The Top Ten Things College Didn’t Teach Me about PR

Natasha Perkins / April 27, 2015

As a recent college graduate, it’s been a transition as I take my first steps into the world of public relations. With ablog post bachelor’s degree under my belt, I was fortunate enough to jump into the exciting, fast-paced environment of an independent PR firm. When I started my internship with The Fearey Group, I relied heavily on the skills I learned in college, only to realize that there were certain aspects of the field that I had not been prepared for.

So after my first month as a production assistant, I compiled a list of the top things college did not teach me about the PR industry:

  1. Pitching

The word “pitching” encompasses so many different things; from how to pitch stories to media outlets all the way to properly writing a pitch, there are many different elements to be aware of. Also, be aware that there is a pitching etiquette – certain days are better to pitch on than others, speak to reporters like you’re having a conversation with a friend – don’t read a script at them. Reach out to the media in a manner they like! Most prefer email while others like Twitter or a phone call.

  1. The business behind public relations

Be prepared to keep a written log of everything you’re doing. Tasks always fall under the categories of billable or non-billable time. This usually is determined by the work you’re doing and who the client is. These classifications play a role in how much time you can spend on projects, which help when effectively utilizing your time.

  1. How to properly utilize social media

Twitter is your new best friend – use it as much as humanly possible. Aside from the typical status posts, use this outlet as a tool for creating and maintaining lasting relationships. Use it to keep updated on local industry news, or just news in general. Interact and engage with people – share stories, post thoughts, or display pictures of events taking place in your life.

  1. All the media monitoring

It’s important to know what media outlets are saying about your company and clients. Keep a log of articles, radio clips and TV clips throughout the year to refer to in the future. It’s also beneficial to research what’s going on in the company’s industry and what the competition is up to.

  1. Never eat lunch alone

Networking can be whatever you make it – a formal meeting or simply a lunch date. Join groups and organizations. Connect with people online or face-to-face. Interact with anyone and everyone – you’re not only establishing relationships, but you’re also growing your personal brand.

  1. Become comfortable talking to people face-to-face and on the phone!

There’s no time to be timid or shy in public relations. You’re constantly speaking to clients, news outlets, and colleagues. If you’re someone that gets nervous speaking to others, don’t be afraid to practice what you’re going to say. Take a walk – rehearse how you think the conversation might go. You can even ask a coworker to practice with you – get feedback and become comfortable speaking about your topic.

  1. Media lists

When preparing to pitch a story, it’s important to create a media list. They have to be formatted properly and the information must be accurate. How can this information be found? I recommend calling publications to ask for appropriate contacts, or there are helpful programs that can be used, such as CisionPoint.

  1. Every detail counts

This goes beyond just the way you’re dressed. You need to be on point from the way you speak all the way to the quality of your work. Know your audience – this takes a lot of time and practice, but communication can vary based on the person you’re speaking with.  This leads to gaining trust in the workplace and amongst your clients. Focus on being error-free and polished, even down to your emails.

  1. Research, research, research

In order to give a business advice, you have to know what you’re talking about. Aside from conducting basic background research, be prepared to familiarize yourself with the industry the company is a part of. Know what their social media presence is, how they’ve been covered in the media, and who their audiences are.

  1. Learn from your colleagues

The people around you are your greatest asset. Everyone has different experiences in life and in their careers. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions or advice – even a fresh pair of eyes on a pitch or project can be extremely helpful. Also, watch how your colleagues handle stressful situations, communicate with others and manage their time. You can learn something that you potentially hadn’t thought about before.

The world of public relations is constantly changing and adapting to match the evolving society we live in. Whether you’ve been in the field one month or ten years, everything is a learning process. Just remember, be passionate about your work and be willing to take risks. Don’t be afraid to be fearless.