When I began studying Communication and Public Relations in college, I quickly realized how important it was to surround myself with and seek out the advice from those already in the field. Whether it was attending my school’s PRSSA events and workshops or finding a mentor at an internship, I remember how much I valued what these industry professionals shared. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have had amazing mentors before and during my time at SHIFT that continue to help me learn and navigate new challenges and opportunities. I recently had the opportunity to give back to those currently studying PR through an invite by my friend, Professor Kristina Markos, to join a panel of agency and in-house rockstars at an event hosted by the Public Relations Alliance (PRA) at Lasell College. While the majority of conversations centered around what new or up-and-coming PR professionals can do to thrive in the industry, the topics discussed are truly evergreen and are great for anyone from entry-level to manager to remember. Here are two stand-out themes from the event:
Many of us got into PR – especially agency PR – because of the curiosity we have to learn. We craved exposure to new things and welcomed challenges. One of the first topics that was discussed is staying curious. If you’re an intern or entry-level PR professional, this is critical. Take every opportunity you can to be exposed to new projects and clients. How so? Offer to proofread another team’s byline. Ask to join in on client calls and briefings. Volunteer for a project you may not know how to completely do and try to figure it out. Keep the curiosity alive and you’ll thrive.
This is so important, especially in today’s competitive media landscape where reporters are getting hit with hundreds of pitches a day. In order to break through the email noise, you have to cultivate relationships. This can mean holding off on pitching a reporter until you have solid news, reading and commenting on every article a reporter writes and engaging with them on other channels like Twitter — but don’t force it! The best relationships are formed when you’re being authentic. Reporters are smart and they’ll be able to tell when you’re engaging just to get an “in” on a story and when you’re engaging with them because you truly care.
It’s not just reporters who you should be building relationships with, though. During the panel discussion, the theme of building relationships with our clients came up a lot, and rightfully so. Students asked how to build relationships with day-to-day contacts and while there are many ways to do so one of the most common practices was to touch base daily. This can be over email when you’re flagging industry or competitor news, engaging with them on Twitter or picking up the phone to discuss a pitch topic VS. emailing them.
Lastly, building relationships with team members was one of the most covered topics of the night. As a manager, my teammates are KPI number one so it’s important to me to create and maintain a team culture of collaboration, unity and trust. Whether you’re a manager yourself or an Account Coordinator just starting out, look for ways to connect with team members individually and collectively.
There were a host of topics discussed on the PR panel and it was great to hear not only from students getting their foot in the door but also from industry colleagues who shared their experiences and “PR truths.” No matter if you’ve got less than a year of experience or 10+, keep surrounding yourself with and seeking the advice of others in the industry, fuel your curiosity and build relationships along the way.