too, is a book highly recommended by friends and colleagues.

presentation-zen-bookPresentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. This is the second book that’s part of my NMDL course. Anyone in the marketing field can use a refresher course on solid presentations. Working in sales, I’m excited to improve my presentation skills.

ogilvy-on-advertising2Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. He does advertising, I do PR, but I think this is going to be a good one.

Rachel is heading up the group and is seeking interested members. Head over to her blog and comment to be part of something really awesome.

Filed under: New Media Drivers License, PR Book Club, Professional Development, 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?

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

Lessons Learned (and Relearned)

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the PRSSA National Conference in Detroit. Growing up in the the suburbs of the city, I was proud and excited for the conference to be in my backyard. Even more exciting was the energy and zest PRSSA and PRSA members brought to the city. With more than 3,000 public relations practitioners in Detroit, it was a really great time.

My first conference was last year in Philadelphia, and since then, I have attended every national event. This year, I was able to network with new people, see new practices and participate in unique sessions. More importantly, I relearn at every conference how dynamic and elastic the PR industry is. I also leave these conferences motivated and excited.

Besides the breakout sessions, I found those PRSA general sessions with a speaker outside the PR industry to be the most valuable. Some pretty incredible speakers with extensive backgrounds in the industry lead the breakout sessions, but to me, an outsider’s perspective on the industry and on business in general is even more valuable. I came to this conference with about 30 other MSU PRSSA students, and every one thought that the general session speakers weren’t relevant to public relations.

Just because the speaker isn’t the CEO of a huge PR agency does not mean that they can’t offer real advice to public relations practitioners.

When we work with clients, the audience of any campaign probably won’t be the ones who put together the campaign. As public relations practitioners, we communicate to families, students, adults, the baby-boomers and everyone in between. We also communicate to the nerds, corporate executives and journalists. That’s why Craig Newmark, Bob Lutz and Mitch Albom were able to make such a strong impact on me. Here is what each had to say:

  • Craig Newmark of Craigslist discussed his experience founding a start-up Internet company that would become one of the most visited sites on the Internet. My favorite part about his presentation was that he still does work at the bottom of the company- he works in customer service to ensure that his consumers are satisfied with his product. How cool is that?
  • From a more corporate perspective, Bob Lutz of General Motors discussed why communications is so valuable. To me, I was so relieved to hear from a guy who supports communication and values it sincerely. He was honest and blunt, and made sure to remind the audience to keep up with the times. Communication is a constantly evolving industry and we as professionals need to always be learning and integrating new tactics. PRSA’s ComPRhension blog does a great job recapping what he had to say here.
  • As a Detroit-native, I have know about Mitch Albom for a long time. I know that he’s a sports writer, a talk show host, a columnist, and a host of other things. He told us the story of how one of his books was written. He also reminded us of the power of connecting with people and networking. Even as students, we can start building these connections and maintaining them. Follow up with the people you met this weekend and contact them once in a while. Hey, you never know what might come out of your network.

Even though there were so many positive aspects of the conference, I felt that the conference was a bit lacking on practical social media advice, and I think that represents the knowledge and expertise that is still being acquired. In the social media sessions, we were told to join the conversation, learn how to use the tools and be smart about usage. But how can we use social media for our clients? How should we not use it? What are some case studies on social media?

All in all, this was a great reminder of the ethical, professional and knowledgeable industry I am hoping to enter upon graduation. I relearn at every conference how great this industry really is and how bright its future is.

For all PRSSA/PRSA attendees, what did you think of the sessions? What did you take away from this conference?

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

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