PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

First Day Reminders

With the end of the school year comes the first for something new: the first day on the job. I wholeheartedly believe that first impressions are incredibly important, especially in the workplace. If you can manage to make a solid first impression to your supervisor and coworkers, you will be off to a great start at your job or internship.

Here are some of my reminders when it comes to making a first impression:

Preparing for the first day
Just because you got the job doesn’t mean you should stop researching the company. Make sure you know about big events relating to the company and the industry in general. Keep on with Google Alerts, subscribe to the company’s blog or news feed and read industry publications to make sure you know what’s up. You never know who you’ll meet the first day!

Appearance
What you’re wearing and how well you take care of yourself really speak louder than words. Before the first day, make sure you get in contact with an employee of the company and see what the dress code is. There’s nothing worse than wearing a suit when everyone else is casual, and when you’re not comfortable, you won’t be able to perform.

officeWhat to expect
Come to your first day with an open mind and get ready for anything. With some companies, you might have an orientation for the entire day. With other companies, you might have a brainstorming meeting, a writing project and some media clipping to do. Chances are you’ll be entering a fast-paced work environment, especially at an agency, where you will have to jump right in. Get to know the people around you and ask them how you can help. By asking questions and becoming familiar with the clients, you’ll be able to be a more effective practitioner.

Lunch
Will your new coworkers take you out to lunch? Will you all eat in the lunchroom together? Will you eat at your desk? Be prepared for anything. I recommend bringing a lunch – something that you can keep for another day in case you go out.

When to leave?
When you’re trying to figure out when to leave, make sure you’re not staring at the clock wondering when you can get the heck out. That said, it might be overkill to stay hours past closing. The best thing you can do is understand when  you’ll be expected to stay and make one more call or answer one more e-mail before heading out.

For more general tips on interning, check out my post here. For some other great articles on first days, check out these:

  • Culpwrit has an entire category dedicated to first days — there are some great posts there.
  • On Brazen Careerist, you can find some good posts on internship first days here and starting off on the right foot here.
  • Pick the Brain (my favorite motivation blog) has a great post on how to survive the first day here.

What tips do you have for those of us coming to the first day of a new job (myself included)? Any good stories to share?

Photo by mikebrown3506 on Flickr.

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

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

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 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, , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 2

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.

The way I see it, you really need to lay strong foundations in your college career. That means starting early. Sure, some people can pull it off starting in their junior year (and do a good job, too), but if you keep these important principles in mind early, you’ll be off to a great start. That said, here are my tips on sophomore year:

Get your career going!

Now you’re out of the “way to get involved so early” phase that is freshmen year (I heard this a lot), get going with your professional career. Start seeking internship experience during the school year (if possible) as well as the summer after the year. In my previous post, I talked about getting jobs on campus working for the school newspaper or in sales/fund raising — these are great jobs to develop necessary public relations skills. You can move on from those positions to PR internships, or take on leadership roles within those positions.

If you choose the PR internship route, start by making a list of several companies you want to work and find ways to network with their employees. One of these ways is to attend networking events through PRSA and other associations. Another way is the informational interview. E-mail a younger professional with the company and see if they have a half an hour to talk about the company. This is a great foot-in-the-door opportunity, and remember not to be shy.

Tip: Make business cards, attend networking events and follow up with the professionals you meet. You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow up and that puts you far ahead of the rest.

Think diversity

As you begin to think about what you want to do with your career, make sure you’re thinking diversity. This doesn’t necessarily pertain to ethnicity; it means to think of your career in an interdisciplinary fashion. Working at two mid-size agencies specializing in health care probably isn’t your best approach. Try to get as much experience in as many different industries in a many different atmospheres as possible. It’s a mouthful, but learning from different people will help you down the road.

This also means to get involved with different things. Getting involved with communication organizations is great, but also think about student government, research with professors and other leadership opportunities. Sometimes, the best experiences come from where you’d least expect it.

Tip: Try to work in at least three different settings. Some options you have include large and small corporations, differently sized agencies, nonprofits and writing jobs. Try to mix and match with what you would like to do when you graduate.

Maximize your PRSSA membership

If you haven’t already joined PRSSA, what are you waiting for? Sophomore year is a prime time to be active in the organization and network with your peers. Here’s what I would do to maximize your PRSSA membership:

  • Take on leadership roles. Yes, you have to do more than just go to the meetings. Talk to your executive board and learn ways to lead committees, shadow the e-board and learn as much as you can about the organization.
  • Attend regional and national events. Here’s where it gets a little more expensive. Attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are great ways to learn more about the profession and network.
  • Work with other Chapters in the area. Get to know some of the other students at colleges nearby.
  • Work for your student-run firm. If you don’t have one yet, consider starting one with a single client and work up from there. Check here for more info on this.
  • Learn about the member benefits — locally and nationally. Talk to your local executive board for information on scholarships and awards, mentoring programs and other benefits. Also, there are so many benefits at the national level. Check them out here.

As you can see, I put a lot of emphasis on making the most of your membership. This organization probably won’t help you if you aren’t active. If you are active and get the most out of your membership, you’ll have a job when you graduate.

Tip: Don’t make excuses — get active, take on leadership roles and go to conferences.

Study abroad or intern?

I’ve heard this debate a lot, and truthfully, there’s not necessarily a better choice. Some companies would rather see more experience, but some of the larger corporations want to see international experience. I know a lot of this depends on your financial situation, so if you have the money and can do it, I would recommend fitting this in some time during college.

Tip: If you can fit in a study abroad, try to do it earlier than later so you don’t have to choose between your trip and a sweet internship.

And here is what my Twitter community thought about sophomore year:

@AdrienneBailey Find an internship with a nonprofit for experience or job shadow to learn the ropes! And of course join & get involved w/ PRSSA

@KarenRussel get more involved in student orgs (as PR rep) and volunteer positions — starts to build experience for internships

@KFo11 and get connected with professors to ask them what they did and what did/didnt work for them! MISS YOUR GUTS

@makeyourownfun Now that they’ve probably had time to hear of some of the student organizations, to get actively involved with them

@AngelaHernandez It’s never too early to gain experience. Do PR for nonprofits, small biz or other student orgs

@kelle_m Take as many writing classes as possible

So, what else do you have to add for sophomores?

Filed under: Internships, 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, , , , , , , , ,

Final Presentation from NMDL

I had my last New Media Drivers License class a couple of weeks ago, and our final project was a presentation on what we learned. I wasn’t a stranger to new media in the beginning, but I still learned so much. I think the most important thing I learned was, while I have some pretty solid knowledge of today’s media, tomorrow will be different. Keeping on top of things is important, but as the brilliant Shannon Paul once told me, the new wave of PR professionals will need to walk on the fence between new practices and old techniques.

I tagged all of my adventures under “New Media Drivers License” with this blog, and you can see more about the class here. Because I already some sort of preexisting knowledge about new media, my presentation was a little different than most of my classmates. I focused on these areas:

  • Your online brand
  • Ethics in social media
  • The power of an offline network
  • Continuing your education

Check out the presentation below or on my Slideshare profile.

I’m hoping to help out Derek Mehraban, the instructor, teach the course next semester, so I’m looking for some feedback from all of you. What would you like to see in a new media class? Does your school (or association) have some sort of indstruction on new media? Any best practices you’d like to share?

Thanks for the help!

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

State of the News Media 2009 and PR

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Last week, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism published its annual “State of the News Media” report. The title gives a good description of what the report is about, but this year’s report is particularly interesting. I’ll be honest, I work at a newspaper and times really are tough. Walking in downtown East Lansing you’ll find shops that have been there for years are being shut down, and I know this is the case across the country. This is the sixth report, but according to the introduction, it is the “bleakest.” Consider these facts:

  • Newspaper ad revenues have fallen 23 percent over the past year
  • One out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone
  • Local television revenues fell 7 percent in an election year
  • The number of Americans going online for news jumped 19 percent during the past two years
  • Traffic online for the top 50 news outlets increased 28 percent

So, what do the statistics mean? It means a lot, but here are the six major trends described in the report:

  1. How to finance the newspaper industry is becoming more and more important, yet the solutions are not coming to fruition. The report suggests that the industry is not looking in the right places. In a recent AdAge editorial, the author said media executives are holding on to the idea that the news is a thing – but it really isn’t.
  2. The power is shifting from media institutions to the individual journalist – AKA the mommy blogger next door.
  3. News organizations are not focusing on their audience, they are focused on pushing content to the rest of the Web. Between Twitter, Facebook and other outlets, the media think it’s best to push their content in as many medium as possible. Is it working? I don’t think so.
  4. More media outlets are sharing because they have to – financially, at least. Will there be multiple television outlets in Lansing? Will there be two newspapers in Detroit? How many radio stations are left in Mid-Michigan? These are all things to consider.
  5. Political journalism is on the rise. The 2008 Presidential Election was a time for the media to cover everything related to the election – and beyond. I think we’re still in the honeymoon phase of the election in which everything the new president does is historic. The report discusses how America has become fascinated with “minute-by-minute” updates with politics – cabinet appointments, new bills and updates to the economic situation.
  6. The press was less of an “enterprising investigator” and more reactive and passive. Of course, the Freep reporting on Kwame Kilpatrick is an exception to that, but there is less and less investigative journalism going on. This is mainly because reporters don’t have time – after all, deadline was yesterday.

The full report can be viewed here.

There’s no way to put it softly – traditional journalism is not doing so well. I’m not going to write about the state of the media industry right now, but I think it’s an especially important time for public relations practitioners. Students are taught the media is one of the most important parts of the job, but because this industry is shrinking, PR practitioners need to get creative and innovative. Online media rooms are one alternative to lack of traditional media coverage, and David Meerman Scott suggests that PR people should recognize all kinds of people, not just the media, visit an online media room.

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Our PRSSA Faculty Advisor, Russ White (the man behind the MSUPRSSA YouTube channel) and a University Relations employee, says people are coming to them for stories about MSU – he doesn’t have to pitch. Check out the MSU news site here; I also took a screenshot. It has stories, people, multimedia, podcasts and subscription capabilities. Their news site is just like a newspaper’s Web site. I don’t want to speak for them, but I think this is directly responsible for the shrinking media. MSU will always have a story to tell, no matter if the media will be there to cover it. These online media rooms make the PR job a lot easier if you take out the pitching component.

Because public relations practitioners have an increasing level of power when it comes to shaping messages, we need to remember to be honest and transparent. While I might be biased to PRSA, I like the WOMMA code of ethics, too. No matter what code of ethics you adhere to, PR practitioners must recognize they are content providers and need to tread cautiously when creating messages.

What do you think about the state of the media? How is it affecting PR? If this a good or bad thing?

Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , ,

Good Media Relations

Last week, I had the chance to listen to Lorri Rishar Jandron, president and CEO of Edge Partnerships. She is a PR practioner who used to work as a reporter, so she has a pretty solid grasp of media relations. She had some solid  tips I wanted to share:

  1. Be honest
  2. Know the subject
  3. Don’t speak off the record
  4. Accept media requests
  5. Stay focused, stay brief
  6. Answer the question you want to answer
  7. Stay cool
  8. It’s quality, not quantity
  9. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it
  10. When all else fails, return to #1

I feel that media relations is one of the most difficult parts of PR to teach. From my experience, I have seen that the best of kind of media relations occurs not on a cold call or when working down a huge list of contacts. It occurs over time through mutually beneficial relationships between PR practitioners and journalists. But how do you teach that in a classroom? And how do you teach good media relations through a 12-week internship? I think starting with the basics and learning as you go is the best kind of approach. Also, I like the Catching Flack blog – it has some pretty good media relations tips.

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As far as principles to remember, here’s what I’ve come up with: Good media relations starts with attitude. If you have a couple of reporters to call, make sure you don’t rush the calls and thoroughly review the material you’re pitching. Keep your cool and don’t get annoyed. Any position that requires a lot of phone time is really helpful in media relations and in your PR internship, especially a sales position.

After you figure out how to develop a good attitude, becoming an expert in the appropriate industry is important. Chances are, if you’re on the phone with the reporter talking about a news release, they will probably want information that’s not on the release. Keep up with the appropriate industry publications and news and you should be able to hold your own and answer questions. I also like to have a list of the key messages right next to me just in case.

One other thing to remember is the fact that newsrooms across the country are shrinking. Journlists are getting cut left and right, and beat reporters aren’t necessarily experts in that industry. Reporters like to say their deadline was yesterday (with pretty much everything they do), so they are extremely crunched for time. This is such a great opporutnity for PR practitioners to step in and help out, btu also keeping in mind what each media outlet sees as news. For more commentary on the shrinking newsroom, check out a post by Mike Cherenson on PRSAY.

During my internships, I had the chance to do a lot of media relations. I made some mistakes and had some shining moments, but I would never get on the phone and treat a journalist like crap. Too many times I’ve seen articles that talk about “dealing” with the media. Seriously, deal with the media? Lorri talked about this and how she will never say she “deals” with the media. They’re not stupid and they have their own job to do. Part of our job as PR practitioners is to work with them and help them with their job. By saying part of a job is to “deal” with the media, it’s pretty much demeaning their profession and that’s a bad attitude. PR folks work with the media, and it should be left as that.

For me, it brings up the question: are we being trained to hate the media? I don’t think so, but I think new student PR practitioners have a very unrealistic perception of what real media relations is. Getting solid experience in working with the media will help you prepare for a career in public relations.

What else? Sure, it’s easy for me to comment about media relations education, but what do you think is the best way to learn media relations? Any tips for students or new practitioners?

Photo by mezarc on Flickr.

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

How to Write a Communication Plan

During a recent MSU PRSSA meeting, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Rossman PR, came in to talk about how to write a communication plan and important principles to execute the plan. Personally, it was extremely helpful and it served as a reminder that we are in a completely strategic field. Doing something just to do it won’t get you anywhere (for an example, look on Facebook for all the companies who have a Facebook page but don’t do anything with them). The video summary of what she talked about is right here:

Kelly talked about her eight-step approach when it comes to strategic public relations. Whether you are running a political campaign or fundraising for a nonprofit, these principles apply. Better yet, try and create a communication plan within a student group or current place of employment. Here are her steps and strategies:

The eight-step approach to strategic public relations planning:

  1. Background/situation analysis: State who the client is, where the client stands today, why they are seeking public relations services and how the agency understands the mission of the client.
  2. Goals and objectives: State the goals and objectives; remember that goals are broad while objectives are specific and measurable.
  3. Research: Perform some qualitative and quantitative research to help you executive and complete the campaign.
  4. Target audiences: Name the key internal and external target audiences that should be part of the campaign.
  5. Messages: Illustrate the key and secondary messages that will best motivate your audience.
  6. Proof points: Stats, stories and facts to support your stance.
  7. Communication tools: What mediums will best deliver your message? Print newspapers, online media, Facebook, etc.
  8. Evaluation: Have you been measuring the success of the campaign?

After you come up with all of these steps and plans for a campaign, it’s important to keep a strategic focus. The next list is a set of questions you should be able to answer clearly and concisely.

Principles of effective communication:

  • Credibility: Is your messenger credible – is he or she a trusted and respected source of information – with your audience?
  • Context: Is your message in context with reality and the environment in which your audience is located?
  • Content: Is your message relevant to your audience? Are they interested?
  • Clarity: Is your message simple and straightforward? How far will it travel and how long will it last?
  • Continuity and consistency: Repeat your message for audience penetration.
  • Channels: What channels/tools of communication are you using? What value are they to your audience?
  • Customer benefits: What’s in it for me?
  • Caring, compassion and concern: Does your audience know that you care?
  • Capability of audience: Is your audience capable of understanding the message? Will they take the time to listen/read/watch it?
  • Call to action: What is your audience supposed to do now?

All in all, it was a great meeting and a great presentation. Another online resource I found is from Dave Fleet, who has a great (and free!) e-book on writing a strategic communication plan here.

Any other tips for writing a communication plan? Any resources you’d like to share?

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

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