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.

Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career

Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career
By: Emma Finkbeiner, PRSSA Immediate Past President

For recent graduates, standing out amongst your peers in the job search is crucial. In a competitive industry, leveraging the leadership experience gained through PRSSA membership can help you do just that. I spoke with four former PRSSA National Committee members about skills they learned through PRSSA involvement and how they used their experiences to help launch their careers.

Brian Price, PRSSA 2013-14 National President
Corporate Communications Manager, Starwood Retail Partners

Heather Harder, PRSSA 2014-15 National President
Communications Manager, RSE Ventures

Laura Daronatsy, PRSSA 2015-16 National President
Communications Leadership Development Program Associate, Lockheed Martin

Veronica Mingrone, PRSSA 2015-16 National Vice President of Career Services
Analyst, Canvas Blue

What did PRSSA leadership experience teach you about professionalism?

Brian: “I think it showed I took my profession and professional development very seriously. But, you need stories to back it up to show why and how PRSSA experiences are so valuable. Seek out leadership positions not just to have the line on your resume, but for the development that comes with it.”

Laura: “PRSSA helped me launch my career because it allowed me to learn what professional behavior looked like and how to emulate it.”

Veronica: “PRSSA taught me how to interact with professionals at much different stages in their careers than I was. Now, I feel better prepared to engage with senior leadership at my company and, more broadly, at networking events. Knowing how to approach others confidently and keep in touch with them has been instrumental in my career.”

Heather: “Engaging with senior PR professionals as a student taught me a lot about when to speak up and when to listen.”

PRSSA leadership positions are volunteer positions. How is this type of leadership experience different because of that fact?

Laura: “PRSSA taught me it’s not enough to just show up. Raise your hand. Be a volunteer! Help someone else out. You have to be a giver, contributor and follower before you can truly be a respected leader. By thinking about what you can contribute, you’re already doing a crucial part of leading — leaving the place, organization or person better than the way you found it.”

Veronica: “Regardless if your aspirations are to serve students as a Chapter leader or on the National Committee, the operative word is “serve.” Any position you hold in the society – at whatever level – will likely be a time commitment and a good amount of work.”

What did you learn from leading a group of your peers?

Brian: “Much more than group projects in classes, PRSSA taught me to work with a group of my peers. Now, I do it all the time at work, especially when I was at Edelman with so many like-minded colleagues. In PRSSA, you work for clients, projects, fundraising programs with people you (hopefully) like personally, but also respect professionally even when there are competing ideas and different approaches. It’s just like a good workplace in that sense.”

Laura: “I referred to my leadership positions multiple times throughout my interviews because I had learned so many lessons — both good and bad — by leading my peers. It definitely helped (still helps) me in my job now because I know how to manage a project when working with people completely different from me.”

Heather: “Coming into a PR firm with leadership and management experience, I was immediately recognized as someone with the potential to manage our interns and given more responsibility because of the skills I’d developed in PRSSA.”

How did the network you built from involvement in PRSSA benefit you as you began your career?

Brian: “PRSSA prepared me the most by developing my network. I was active in PRSSA outside of just my Chapter, and met many influential professionals and rising new professionals. They became mentors and trusted resources who helped me through the job search process.”

Veronica: “I was able to leverage PRSSA in the job hunt by tapping on the connections – both peer and professional – that I had made in the four years I was a member. These people knew the value of PRSSA and what it meant for my professional development.”

Heather: “You have to continue to cultivate the network and keep in touch with everyone interesting that you meet. It really was useful for obtaining the recommendations that helped me get two very important jobs in my career. I don’t know that I’d have gotten those jobs without being able to call up some PRSSA/PRSA mentors and have them put in a word, because I’d kept a genuine connection with them.”

How did your leadership experience help you stand out among the crowd?

Laura: “You can set yourself apart as a teammate and a leader simply by putting in a little extra time and effort.”

Veronica: “PRSSA gave me an opportunity to lead – and I don’t think I would’ve had experience managing a team this early in my career were it not for the society. It allowed me to become confident in my leadership abilities, to explore my career interests, to travel and figure out where I wanted to move post-grad, to become an ambassador for my university and well-known in my program – and the list goes on and on.”

Heather: “Once I brought it up and explained how much management, leadership and hands-on experience it had given me, I was able to immediately standout as someone with a unique experience and a passion for the industry. These skills helped me prove myself to get more responsibility very early in my first job.”

It’s important to note that the leadership journeys of these four individuals are far from over. All four have continued their development by joining PRSA, serving on the New Professionals Executive Committee and getting involved in local PRSA Chapters. Leadership and professional development is truly never finished, and dedicating time to an organization like PRSSA or PRSA shows your continued interest in the industry and your own professional growth.

The Ever-changing Landscape of Press Trips

It is crucial public relations professionals understand how to balance working with editors, bloggers and social media influencers in today’s digital world. News is abundant, and everyone is consumed with information overload so staying updated on current trends and who is controlling it is key.

Mixing Traditional and Modern Media
Hotels and resorts need money and resources and with the constant changes, public relations professionals need to ensure the resorts are getting their return on investment. It can’t be ambiguous. Unlike editors, freelancers and influencers don’t always have a confirmed assignment with a major publication, but there needs to be substantial information to properly vet clients.

“I can write something using your blurb, but to actually see with my own eyes and to use all of my senses to experience a place produces a quality piece full of descriptive language and palpable passion,” says Michelle Winner LuxeGetaways Lifestyle Editor and freelancer. “The result of a good press trip is exactly what writers are taught to do in their work: don’t tell me, show me. In the end the writer’s job is to compel the reader to visit, taste, see and do, too.”

You can learn more about press trips from Michelle Winner, Jill Robinson and Tamra Bolton at the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference in New Orleans for their session, Press Trips: The Evolving Necessity.

It’s much easier to vet a New York Times travel editor versus a travel blogger. It’s easier for clients to understand the value of a national newspaper than a personal blog. However, these days people want to hear about other’s experiences because it’s raw and word-of-mouth is still one of the leading ways to create buzz.

We work with travel bloggers, but the vetting process is usually much more in depth than an editor with a confirmed assignment. We start by reviewing their work, checking statistics, social media presence, and if their niche audience works for the client. We need to have solid information to back up our recommendation. For example, a family focused travel blogger would be more appropriate than a fashion blogger at a family-friendly resort.

Newsrooms are Nearly Nonexistent
Newsrooms have cut budgets and many travel writers were the first to go. With the rise of social media, many influencers have been successful in their efforts while others abuse it. Many influencer requests show a loyal following, but lack of interest in a mutually beneficial relationship.

According to PR Moment, up-and-coming influencers think that numbers are what matters and not engaged audiences. Many requests, such as videographers who film models and night clubs requesting a complimentary stay at a five-star family-friendly luxury resort are, solely focused on themselves and not showcasing the destination and resort.

How are you adapting to this ever-changing landscape?

View More: http://fremontphotography.pass.us/ericarawErica Hammett is a PRSA member and the Public Relations Account Executive at MP&A Digital & Advertising in Virginia. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech. She’s also a member of the PRSA New Professionals and Travel and Tourism interest sections. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Mentoring a PR Newbie on the Art and Science of Media Relations

So you’ve been asked to train, mentor, or manage a PR newbie on all things media relations. Congrats! Now what? Media relations is an art and a science. Mastering the balance takes practice, and can be challenging to new PR pros starting out in the workplace as an intern or account coordinator. While some colleges teach media relations, many do not, and those that do often only skim the surface.

That being said, those starting out in the PR world could use media relations guidance – a task that often falls on more senior account coordinators, or account executives and account supervisors. Often the shift from new pro to “less new” pro, responsible for helping out the greenest team members, can be tricky. Here are some helpful hints that I’ve found to be helpful, both as I’ve been mentored and have mentored others.

1. Remember that patience is a virtue, and encourage questions.

lauren-leger_media-relations-mentoring

Be patient with newbies – while you might be an ace at media relations, this is totally new to your mentee, and they will need some time to become an expert. Being patient with them will both encourage and motivate them, and create a more positive experience for both parties. As a manager or mentor, you are responsible for helping newbies build their skillset and confidence. As The Power Group’s account supervisor shared with me when I asked for her advice for this blog post,

Always have an open door policy for questions. If your new account team member is afraid to ask questions, chances are they’ll come up with their own answers, which can be risky and potentially damage your outreach campaign.”

2. Show and tell – employ a “face-to-face” edits model.

If you receive a less-than-stellar media list from a new pro, don’t be afraid to call him or her over to your desk and go through the list, talking through your thought process. It’s easy to hide not-so-nice feedback behind an email chain, but I’ve found that sharing insight into your own process can be really helpful for new pros. If you’re making a personal connection and talking through your own media relations lessons learned, even better. Don’t hesitate to talk through mistakes made by the intern or account coordinator. It can be tough to deliver that feedback, but it’s crucial for the mentee to hear in order to improve.

3. Give your mentees plenty of opportunities to watch and learn.

I learned so much from my first media relations manager simply by watching how she composed an email to a journalist, coordinated an editorial, or approached booking trade show press appointments. A great (and risk-free) way to learn is simply to soak up everything like a sponge. As a mentor, that means including your mentee in every media relations activity you possibly can. Sitting in on client interviews, tagging along to broadcast segments, and observing media training are all great learning opportunities. Leveraging industry publications and organizations, such as PRSA and Cision, is also a great way for mentees to learn. Mandatory webinars and lunch and learns are a great way for an intern or account coordinator to “familiarize faster,” according to my account supervisor Jordan Liberty.

What are some of the more helpful things your direct supervisors have done to guide you in your media relations learning? What are some tips that you would add to this list?

lauren-leger

As digital account executive at The Power Group, Lauren creates custom digital strategies, crafts tailored social media content, and manages social media accounts on behalf of clients. She also leads Power’s inbound marketing efforts, and is certified by HubSpot Academy in Inbound Methodology. Lauren’s expertise is in B2B and technology. She started at Power in the fall of 2014 as an account executive, and manages select PR accounts. (Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn and Twitter)