Does Your Time at College Prepare You to be a PR Professional?

Does Your Time at College Prepare You to be a PR Professional?

One of students’ main concerns in college is wondering if what you are learning in the classroom will translate into the workplace. In many cases students find themselves taking another four years of school just to get the proper education and training for the job that they now know they truly want. You pick your major but do you know from the exposure and experience you get in the classroom that this is the career you want?

This was one of the main concerns in my mind as I spent 2011 through 2014 at St. Edward’s University studying public relations and advertising. I took as many PR courses I could fit into my schedule, but I still could not shake the concern that I wouldn’t be properly prepared for the right job. Fresh out of college and three months into my internship with Red Fan, I was able to reflect on my time in school and see what college did and did not prepare me for.

5 things the classroom prepared me for:

Getting Work Done On Time

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. There was no shortage of them during my years in college, and it didn’t slow down once I got into professional PR. If you want an editor or journalist to talk about your client, you are going to have to work within their timeframe. When you get a zero on a college project for being late, it’s a great introduction to the amount of stress you might feel if you drop the ball for a client.

Strong Writing

Your writing is an important part of your PR arsenal, and having four years of grizzled, veteran professors grilling your papers will give you the feedback you need to evolve your writing to the next level. I am most thankful for that as it’s paying off now.

Brainstorming

Creativity is important to your success as a professional. What makes your press release newsworthy? How can you get a publication to talk about your client? Why is there no engagement on your client’s Facebook? These are all questions that you are going to have to face early in your career as a PR professional. Luckily, you should be getting plenty of mental reps during your many hours as a student while creating campaigns and press releases in the classroom.

Working In Groups

Every student reading this audibly groaned after reading that phrase. However, your professors aren’t wrong, and you are going to have to work in groups when you get out of school. Your work is no longer just reflective of yourself, but of your client and the agency you represent. From campaigns to press releases, you are going to be working with your colleagues and clients. When they find a typo or incorrect statement in your work that is when you will understand the importance of teamwork.

Long-Term Projects

Working in PR is all about the long-term. Relationships with journalists and editors are not created overnight, and the same goes for any campaigns created for your clients. Big, important projects arching over the entire semester are common during your time at school and they help you prepare for the mindset and foresight you need as a professional.

5 things you will have to learn outside the classroom:

Building Relationships

One thing students are told throughout their time at college is that they should be “networking.” It’s an impossible skill to teach in the classroom and the reality of the situation is that it’s required in your professional life. The earlier you start, the more easily it will come to you. The good news is that networking isn’t always putting on a suit and talking to professionals who may be decades older than you. Internships, volunteering and even becoming a member of club/intramural sports team introduces you to a large pool of people that will help you build relationships.

Social Media

Colleges are beginning to introduce more social media into their education, but the classroom experience is not representative enough to be substantial preparation for the real world. Internships, volunteering and becoming active on all of the main social media platforms are important in learning the ins and outs of social media. These will help you learn how to convey a voice and manage a page for a company/brand.

Writing Precisely

The length of this particular blog post may be an indicator of how raw my writing still is. In college we are taught that length is a virtue. Every paper is has a minimum to it – usually around 10 pages or 4,000 words. This is not how your writing in PR will work. Every word has a purpose and the less space you can fit your pitch into the better. An advertising or copywriting class will help you take on this mindset of short, precise writing.

Last-Minute Work

Things can and will come up that will require your immediate attention. They could range from a small, incorrect sentence in an article about your client to trying to mend relationships with an entire news outlet after your client chewed them out over the phone. Some things are just unpredictable, and that is usually a rare occurrence during your time at college. The next five months of your life are laid out to you on the first day via syllabus to allow for easy planning.

Grunt Work

One class will spend hours on crisis communication and press release writing, but one thing they don’t tell you about PR is the amount of time you spend researching and creating lists before you execute your strategy. Finding the right reporters, the specific language and the perfect timing for your client is required before you can step any further. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be taught in the classroom and will require you to invest your time in an internship.

The bottom line is that students need to get out and expose themselves to their target career environment early on. It will give them the security and assurance that they are going down the right path professionally. Universities are a huge help in finding that path and providing the information needed to pursue it. I know I’m grateful for my time at St. Edward’s and all the opportunities that have been created for me—including my latest opportunity of becoming an account coordinator after my summer internship here at Red Fan!

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