What Seasoned PR Professionals Want You To Know When Starting Your PR Career

We are faced with a multitude of choices in our career journeys. If you’re anything like me, you were relieved and excited when the pieces fell into place and you decided what your dream career would be. But that relief was short-lived when you graduated college and realized that getting a first job that’s related to your career goals is not as easy as you thought it would be.

Things seem so simple when you are inside the structured environment of your university, but once you leave that, you must figure out the answer to the dreaded question: “What’s next?” Trying to break into a career on your own is intimidating, and it’s difficult to know what steps you need to be taking to make progress. But the good news is, there are plenty of things that you can be doing now to make yourself a valuable candidate for your dream job in public relations.

I interviewed 5 seasoned PR professionals who are members of PRSA’s College of Fellows to see what their advice is to those of us who are just starting our PR career journey. They provided wonderful insights that were so helpful and encouraging.

Here are the 6 tips to be successful at the start of your PR career:

1. Be Curious

The most common theme that came up in the interviews was the idea that you must be curious to be successful in the public relations industry. The concept of curiosity comes into play with public relations for several reasons. PR is a job that requires the ability to be dynamic and flexible in your approach. According to the seasoned professionals I interviewed, one important aspect of this is being a life-long
learner.

Katrina Schwarz explained, “You must be willing to put yourself out there and learn, even if it means putting in extra time and effort to get done what needs to get done.”

Dr. Joe Trahan said, “You must have a drive to be the very best, be open to challenges and to take on responsibilities, even if they are not in your specific area.”

Dianne Danowski Smith articulated how important it is to continue your development. She explained, “Your development doesn’t have to necessarily mean getting another degree. It could also be placing a value on growing your skillset. Show an interest in bettering yourself, and you show a willingness to learn.”

Gerry Corbett said, “Have big ears, listen well! This is the key to building knowledge and ability.”

2. Read

A recurring piece of advice from the pros was to be an active reader. I thought this was especially interesting because it’s not something that is commonly associated with professional development, but hearing the interviewees discuss it made me think that it should be! Reading does wonders for training up your mind and keeping you sharp.

Gerry explained, “The more you read, the better you write. Reading trains your brain to be able to write well, simply and quickly; and being able to write is your first key to success in your first PR job.” We all know how crucial it is to be an excellent writer if you want to be successful in public relations, and reading is an amazing way to maintain and grow your creativity and writing abilities.

In addition to this benefit, reading also provides valuable insight that you can use to stay up to date in your industry. Gerry said, “Think about what industry you want to work in and read as much as you can about that. Become a jack of all trades based on what your interests are. Explore blogs on what you want to do, and search PR blogs made by people who are doing what you want to be doing.”

3. Be a Self-Starter

The advice to be a self-starter seems to be everywhere, but what does it mean? A self-starter, according to the pros I interviewed, is all about taking initiative and finding creative ways to find solutions.

Have you been told that you don’t have enough experience to get that job you applied for? Don’t let frustration get the best of you. Be creative and find a way to get that experience. Dr. Joe advised that students can gain experience by reaching out to nonprofits. You can volunteer to write for them and end up with some stellar writing samples and valuable experience to talk about in your next interview.

Are you unhappy with your current job? Make the most out of what you have. Dianne said, “Remember that you may not love your first job, and that’s okay. Your first job is what you make it. If it’s not the perfect job, do what you can to make it the perfect job for now, and try to stay there for two years. You may have to work in opportunities you don’t love, but you can still be an asset to them and grow in the process.”

Being a self-starter is an attitude that employers can sense from you. When asked what she looks for in job candidates, Dianne said, “I assume they have training in writing/communication. I hire for attitude; you can’t teach that. You must always be curious, always interested in what’s going on beyond the surface level. You must show a company what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.”

4. Love Your Client

Kathy Hubbell said that her first mentor taught her the importance of loving your client. Working in public relations means you are constantly absorbing the values and stories of other people and companies. You must absorb them and resonate with them in order to successfully share their story with their audience in a meaningful way. Therefore, you must be passionate about the stories that you are telling. Otherwise, you will not compel any audience.

Kathy advised that new pros be careful when choosing who to work for. She said, “It is important to choose your company as carefully as they choose you. In PR, we promote a company’s values and ethics. If they don’t match yours, you’ll do a terrible job and you’ll be miserable.”

Dianne explained that she had learned something similar in her job. “When you work to make me look good, and I work to make you look good, it benefits everyone!”

5. Be Active

Every single pro who was interviewed discussed the importance of being active in professional organizations and in networking — especially new pros.

When asked what people can do to prepare themselves for success in getting their first PR job, Kathy noted, “Have broad contacts and make yourself available to other people. You can do this in PRSA by attending webinars, online chats — the more the better! PRSA is a non-competitive organization, which means you can search the directory and find someone to ask for advice. As long as it’s not a conflict of interest, they’ll help.”

When asked if there was something that she wished she’d known when starting her career in PR, Katrina said, “I was a late bloomer in taking advantage of networking groups. Get out there and network as soon as possible. Building relationships is something you should start early on.”

Gerry emphasized his belief that having a board of mentors is crucial to your professional development. He said, “it’s good to have a mentor, but it’s better to have a board of them. Find people who are doing what you want to do, get to know them, strike up a conversation with them. Don’t limit yourself to one person, different people can bring different perspectives.”

6. Know Your Value and Be Able to Communicate It

I think Gerry said it best: “KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.” We’ve heard this phrase in relation to preparation for interviews, and I think it is especially applicable for landing a position in public relations. You must show that you can communicate your value to your employer, because if you can’t market yourself, how would you be able to market the company?

When asked what he looks for in candidates, Gerry said, “I look for someone who can communicate very succinctly on what values they could bring to an employer. This translates to knowing your value so you can communicate it to them. A candidate is memorable when they can do this. Your resume must also communicate your value.” He added that taking the time to create and practice your 30-second elevator speech is a key to communicating your value to an employer.

Breaking into a new career is not always easy, but is definitely possible. The main takeaway that I got from hearing the advice from these seasoned pros is that we have more control over our career than we may think. It is easy to feel like we must follow a set path to success that is built for us by an employer or professor. And while it is true that development through education and your job experiences is highly important, we can’t forget that the most crucial key to success is the attitude we have and the growth we create on our own.

Being an asset to a company is a skill that we must develop within ourselves. Developing yourself professionally and personally takes dedication, motivation, and creativity. Development is the way to make yourself stand out from everyone else, and it is the way to maximize the value you can bring to an employer — and to yourself.

3 Ways Destination-Based Businesses Stay Relevant During the Quarantine

While neighbors and state officials alike ask citizens to “stay home,” destination-based businesses have had no other option than to close their doors. From theme parks to museums, it’s clear the tourism and hospitality industry is taking a hit amid country-wide quarantine closures.

If you happen to work for one, there’s no doubt you and your team have had to get a little creative to remain in the public eye. Here are three of the best things we’ve seen destination-based businesses do to stay relevant.

1. Rouse Your Crowd with Remote Offerings

Just because your doors (or gates, or nature trails) are closed doesn’t mean you can’t reward your fans for being fans. However, the physical items you may be used to handing out as they walk on-site won’t work during a pandemic.

The Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure theme park in Lenwade, England has understood that from the very beginning. Since closing their park in March, Roarr! has offered a slew of virtual offerings, including an online Design a Dinosaur competition, a free downloadable activity book (complete with a handwashing guide) and — something unique to the remote life we’re all suddenly living — Roarr-some video conference backgrounds for your endless Zoom meetings.

While you don’t have to go as above and beyond as Roarr!, you certainly can’t go wrong with sprucing up some HD photos from the last marketing shoot to share as a fun background.

2. Rebound with Virtual Content

Whether you’ve already secured thousands of followers on social or are using the quarantine as an excuse to start a Facebook page, now is your chance to wow with virtual content. But you can’t just post a picture and hope it goes viral. Rather, you have to engage with your audience.

Zoos and aquariums do this incredibly well by focusing on their animals. They understand that the critters are the main attraction and are happy to restrategize their content to keep them in the spotlight. Take the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, for example. They host a weekly Home Safari Facebook Lives event every day at 3 p.m. for fans to get a behind-the-scenes look at their animals. Plus, they share the final video on their feed afterward with a note about donations.

To help get your team on board, host an online meeting and share what you think your audience misses most. Give them examples of what your local competition is up to, and what unique content your own destination can create.

3. Regularly Update Your Fans

Last but not least, keep your audience updated. That could be an email to the list of passholders you’ve been building for years, a social post to the followers you’ve amassed online or even a website pop-up to the people behind the pageviews on your website.

For the Field Museum in Chicago, that means posting a red banner on their website that reads, “For the safety of our community, the Museum is closed until further notice.” It’s even got a hyperlink tacked on the end that leads to a new Updates on Coronavirus webpage outlining their response as a museum (available in both English and Spanish).

Whatever you do, make sure to keep your audience in the loop so they know 1) what you’re doing to keep your destination safe, and 2) when they can expect a reopening. Even if you don’t have a set date, simply posting a note that you have no plans to open within the next month can soothe your more die-hard inquisitors. Plus, putting the information out there for such easy consumption could also grab the attention of a local reporter trying to report on the state of their area.

And there you have it! Three of the best ways destination-based businesses have stayed relevant during the pandemic — even if their destination is closed.

A New Pro’s Never-Ending To-Do List

I have a never-ending to-do list.

It’s not just work items on that list. It’s things for my multiple side hustles, it’s household chores, it’s taking care of an 18-year-old cat with kidney disease, it’s making sure I get in a workout — and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming.

And I’m not the only one in this situation.

As new professionals, we constantly feel like we have to prove ourselves. We are the new ones in the office who don’t want to look like the stereotypical millennial that doesn’t put in the hard work (disclaimer: I have never once seen this stereotype in action). These misperceptions often make us work harder, but our generation also recognizes the need for a work/life balance.

So what is a new pro with a never-ending list to do? If you’re in the same situation, I’ve compiled three best tips for dealing with your own to-do list that doesn’t ever seem to end.

Prioritize

Priority lists constantly change; they aren’t static. One week, you may realize that you need to prioritize one side-hustle over another. Another week, household chores may jump to the top. After that, maybe you have to put your main job as the priority (plus some self-care to deal with those long hours). Just stay organized and keep an open mind.

Power Through

Even if you’re careful to prioritize, there are times when you just have to power through to really get your list under control. Things like a lack of motivation or an especially busy week can double your work. To help you get through it, treat yourself to an activity you enjoy afterward to really power through.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes, we’re just too close to things to see them clearly. Try taking a step back and reminding yourself that it’s okay to not get every single item checked off. Regardless of how productive your day, week, or month was, it’s never a bad time to take a break. Spend a quiet Sunday morning with a cup of coffee, or curl up with that book you’ve been dying to read. It’s actually good for your mental health.

Overall, to-do lists are a great and wonderful tool for keeping your life on track, but don’t get so caught up by them that you end up overwhelmed. Consult your list, but allow for spontaneity. And hey, if that means an item doesn’t get checked off, that’s okay.

 

 

Resources for COVID-19 Communciations

It can’t be said enough that these are unprecedented times. I think for most new professionals, this is the first time in our careers that we are dealing with a global crisis. For many of us, we are working from home for the first time as we have been told by our state or local government to shelter in place.

These are troubling times indeed. Some of us could be worried about our jobs and have witnessed loved ones losing theirs. Some of us are desperately trying to remember everything we learned about crisis communications back in college because we haven’t been faced with that situation yet in our careers. Some of us are just trying to make it through each day until life goes back to some semblance of normalcy.

New Pros and PRSA are here to help where we can. PRSA has created a wealth of resources for us to use as we navigate this crisis including a live webinar series. There’s also the MyPRSA Open Forum as well as the MyPRSA New Professionals forum. Reach out on those platforms if you need advice. Reach out to your networks on social media if you are just looking for support.

No one is alone in this.

Sincerely,

The PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee

It can’t be said enough that these are unprecedented times. I think for most new professionals, this is the first time in our careers that we are dealing with a global crisis. For many of us, we are working from home for the first time as we have been told by our state or local government to shelter in place. These are troubling times indeed. Some of us could be worried about our jobs and have witnessed loved ones losing theirs. Some of us are desperately trying to remember everything we learned about crisis communications back in college because we haven’t been faced with that situation yet in our careers. Some of us are just trying to make it through each day until life goes back to some semblance of normalcy. New Pros and PRSA are here to help where we can. PRSA has created a wealth of resources for us to use as we navigate this crisis including a live webinar series. There’s also the MyPRSA Open Forum as well as the MyPRSA New Professionals forum. Reach out on those platforms if you need advice. Reach out to your networks on social media if you are just looking for support. No one is alone in this. Sincerely, The PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee

New Pros Chapter Spotlight: PRSA Colorado

PRSA Chapter: Colorado
Location: Greater Denver Area
Chair(s): Dani Row and Bailey Gannett

Tell us about your New Pros group:
We’re a dedicated group of new professionals (a mix of young pros, professionals in the midst of career change, and those looking to stay sharp on PR trends). Our group gets together about once a month for happy hours, panels, professional development workshops, and more to help cultivate our PR skills and provide a network where we can all come together to collaborate.

How many members do you have?
We have around 100 in our email list, but around 30 active members.

What kind of programming have you put together for New Pros?
Monthly (or bimonthly) happy hours; events vary from casual networking happy hours after work to more refined events with local industry experts/professionals; twice a year we host larger events to help professionals (both PR and non-PR are encouraged to attend) where we offer an added incentive like a new headshot for LinkedIn, resume critiques, or mock interviews.

How does your group fit into the bigger picture of the chapter?
We work closely with our chapter’s communications committee to promote our events and to encourage our membership team to attend events to talk about the benefits of becoming a PRSA member.  Our group also acts a pipeline to funnel in those who have expressed interest in PRSA but have not yet committed fully to joining the organization. The New pros events are a friendly, top of funnel type of event that encourage participation from all who have even a remote interest in learning more. We often help with converting PRSSA students over to PRSA members. We also work with the Finance team on budgets (when applicable) and work with a liaison, someone who serves on the Board and can serve as the NP representative at monthly Board meetings. Oftentimes, we rely on PRSA Board members or seasoned members to help with larger events to serve as resume critics or mock interviewers.

What resources do you provide for New Pros?
Expert advice from respected members of the PR community and tips on all things PR (social media, media relations, community relations, crisis communications). Members of the NP group who are regulars get the added benefit of becoming friends with other members and using the time to network with other members for job opportunities or relationship-building

What do some of your members see as the benefit of being a part of the bigger New Pros group?
Our members utilize the New Pros group to gain industry insight on trends and knowledge, collaborate with both young and seasoned professionals, and develop professional skills necessary to propel forward in their careers.

How do you engage and recruit New Pros?
We often engage and recruit new professionals through our PRSA Colorado social media channels, through our personal social media channels, during regular PRSA chapter events and through active recruitment with local universities and their respective PRSSA chapters.

What advice do you have for New Pros for using PRSA to their best advantage?
Get involved! Joining a committee or even serving on the Board or as a chair allows you to build your network of industry professionals—you never know when this will come in handy.

Find what interests you. Not every group is the right fit for every member. Go to a few different group events and see what feels right. Once you’ve found one (or more) you like you can dedicate your time to getting more involved.

Many times, members get discounts for events outside of the NP like luncheons. Being a member certainly has its perks—and a financial gain is certainly a big one.

Contact Us!

Dani Row and Bailey Gannett are co-chairs of PRSA Colorado’s New Professional Section.

Dani Row
Dani graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Kansas State University in 2012. She is currently a public relations manager with Velocity Global, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado.
Email: danirow@velocityglobal.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/danirow/

Bailey Gannett
Bailey graduated with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communication from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2018. She is currently a communications specialist with Cherwell Software, based in Denver, Colorado.

Email: bailey.gannett@cherwell.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/baileygannett/