College students majoring in PR and other communications fields will soon pack their belongings and head to school. Their several years in college will create the foundation for their careers. Communications professionals urge PR majors to make the most of those few years. That means much more than performing well academically. Leading public relations professionals offer these recommendations to PR students.
Network. Developing a strong network of connections is one of the most important activities PR student can undertake. Join the PRSA. Students in the UK can join the PRCA; those in Australia have the PRIA. Also, network on social media and consider joining ppropriate professional groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. Open relationships with professionals you meet and ask them for their contact information. Follow them on social media and find ways to maintain those relationships. Often, commenting on their posts, asking for guidance or asking questions related to the profession will elicit helpful responses and strengthen the connection.
“As a future PR pro, networking is a skill you’ll have to master. Now is the time to start sharpening your networking skills,” advises Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases.
Relationships with professors and guest speakers may be the most under-appreciated. Besides being knowledgeable, they’re likely well connected. “Many of the speakers visiting campus are highly respectable professionals and experts, who are quite ‘famous’ in their industry. You probably just don’t realize this yet,” writes Majlin Erica, community manager at Mad House publication and SEO Client Manager at Mad Scientist Digital, for Spin Sucks.
Stay current by reading. Being informed about current events and PR news will give you an added advantage in class and in your career. Create time in your schedule, to read the leading PR blogs (including the Glean.info blog) and PR and marketing news on sites like Ragan’s PR Daily or The Holmes Report. Leading blogs provide the latest industry news in addition to helpful how-to advice.
Clean up your social media profiles. Revisit your social media profiles and remove anything you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. The chances are that employers will check social media activities of job candidates. Recheck privacy settings and think twice about your social media posts. While it’s fine to post personal activities, also mention school projects.
“While friends are nonchalantly posting embarrassing photos and letting the world know the results of five vodka-cranberries, you will have a realistic yet professional profile that is appropriate for the web,” writes Danika Daly, founder of Danika Daly PR, for the PR Couture blog.
If you are tagged in a social media photo with a red cup or beer bottle, ask your friend to remove the tag or the photo.
Blog. Blogging on a topic that interests you will help you master a blogging platform, hone your writing skills, and showcase your writing to potential employers. Blog consistently, for instance once or twice a week, but be realistic about your time commitment. Writing guest posts can also showcase your writing skills and gain exposure. Blogs on almost every conceivable topic exist and many are eager for content. For professional blogging, it’s best to write in a journalistic style – not the conversational style of social media.
Join a student-run PR agency. Student-run PR agencies can provide valuable hands-on work experience. As businesses within the academic environment, student-run agencies accept clients or projects that aren’t a good fit for professional agencies. Commercial agencies can refer pro bono work they’re too busy to complete and clients who can’t afford their fees to student agencies. There are more than 150 student PR agencies at U.S. universities.
Seek an internship. Internships can provide valuable experience and an inside advantage to obtaining your first job. But don’t accept just any internship, recommends Cheryl Snapp Conner at SnappConner PR. Find one in the field you want. “One of the coolest things about PR is that you can do it in just about any sphere you are interested in,” she says.
Request internships at specific places you’d like to work. Be aware that the PR Council, an association of 100 PR agencies, requires its members to offer at least minimum wage to interns this coming year and that the U.S. Department of Labor has recently revised its regulations on internships. LinkedIn currently lists 340 intern jobs in PR in the New York area. Indeed.com lists PR internships for all over the country. Most pay more than the local minimum wage.
Bottom Line: A good college education means much more than just good grades. What college students do outside classrooms may impact their careers more than textbooks. Networking, blogging and obtaining hands-on work experience will help communications majors energize their emerging careers.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.