Things your mother never told you…

As a senior at the University of Oregon, my friends and I at the School of Journalism and Communication have been overwhelmed by one vast topic: job-hunting. In the four years of our undergrad, we have accumulated a general laundry list of to do’s and what not to do’s in order to set yourself apart. I’ve learned the importance of networking, having strong writing skills, and being persistent. As important as these attributes were, I knew there had to be more precise and specific details that public relations practitioners were looking for. I spoke to practitioners that range from recent college graduates to veterans in the field to see what skills our generation needed to be a driving force for public relations. 

I spoke to an old colleague who works in the technology sector of pr and here are the attributes she believes make an entry-level candidate stand out:

  • Confidence to speak up, offer suggestions/opinions
  • Be news-savvy (Research!)
  • Be Detailed-oriented
  • Have a working knowledge of PowerPoint and Excel
  • Again, have strong research skills
  • Be Enthusiastic about PR
  • Network
Utilizing my colleague’s last suggestion, I posed this same question on Twitter, and here is what Barbara Nixon, assistant professor of Communication Arts at Georgia Southern University,  suggested: The ability to know that “busy” as a college student means **BUSY** in a PR Career. She relates this to juggling knives and flames. Barbara also encourages students to get published and goes into more detail on her blog: Listening Matters.
I then interviewed Kevin Elliott, Senior VP of Hill & Knowlton San Francisco, who has been with H&K since 1996 and offered the following words of wisdom for young public relations practitioners:                                         

“I get excited when I meet a recent graduate who is a really good writer and a critical thinker to go with the writing skills. The other thing that has to be obvious are interpersonal and social skills. We need to be able to connect with people; with our colleagues and our clients as well as others on whom we depend to do this work. The ones who come in here showing real personality and charisma get a leg up and they tend to be more successful and resilient. I love it when a new hire comes in with a real excitement about what communication can do to change behavior, excite change and be a real disruptive force for good, for productivity and for real, measurable movement in social norms.”                                                                       

I last spoke to Andrea Nowack, a recent graduate from the UofO who began working in a large agency less than a year ago. She mentions below what she wish she would have known before entering the PR world:         
  • Working at a large agency, I wish I would have known more about the business environment and corporate culture.  No, I’m not talking about accounting, etc.  I’m talking about how to manage client relationships, how to (or if you should) negotiate your salary, how to enhance communication with your manager and team, why it’s important to write coverage reports/recaps/etc., how PR people can be seen as trusted advisors, etc.
  • Media relations – Although this is a tough thing to teach, and I actually learned a lot about media relations doing the PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition, I would have liked to have known more about the basics before entering into a PR career.  For example, how to develop a top story, the importance of targeting your pitches instead of mass pitching, why should we pitch to the FT versus BusinessWeek, info. about top pubs, why we need to prep spokespeople and how to do so, etc.
  • Presentation/public speaking skills
  • Digital skills
  • Focus on case studies – I learned this at the PRSSA national conferences, but otherwise there was very minimal focus on case studies.
  • From this list, we see that practitioners of all ages and from different backgrounds value particular skills and qualifications. Each pr candidate will be different, but it never hurts to be as prepared as possible.

    PR students, practitioners, and professors, do you have more words of wisdom to share?


    3 thoughts on “Things your mother never told you…

    1. Great post, Jessica. I should have mentioned this earlier – I recently read a book called “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College” and several of the things I mentioned I wish I would have known are discussed. Great book that I think every PR newbie should read before starting their PR careers; I highly recommend it. I am actually writing a review for my blog as we speak, so check back in a few days to read more about it 🙂

    2. I’m glad to see and hear that you are doing well. You make several great points in your post. I’d add people interviewing for a job should exude confidence and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. And with the changing industry – new media – candidates should be familiar with the space – and not just know about it, but actually participate in the space. That not only gives candidates creditability for their knowledge, but clients see that as a huge benefit. Firms are always looking for ways to enhance the value they bring to the table, so position your skill set and experience as a leveraging point for not only how you differentiate yourself from the other candidates, but how you can enhance the value the firm provides its clients.

      Next time you’re in Seattle, let me know, we’ll grab lunch.

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