How can students prepare for PR positions?

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Dear PR Matters,

I came across your column last year while browsing through newspapers in a coffee shop, and since that time, have followed it with much interest.

From your columns, I can surmise that the world of PR is very exciting and offers a lot of opportunities.  At the same time, it is not easy to be in public relations.  There are many challenges, especially in a world that is quickly changing.

I am a marketing student who hopes to graduate next year, and am very interested in pursuing a career in public relations.  I will be very happy if you can give me tips on how I can prepare for a PR position.

Sincerely,

Carla V.

Dear Carla,

It is very refreshing to receive a letter from a young person who wishes to pursue public relations as a career.  And my colleagues and I are heartened by your very realistic grasp of the profession, knowing that with the glamour and excitement comes the very hard work.

It is true that we live in changing times, but these changes are coming so much faster than they did in the past—mainly through technology and paradigm shifts that have left us astounded. But changing times also present immense opportunities.

To answer your question, we are making our own paradigm shift by having Baylee Akins, a senior at the San Diego State University, share her own inputs instead of a PR professional.  Her thoughts are not only very insightful, but her perspective will be very easy for you to relate to.

In her article “5 Tips for Students Seeking PR Positions”, published in PRNewsOnline.com, Baylee writes about highlights from a speech by Amanda Sapp, Edelman’s VP of Planning, at the Public Relations Student Society of America 2017 Regional Conference at the San Diego State University earlier this year.

“PR students about to enter the work force need to understand they can take advantage of paradigm shifts to shape their career in innovative ways,” Sapp said. “It’s imperative to accept the shifting media paradigm and adapt to it, while focusing on the foundation of all relationships—trust.”

Baylee shared with us five ways Sapp mentioned how students can prepare for a PR career during these changing times.

  • Avoid getting comfortable in the old models.  In the same way that gadgets become outdated with the blink of an eye these days, “much of what students learn about PR and communications in college may be outdated by the time they get their first job. One of the worst things a company can do is rely on outdated modes of engagement.”

What to do? This is where trust, which never becomes outdated, comes in.  The Trust Barometer advises “to rebuild trust and restore faith, institutions and brands ‘must step outside their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated model that puts people’s needs, including their fears, at the center of everything [brands] do.”

Such flexibility applies to PR professionals, too: “Being aware of your target audience’s mind-set will allow you to better adapt to changing conditions.”

  • Tell stories in transparent and authentic ways.  “If your audience questions your authenticity, your messages will mean little or nothing,” Sapp said. “As we know, authentic storytelling is crucial to building relationships with audiences.”

The Trust Barometer “indicates a person’s peers have become one of the most trusted sources of information.  This makes grassroots extremely important.”

  • Know your purpose.  This means “being intimately familiar with your organization’s purpose is crucial to your success and that of your company.  This is so in stable times; it’s doubly when things are changing.  Know your company’s goals and objectives.”

As your company’s PR professional, “analyze the goals you seek.  Being confident and consistent in understanding these issues will not only guide you in times of change, but also throughout your goal as a PR practitioner.”

  • Talk with, not at. Always be part of the conversation.  Every young person knows that “thanks to the digital age and social media, PR and corporate communications are no longer one-way streets, with brands communicating to consumers.”

Today, “the best brands are in dialogues with consumers, who want to know they’re being heard”. That is why it is important to “encourage organic discussion at all levels of your company. As a young communicator, make it a priority to engage effectively with audiences.  This will lead to greater success throughout your PR career.”

  • Passion counts.  This is true not only for PR, but for every career one wishes to pursue. Baylee recounted how “Sapp asked the students to answer the question: ‘What makes you feel alive? Hopefully, part of the answer includes your job in PR.’”

She added, “If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, chances are your audience won’t either.  Passion and caring are crucial to not only establish credibility, but also to build quality relationships with audiences.” At the end of the day, transparency and integrity are important.  Sapp quoted Aristotle: “Be competent, be sincere, and be consistent.”

My colleagues and I wish you the best as you pursue your PR career in a changing world. Please let us know how we can be of help.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the UK-based International Public Relations Association (IPRA), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations.  Please send your and questions to askipraphil@gmail.com.



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