PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Being a Career Strategist

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard a trend from multiple recruiters and professionals concerning what they look for in a prospective employee. More than just having internships, demonstrating the right skill sets and showing a professional attitude, it’s important to remember the difference between strategy and tactics. In your own career, you can show employers that you are a strategist, which is more important than just contributing to the tactics.

So, what’s the difference between a career strategist and a career tactician? Here’s what a career tactician does in college and in their early career:

  • Makes a list of internships to complete
  • Plans their class schedule to fulfill all requirements
  • Has a portfolio full showing different things they can do
  • Goes on a study abroad to have international experience

Here’s what a career strategist would do in the same situations:

  • Keeps internship and career options open, but keeps in mind how it will help future roles
  • Takes classes that supplement their career interests, not just to get the credits done
  • The portfolio shows they were part of a campaign and contributed to the success of it
  • Studies abroad and is able to “unpack” and apply their international experiences

There are plenty more, but what it comes down to is being able to see the big picture of what you’re doing and why. If you are a strategist, you can answer why, when, what’s next, was it successful and what would you have done differently. It’s also important to remember that you can be a leader no matter what company or organization you are involved in.

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I think it’s a good idea to take a top down approach to college vs. a bottom up approach. That is, keep in mind what you want to do upon graduation and then find the best things to fill in the gap of that goal and where you are now. If you want to go into PR, a good idea would be to have different internships that emphasize different things.

If you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate, you can still be a strategist. Your goal of what you want to do upon graduation will still require general skill sets that you can enhance with collegiate experiences. Personally, this is where I’m at. I know I want to do PR when I graduate, but where I want to work and with what kind of company… I’m not set in stone. I still know what I need to work on and improve, so I am still able to be strategic.

After you have created your top down plan, it’s a good idea to micromanage each step. When you earn those internships and leadership positions, don’t come in with a checklist of things you need to have. You should approach everything like a sponge – absorb as much information as possible and look at your projects from the big picture prospective. When you’re assigned to write a press release, you shouldn’t just do it. Ask why you’re writing the release and how it is important to the client. The Career Strategist blog has some great posts that talk more about preparing for a strategic career.

Seth Godin wrote a great post on the difference between strategy and tactics. He even says the right strategy can make any tactic work. So, when you’re planning your career, make sure that you know where you want to go and that you’re taking the right steps. Look at the big picture of what you want to accomplish in your early career that will propel you forward.

So, are you a strategist? Any tips or advice on how to become one?

Photo by soccergoalx on Flickr.

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

Professional Profile: Kelly Rossman-McKinney

For our PRSSA Chapter’s monthly publication, ImPRessions, we highlight a professional who has made a significant impact in the public relations industry. This month, I had the pleasure of talking to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of the Rossman Group. She recently became our Professional Advisor and our whole team is looking forward to working with her.

Here’s what she had to say about the industry and why she loves what she does:

How did you get started in the public relations industry?

I don’t remember if there were any PR classes when I went to college at Wayne State, but my interest at the time was initially psychology, in which I majored.  I had a great part-time job at channel 50 in Detroit, tho, and fell in love with TV so I added what was then called radio-tv-film as a second major. Turns out the combination is terrific for the PR profession. My career in TV was short-lived due to an early marriage and relocation to Battle Creek, but I ended up working at the Capitol and having several great jobs that included significant work in what I eventually realized was public relations.  I tried a couple of times to get a job at the only PR firm in town at the time – Publicom, founded by our own Rick Cole – but never – repeat NEVER – got hired.   MSU’s own Ned Hubbell – for whom your chapter is named – was the first person who actually recognized – and helped me realize – that the work I was doing in state government was really public relations.  He helped me pursue accreditation and was immensely helpful when I started my own firm.

What do you do in your current position with your firm?

A little bit of everything – but I still love client work the best.  I don’t do as much hands-on writing of basic communication tools – news releases, etc. – but I still write – or help write –most of the strategic plans and most of our pitches.  I am also on the phone way too much, spend an awful lot of time emailing, or I am in meetings with clients or potential clients.  Most of my real work – the strategic thinking – ends up being done after everyone else goes home.  There are certainly aspects of running a business that I have to attend to – but those responsibilities are more like chores than the client work will ever be!

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Three things:  crisis communications, pitching new clients, and public speaking.  I really love the challenge of helping an individual or an organization navigate the sometimes treacherous waters when something bad happens to them.  We’ve worked on all kinds of interesting crisis situations, from looming strikes to employee deaths to embezzlements to blown-up propane tanks – and lots in between.  The challenge of helping figure out what a potential client needs – and how best to convince them that we are absolutely the best firm to help them (i.e., pitching) – still gives me a thrill, even though we’ve done it hundreds of times over the years.  It’s really fun trying to figure out what a client wants to accomplish and how to get them to the finish line.  And last but not least – I love public speaking, whether it’s a 20-minute keynote to a thousand people or a day-long workshop for 10 – it’s energizing.

What do you do in your free time (if you have any!)?

Right now, I’m a total football bleacher mom.  Although my oldest son is long out of the house (he is deputy director of the Senate Democratic Communications office), I still have three younger kids at home.  My sophomore son and 10 of his JV teammates got moved up to the Grand Ledge High School varsity team for the play-offs, so I’m at every game.  Basketball and volleyball season are right around the corner, so I plan to hone my bleacher butt skills for the next several months!

What advice you would offer to students?

Depends on what students want to know, but in general, my advice is pretty simple – be curious, ask questions, pay attention to what’s going on in the world, find your voice – and dress, speak and act like every encounter is a job interview – because it just might be!

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