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.

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.

 

 

Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe: Newsletters worth committing to

Video may have killed the radio star, but the increasing number of daily, weekly and bi-weekly newsletters out there are certainly keeping e-mail alive and well. It seems like every outlet and influencer has a new newsletter available every day. On one side, as PR pros, each newsletter can feel like one more thing to keep track of when it comes to your clients and brands. On the other side, it also presents new opportunities to find possible placements, stay keen to what’s being discussed across industries, the markets and society at large.

For example, one of my former clients was in the fast-casual dining space and was relevant across corporate, financial, foodie, mom, fitness and pop culture outlets. It turned out that newsletters were a really great way to read what’s happening with competitors, the industry and general news in one foul swoop. Some were really niche, while others were as common as theSkimm. Throughout this monitoring experience, I also subscribed to several newsletters just for fun, which have come in handy during networking events and helped me in my personal life outside the office.

I don’t necessarily read *every* newsletter thoroughly *every* day, but am able to get a nice variety of content, be it professional or more social. Here are some of my go-tos:

The Business Newsletters

  • The Skimm – the OG morning brief that sounds like your friend is sharing the news
  • The Morning Brew – a newer brief that focuses a little more on in-depth and market news
  • The Broadsheet – Fortune’s women-focused news update
  • Fortune CEO Daily – Fortune’s daily news brief with great perspective from Alan Murray
  • Fortune RaceAhead – Fortune’s diversity-oriented news update (Ellen McGirt’s Friday Haikus are unmatched)
  • WSJ’s CMO Today – Good outlook on industry happenings, especially on the business/corporate side of Advertising, PR and marketing
  • Marketplace – Quick hits of daily market/business headlines (Also accompanies a podcast. Very 2019.)
  • FastCompany’s Daily News – More tech/innovation-focused daily update
  • The Hustle – Like a hipster version of FastCo’s Daily News/theSkimm, with a slightly more obscure set of topics
  • PRSA’s Issues & Trends – A great benefit of PRSA membership, the daily trends shows clips of hot campaigns and topics across the industry

The Miscellaneous-but-Interesting/Productive Newsletters

  • Quartz Obsession – Dives into one topic/product/company a day. My favorites so far have been “Burrito” and “The Post-It”
  • Finimize – Non-intimidating financial news in a quick/easy to understand read
  • SheSpends – Think “Money Diaries” meets your personal finance professor, in a cool template with a relatable approach for young pro women
  • FastCompany’s Work Smart – a weekly guide with quick tips for being more efficient at work
  • Now I Know –  A good way to learn something new every day (and great fodder for small talk)

The “Just For Fun” Newsletters

  • Links I Would Gchat You if We Were Friends – a compilation of good reads from the week that you’d want to read and share
  • The Newsette – Aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts, daily routines of successful women and some fun fashion items/tips
  • Girls Night In – I look forward to this every Friday. (Seriously.) It shares great reads for 20-somethings, thoughts on self care and “things to put in the group text”
  • NYT’s Smarter Living – This weekly newsletter provides helpful takes on a variety of topics

It’s hard to sift through the amount of content available to us every day and week, but these have added value, whether at the office, for my professional development, or my personal benefit. Consider which outlets would be helpful and beneficial for you, your clients and your team.

Pro tip: I have a rule set in Microsoft Outlook to automatically filter newsletters into a specific folder so my inbox itself is free and I can find/skim the newsletters in one place. If you aren’t using Outlook, you can also use Unroll.me to receive all of your newsletters/subscriptions in one email instead of ~20.

What newsletters are your go-tos? Let us know!

Sarah G. Dougherty is a member of PRSA and PRSA New York. Following a stint on the agency side, she is on the external communications team at a Fortune 100 company. Sarah is a former member of the PRSSA National Committee and a graduate of The University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.

Three Ways to Get Involved With Your Local PRSA Chapter

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Graduation is around the corner and the job search is on! But what happens after you secure your first gig? It is important to stay involved in professional organizations like PRSA even after graduation for continued professional development and networking. Here are three ways that you can get involved in your local PRSA chapter:

  1. ALL ABOARD!

A great way to get involved with your local chapter is to join the board. This allows you to plan the best year yet for the local chapter. Whether you want to be the historian or happy hour coordinator (like me), you are in a space where you can contribute ideas on programming and network closely with like-minded individuals.

  1. Be Hands On

If you’re not ready to be a board member yet, volunteering is a great way to start getting involved. There are fundraising events, award ceremonies and networking mixers that need planning and support. Contact your local chapter to see how you can play a part.

  1. Show Up!

Beth Lamb, Chief Marketing Officer at Ronald McDonald House Fort Worth (TX) said “it can be very easy to get involved with your local chapter, and the easiest way is to simply attend chapter programming. Get to know your fellow members and leadership board through the various events. If you are ready to serve the chapter, ask. Boards always love to know who is ready and willing to fill committee chairs. If your schedule does not allow you to do more than attend programs, offer your ideas on luncheon topics or event programming.”

PRSA is a great way to enrich your professional life through networking and career development. “Plus, your involvement, no matter the level, is important to your growth and the growth of your local chapter,” said Lamb. Find your local chapter today at PRSA

By – Jade Fails

Jade Fails is a Baylor University public relations graduate. She is currently the Marketing Administrator at The Shops at Clearfork in Fort Worth, TX. 

A Personal Brand: The Key to How New Professionals Rise to Leadership

Having a personal brand is more than just creating a statement, it’s about your professional attitude.

This is one lesson I learned while at PRSA’s New Professionals Summit in New York City in August.

Emily Nichols-Mitchell, CEO of Accelerations Group and a certified executive coach, led an energized and interactive session titled “Create a Powerful Personal Leadership Brand to Gain Instant Credibility.”

Emily gave examples of famous personal brands, such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Oprah, explaining how they all have their own story of how they continue to achieve success.

She then asked us to consider what our brand story could be, such as a unique memory we have that inspires us to do what we love, and challenged us to think about how we can continue to edit our brand and use it in our professional careers.

Troy Thompson, who works at PRSA, thought the workshop proved very beneficial for everyone who attended.

“Emily’s branding workshop is ideal for professionals looking to strengthen their online presence,” Troy said. “Her sessions include best practices and examples that provide attendees with a clear road map for packaging themselves to achieve greater career success.”

Key Takeaways:

Improving your personal brand can benefit your job and online presence.
Brian Edmonds, Communications Specialist Associate at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, said, “Before Emily’s workshop, I never really paid close attention to what I wanted my brand to be or how it was being perceived. Afterwards, it was all I could think about. I now find myself considering how anything I do, whether work projects or updating my LinkedIn profile, will enhance or hurt my brand. I believe this attention to detail will be great for my career going forward.”

Ask friends what traits they would use to describe you.
“Your friends help build and personify your brand,” Emily said. She also offered recruiter tips for building an online brand, such as always editing your LinkedIn profile, broadening your network and strategizing your posts on outlets such as LinkedIn.

Everyone needs personal branding, no matter what career stage you are in.
“Employers are not only looking at your resume but how you portray yourself in conversation and online,” Hanna Porterfield, Chair of the PRSA New Professionals Section, said. “In a competitive job market, personal branding can help you stand out and provide the value you bring to a team. All new professionals should consider building a personal brand throughout their career just as they focus on building hard and soft skills within the industry.”

Jordan AppelJordan Appel is a member of PRSA and the PRSA New Professionals Section. He is an Associate at CommunicationsMatch, a New York-based start-up search engine. He is also a graduate of Rowan University. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.