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The graduating class of 2019 has officially left the classroom and will now be venturing out into the world to join the workforce. Many of these students have degrees and ambitions to work and start businesses in public relations, communications or similar fields, but they might not know exactly where to start or what to do once they get there.
For the newly initiated or aspiring PR professional, here are five tips to help you get established in the field, start the process of becoming a media master and even, as I did, open your own firm one day.
1. Research the type of PR you want to pursue.
The public relations field encompasses many different functions and practice fields: public affairs, media relations, crisis management, reputation management, events and promotion, social media management, branding, corporate communications, integrated marketing. All fall under the umbrella of PR and communications.
Do you want to work in health care? Maybe you’d prefer real estate, law or hospitality. Virtually every industry has a need for public relations and communications services, so think big and avoid limiting yourself to a niche at first.
Do some research into the different types of possibilities that are available to you. Once you have an informed perspective of options, you’ll be able to map out a career path that fits your goals and sharpen your focus.
2. Start at a PR firm before moving in house.
Unless you have a specific company that you just need to work for, it’s highly advantageous for new PR professionals to start their careers at a well-rounded PR firm before specializing or moving to an in-house PR department.
As someone new to the field, you’ll need all the experience you can get, and working at a firm or agency will give you just that. Firms have multiple clients and typically service many different needs, which will require you to perform a variety of tasks under diverse circumstances. This type of experience compounds and exposes you to a wide range of knowledge, methods and tools, thereby advancing your skill set and competency to perform in multiple areas.
In-house positions at a company will also provide you with experience, but they will limit your job duties to the day-to-day public relations of that specific company. This is a great option for someone who only wants to work in a select industry or company – but it doesn’t give you the broader scope or exposure that you’ll receive at a PR firm.
If you’d like to move to an in-house position or start your own firm later in your career, then starting at an agency will help you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to perform well. Plus, you’ll have a better idea for the type of industry you enjoy.
3. Network and make use of professional organizations.
This might seem obvious to the newly graduated PR student, but networking with others is the most basic pillar of the PR industry. There is no downside and it will teach you a great deal about how the industry works.
For those wanting to break into PR, networking is a great way to get your start. One popular strategy is to target local PR professionals in your area through LinkedIn and request a quick chat to get their advice for someone in your position. Many seasoned PR pros would gladly take 15-20 minutes to provide guidance to a newcomer.
There are also trade organizations that you can join, such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), which hold meet-ups for PR professionals to network and share insights. Many prospecting employers join these groups for recruiting purposes and members can help provide direction.
If you’re already working in a public relations capacity, networking will help build your communication muscles. The bigger your contact list, the more you’ll be able to serve clients and get your message out to the public. It doesn’t take very much time to shoot out a quick email to a journalist who you enjoy reading and introducing yourself. Ask what sort of stories they’re working on and what they like to cover — there might be a match.
4. Never stop learning.
You may have just earned your degree and have a comprehensive set of theories about best PR practices freshly stored in your mind, but ultimately, the map is not the territory. Like anything else, the best way to deepen knowledge and abilities is through first-hand experience and experimentation.
No matter where you start or what role you play, never make too many assumptions about the best approach to achieving results. As you gain experience, you’ll find that PR is an ever-changing field and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Once you understand the fundamentals, you’ll naturally start to experiment with your methodology to find newer levels of success. Maintain a sense of curiosity and keep up with your education. Whether taking courses online or reading on your own, never get complacent with your current level of know-how.
5. Understand the media market.
Whatever field of PR you’re in, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all relevant media outlets. You don’t need to consume endless hours of media or become a pop-culture diva, but it’s crucial to have a solid grasp of which outlets are appropriate for your outreach efforts.
Research different publications in your target genre and get a feel for the types of topics and editorial voice of interest to them. Make note of which journalists cover which stories and how they cover them. Knowing the media market will help you tailor your pitches and bring your clients to the people most interested in what they have to say.
Stay on top of media trends and general news and keep a pulse on the larger conversations taking place across the country. Being well-informed will help you be more effective.
Hopefully, these tips will help as you start on your way down the road of becoming a professional communicator. If you are persistent and willing to put in the effort to learn and grow, then success awaits.
July 5, 2019 at 08:07AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs