What draws people to the world of public relations? Between the press releases, event planning and constant communication, this job guarantees an interesting work day every day. Commonly known as PR, this job keeps you on the edge of your seat in a world that becomes increasingly connected every day due to the rise of social media and the seemingly never-ending news cycle. With so much going on in the world of public relations, how can you be sure that you’re making the most of your degree and ready for the field by the time you graduate?
These public relations experts give some insider tips to stay on top of your game during college and beyond.
1. Embrace your Competitive Side
With thousands of PR firms and practitioners in the industry, it goes without saying that competitiveness comes with the job. Kristian Denny entered the field in 1992 after graduating and has over 30 years of experience in the political world of public relations. “For me, the draw to politics was the competition. There was a beginning, an end and a winner or a resolution…it is raw, always unpredictable and maddeningly strategic,” Denny said. No matter what field you enter, there will always be competitiveness to your job. Every day practitioners go into work with one goal in mind: to make their client the best. By embracing your inner competitive side, consider yourself the driving force in making your client’s campaign exceptionally unique.
2. Learn How to Use Social Media
The Internet changed forever with the launch of Facebook in 2004. Today we have the ability to reach people on a global level with the click of a “Post” button. The rise of social media caused a monumental shift in public relations because so many people communicate through it.
One of the first people to recognize this shift was Dr. Marcia DiStaso. Known as “Dr. D” by her students at the University of Florida, she’s learned the importance of social media through years of instruction and serving as the public relations director for the Red Cross. “[Social media is] changing the dynamic of communication,” she said. “Everything in our industry is going through disruption. Change is constant.” Even though it may seem simple, learning how to use Twitter or creating a LinkedIn profile could prove useful because it shows effective communication skills. By connecting with the public you know what they want to see from your client, which leads to a more successful campaign and career.
3. Explore Your Passions
Have you ever heard the saying “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? This saying remains true in the world of PR. Every field requires public relations from politics to sports management. By having passions outside of journalism, you can find joy in what you do every day. “This semester I worked for the Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant… and I got to teach a wonderful group of people about the importance of public relations and keeping up constant communication with the community,” University of Florida senior Jessica Finkel said. “Before I started working on my focus (in sustainability), I was kind of lost as to what I wanted to do with my life, but this has narrowed it down significantly.” Your passions drive you to succeed because the work comes naturally.
Many college public relations programs require students to explore an outside field. This lets students find where they want to work in public relations. These fields range from music to physics and everything in between. Figuring out your interests early allows you to build your skills quickly during your college career.
4. Improve Your Listening Skills
While most of the work in PR involves writing, a good portion also involves listening. Listening to and understanding what a client really wants to showcase could make your work top-notch. By demonstrating listening skills, employers know you really care about your job. “Listening is very hard because it’s hard to hear what someone’s actually saying. To be a good listener, you have to be very open. I look for someone who is very open-minded, very objective, and leave their preconceived notions at home,” Mickey Nall, former managing director of firm Ogilvy-Mather and current professor at the University of Florida said. With good listening comes open-mindedness. By connecting with a client, you leave all of your perceptions at the door. Remaining open to new ideas and hearing the client’s wants and needs ensures you form a strong connection and even stronger campaign.
5. Write, Write, Write
As mentioned before, every job in public relations requires excellent writing skills. Whether you draft a press release, a company newsletter or even a memo for another department, you can guarantee that writing comes with the job. When asked why they got into the field, nearly every professional mentioned writing.
“If you’re going to be in PR, you’re going to be doing a lot of writing. You can say you’re great at social [media] and you’ll just do social [media], but that is also writing. It’s all content development, so you have to love that,” Nall said. Writing provides a wonderful creative outlet in college and there are plenty of opportunities to write. Look for student organizations, like a creative writing club, or see if any organizations have an open PR position. Maybe a new magazine just started on campus and they want the college community to know about it—take that opportunity. Even keeping a daily journal or blog helps improve writing skills. Writing combined with the rest of these skills ensures that you’re set for success when you graduate.