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Tips for PR Students Heading Back to School

Tips for Young PR Pros
Young PR pros: Do these things!

As fall and back-to-school season approach, so does the conversation of internships – how to find one, how to maximize your experience, how to translate it into a full-time position, etc. Internships are incredibly valuable for gaining experience and developing relationships. At some point you’ve got to put what you read in your textbook to practice, right? I meet quite frequently for informational interviews with young professionals interested in a career in public relations, and there are a few things I emphasize they not forget. In addition to internships, here is my advice for how to hone skills outside of internships, create good work habits and prepare to be the best young professional when you are ready to enter the working world of PR. Reading You’ve got to consume content to understand the power behind content creation, which is a driving force right now in the public relations and marketing industries.

  • I don’t care what you choose to read as long as you can demonstrate a grasp of what’s going on around you in the world, and have a conversation about it. Pick a general news outlet and a columnist you enjoy and follow their work.
  • Paying attention to the general media landscape, both print and broadcast, will give you a leg up once you start talking about target audiences and building media lists at your internship or first job.
  • It would also behoove you to familiarize yourself with an industry outlet. PR Week has a variety of case study articles that give background and insight on current campaigns from those who worked on them, but any outlet with free access to content will work.

Writing: Don’t underestimate the power of strong, creative writing. A career in public relations – really any professional setting – will require you to pen your thoughts to paper (or email).

  • San Diego State University’s School of Journalism & Media Studies requires a passing score of the (dreaded) Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation test, and you should take this seriously. All young PR pros should place an emphasis on cultivating a stellar grasp of English and grammar and really, an overall love of writing. Trust me, don’t just study to pass the test, seek to understand and then use what you’ve learned – it’s that creating good habits thing!
  • Don’t just write school assignments, find ways to practice writing a variety of content. Consider writing a blog or volunteer your writing skills to an organization or cause you belong to.
  • Don’t underestimate social media. Yes, your profiles may be private, but your posts still reflect your grasp of grammar, writing skills and creativity. Post copy and content wisely.

Arithmetic: Most PR pros have said some form of the “I’m in PR so I don’t have to do math.” Boy is that wrong.

  • You don’t need to be a math genius, but you should put some effort into grasping the concepts taught in the math classes you take. Especially pay attention to general budget balancing and percentages.
  • There are few things more important than showing how the value of our work or a particular campaign is affecting a client’s business objective. Get familiar with the concept of Return on Investment!
  • Get familiar with Excel – it will be your best friend and you may even impress a future boss with your skills since it’s a commonly used program to manage lists, create visual graphs and calculate values.

BONUS Thought: Build your network Relationships are key in the professional atmosphere and it’s never too early to start developing your network:

  • Consider joining your school’s Public Relations Student Society of America or attend events hosted by the young professionals group of your local Public Relations Society of America chapter (the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter has a particular great New Pros group!).
  • Volunteer your time – you never know whom you’ll meet or what activity might turn in to a skill set.
  • Ask for informational interviews with professionals you admire, want to work with or who work in a niche you’re interested in exploring. Most of us love to meet young professionals who are hungry for knowledge and come with insightful questions.

Be hungry, be yourself and explore things that make you uncomfortable. Don’t rely solely on internship experiences to make or break your future career. Create and practice good habits along the way and you’ll outshine the competition. Good luck this school year!

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