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What New PR Pros Need to Know

// December 10, 2010 // Public Relations // 14 Comments

*This post is part of Bailey Gardiner’s What New PR Pros Need to Know series, which offers advice, insights and guidance to students and new professionals who want to learn more about the PR industry. Topics and suggestions are welcomed.

One of my favorite things about my job is coordinating the BG PR internship program. As I search for our newest intern, it got me thinking about what new pros, college graduates and students vying for an internship need to know. I even asked some of my Twitter friends and mentors (in 140 characters) for advice to share with you.

Here were some common themes:

Integration is where it’s at- When I received a tweet from Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge ) offering her advice to new pros, I knew I had hit social media gold. The author of “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” and an adjunct professor, Deirdre said, “Grads should know that communications can’t work in a vacuum. It’s very important to be hybrid working with other marketing disciplines. And, in order to educate our brands we must be embracing social media, staying on top of technology and constantly educating ourselves.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Embrace Math – The age old, “I majored in communications because I hate math” no longer applies. Measurement and ROI are words we hear often in conversations with clients and among our peers. We are always asking how we can attribute our PR efforts to an increase in sales, awareness and bottom line. Brands are looking to each other to decide if allocating resources to a public relations and social media strategy is worth it.  Jay Baer, (@jaybaer),author of “Convince and Convert” & “The Now Revolution” thinks “the most important thing for new PR people to know is math and data analysis. Whomever keeps score, controls the budget.” In other words, “show me the money.”

Write Well- This was a common theme throughout my discussion with @PRProSanDiego, @BlockGreg, @RockStarJen and @hattrickscore. Writing is at the core of what we do as PR professionals. We should know how to write well and use appropriate grammar, punctuation and spelling. Gayle Falkenthal APR, president of the Falcon Valley Group (@PRProSanDiego) said, “Good writing is like good form in athletics. It is the foundation for success. No substitute for it. People notice.” And Mike Rose, vice president at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker (@hattrickscore) commented, “I wish newbies in PR would be passionate about writing. It’s the foundation for what we do.”

Manage your personal brand – Remember, what happens in Vegas stays on (insert your social media platform of choice here). Our profession continues to evolve as the world of social networking continues to grow. There’s a strategy behind it and it’s critical that new pros understand the basics of blogging and blogger relations, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Facebook, Flickr, etc. Show us that you’re engaged, interacting and networking- not just posting pictures of what you did on Friday night at the frat house. Melodie Tao, social media consultant & online marketing educator (@mymelodie) says, “Make sure your own ‘PR’ is optimized online to demonstrate your PR skills & experience.”

Start networking – It’s all about who you know now and who you don’t know yet. So much of what we do involves networking and relationship building…not only with media, but with our peers. The PR world is small and you never know who you’ll meet and how they may help you down the road.  Indra Gardiner, our founder & COO (@bgindra) feels, “Not developing and fostering relationships both off and online is a miss. Take the opportunity to meet people and really get to know them. It’s so easy to stay in touch with contacts now with Twitter and Facebook.”

Listen &  learn. And keep listening.- We graduate from college and think we know everything. But in reality, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jim Brazytis, brand architect at Liggett Stashower (@jimbrazytis) says, “Continue to learn, learn and learn. Plus, no job is beneath you – gain from every experience no matter how minor.” Along the same lines, Rachel Kay, president of RKPR (@rachelakay) commented, “You won’t get a full time job without internship experience. It’s competitive right now.”

New pro Katie Levien, account coordinator at BG (@katielevien) encourages others to “enter with an open mind and eager attitude. Also, read A LOT about what’s going on in the industry, news, etc.”  Meredith Ann Epp, assistant account executive at Daum Weigle Inc. (@Mereepp) reminds those just starting their careers, “We need to remember we don’t know everything. You will probably get put in your place a time or two.”

The final piece of wisdom comes from, Jen Wilbur, principal at Rockstar Communications (@rockstarjen). She tells new pros, “As with everything, go with your gut.”

Thank you to all who contributed to this post. Your tips are invaluable. If you have any additional thoughts, I would love to hear them, whether you be a seasoned professional or someone just entering the workforce.

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    1. Really interested article. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to calculate percentages, averages, charts, graphs for client deliverables…math math math! No longer can I say, “I’m not a math person, so that’s why I’m in PR,” because the cold fact is, as PR practitioners, we need it to survive!

    2. So true Megan. But, I’m also glad we have programs like Excel to help us through it. It’s all about the bottom line- how is what we’re doing positively impacting overall business goals?

    3. Great article and an interesting read. I couldn’t agree more with the importance of internship/work term experience. As a recent graduate, it’s absolutely looked at as an advantage. It’s one thing to learn a concept in the classroom – another to practice those concepts in the ‘real world’ when you have deadlines, clients and budgets nipping at your heels.

    4. Thank you for stressing the importance of solid, quality writing. As a writer it drives me nuts when I see sloppy writing in status updates on twitter, facebook and in blog posts. Social media is meant to be quick and personal but lazy writing does stand out. At least it keeps me employed. Great Post.

    5. Jules- An internship is a must for all PR pros. A degree is a given. New pros should try to get the most out of both…Pair theory with real world experience to be successful.

      Chris- Thanks for your comment. Writing will always be at the core of what we do as PR pros. It makes me nervous to see how students are not paying much attention to this especially on social media platforms. Yes it’s quick and more accepted, but it’s out there for the world to see.

    6. Great article, Erika. All the 6 points you’re mentioning are very important. Did I miss somewhere among the lines the importance of technologies? A professional PR should be well aware of the emerging mobile technologies and their application in our everyday life. We’re dealing communications, which nowadays are not just offline and online, but mobile. Do you agree?

    7. Great information! As a fellow internship manager and someone who does a lot of networking with local PR/communications students looking to break into the field, one of my pet peeves is not enough students can answer the question, “What is the future of PR?”

      It is definitely one of the questions I ask to all candidates during an interview and I have only had one or two students really be able to give me an answer I’m looking for. I always make it a point to talk to students and let them know they should really know how to talk to the future of PR. In most cases they are the ones that we are looking to bring and/or integrate it into an organization or department.

    8. Georgi- Technology is absolutely something a PR pro needs to stay on top of. Not only does it help us do our jobs better, but it also can benefit our clients. Integration of all marketing platforms is key a successful program.

      Karen- I’ve found it frustrating at times when potential team members aren’t able to articulate what THEY think PR is how it is effectively used in the real world. Staying informed of how brands use it (in conjunction with others) is so important.

    9. Hello Erika,

      Great article! I think it is important to remember the power of writing! Is BG accepting applications for an intern or has the search ended?

      Have a great evening!

    10. Hi Lily,
      Thanks for your comment. We already hired our interns for this semester, but will be looking for new candidates starting in April. Please feel free to send your resume to me if you’re interested.

    11. Great article. I love checking this blog, even though I am fairly new to it. It is a great resource for a variety of topics. Keep up the great work and thanks again!

    12. Thanks for this, Erika. Refreshing to know one’s not alone in this unfamiliar territory. Always beneficial to gain perspective!

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