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Are PR Professionals Forgetting Their Most Important Public?

Posted in: Best Practices, Culture  |  By:

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Last week I traveled to the campus of my alma mater, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, to speak with the university’s PRSSA chapter. The President (@ChelseyKitta) is on a mission to bring in alumni and local agencies who can teach the students what life working in public relations is really like. I was thrilled to come share my Eastwick experience because I remember that exactly three years ago (two months prior to graduating) I didn’t have a clue about agency expectations. Looking back at it now, I ask: are you forgetting your most important public?

The bloodline for your agency or corporate communications team is the university. Finding smart, aware and well-spoken students is key to creating a rich source of future communicators with fresh ideas for your business. At Eastwick we build the skills of existing employees through a variety of professional development programs, but we also invest time in future Silicon Valley PR pros. My colleague Jesse Hamlin has spoken at Stanford and San Jose State, while Heather Kernahan regularly speaks with PR students at her alma maters, Nova Scotia Community College and Saint Mary’s University.

The public relations students at Cal Poly make up 85 percent of the school’s journalism department. PR is a growing career path for aspiring writers, but building a resume that translates assigned school projects for non-profits into examples of hire-worthy achievements in a new industry can be daunting for students. During my hour with the PRSSA members, I gave advice about how to best connect their experience with non-profits to address the PR needs of technology companies.

Here are a few areas of experience to highlight to help you stand out in your interviews for your first PR job:

  • Reading is key.  Whatever the industry, understanding your client market is imperative to successfully implementing a campaign. Talk about the knowledge you’ve gained from researching a specific client and how that helped you achieve your goals. Also share the publications you read daily. Knowing what’s going on at all times is a requirement in PR.
  • The struggles are the same. Non-profits and tech startups both face small budgets and busy clients. During your interview, talk about the creative ideas you’ve implemented under the constraints of few funds while working for a client that wears many hats. Both types of companies also tend to lack hard product news, so the more examples you can share about connecting to industry trends or launching social campaigns without an announcement, the better.
  • Finding passionate advocates. Most businesses have super fans that will buy every product and attend every event. Think about the times you have identified and leveraged these influencers for the benefit of your client. These advocates are important for reputation management and for media relations.
  • Making personal connections. If you work with a non-profit organization or a tech company, the stories you can share about building relationships with reporters, partners and clients speaks volumes about your skills as a communicator. Whether you have reached out to an editor for advice or called on your client to brainstorm a new pitch idea, your connections will impress a future employer.

I hope that more public relations associates and executives take the time to reach out to their alumni program or drop in at a local college to speak about the exciting, measured and creative profession which is PR.


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