Leaving the familiar walls of university and embarking on your journey in the â€˜real world’ as a young professional is exciting, but it can be daunting.
When you have little industry experience, it’s often difficult to know what to expect and how to best prepare.
To help you navigate this new environment and beat those first-day nerves, we have compiled a list of five things young professionals should know when starting out in public relations.
1. Live and breathe the news
During your time at university every lecturer and tutor would have encouraged you to â€˜consume’ the news. We know many students probably ignored this advice, or said they would â€˜start soon’, but haven’t quite got around to it.
We’re here to tell you – they weren’t saying that for nothing. It’s vital to be up-to-date on current affairs, particularly those that impact your clients and their industries, so if you’re aren’t already doing this â€“ start now.
For example, how can you come up with proactive media ideas if you don’t know what’s making headlines, or what is currently trending? We often leverage current affairs as opportunities for our clients.
Public relations is also reactionary. You need to be able provide media statements and press releases in response to current affairs. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world, then you can’t react!
In particular, make note of publications and journalists that have interests in areas relevant to your clients. This doesn’t mean you have to pull out a spreadsheet on the bus every morning. Find a system that works best for you, whether that’s Google Alerts, following news sources on social media, or using apps like Flipboard.
2. Become a versatile writer
Over the years you have likely spent many hours honing your writing skills by carefully crafting press releases or essays. While this is undoubtedly a vital skill, public relations professionals must adapt their writing to suit a number of different publications and styles, including blogs, newsletters, flyers and social media. It’s important to try your hand at everything. Experiment with style and tone, and take note of what makes successful blogs and social media accounts â€˜work’.
3. Interpersonal skills are CRITICAL
In your first few years in the industry, it’s important to establish a strong sense of who you are. A key part of this is how you communicate with others. It’s imperative that you are able to craft an engaging email, and speak confidently on the phone. Client liaison can be an incredibly stressful experience for a lot of millennials, particularly when providing advice over the phone. But, this fear must be conquered! As the first point of contact for clients and journalists, you must train and position yourself to be â€˜just a phone call away’.
4. Be prepared to work
If you’re looking to stay in the industry, you must be prepared to work â€“ and work hard! Public relations can be fast-paced and demanding, which means it’s not uncommon to be required to work outside the regular 9 â€“ 5 workday.
Public relations can also be unpredictable. Clients might change deadlines at the last minute, or a crisis could develop that demands instant support. The key is to develop a good work ethic and use your time effectively. Make sure you have a full understanding of the tasks you must complete and devise a plan early on for how to best tackle them. This will ensure you aren’t overwhelmed and paralysed by stress, and can always meet competing deadlines.
5. Stay calm â€“ it all works out in the wash!
Starting any new job can be daunting, however the stories you hear at university about the PR industry being cut-throat and ruthless aren’t necessarily true. The industry does offer a fast-paced and somewhat competitive work environment, however there are always people willing to help if you are willing to learn. Show interest in your work, do research, ask questions, and be sure to take note of everything that goes on around you, as you never know what valuable lessons you may learn. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and some time out to gain perspective. This may mean going for a walk, talking to someone outside of work, or trying one of the many other stress management techniques available. Most of all â€“ don’t be afraid to ask for help!
By keeping these five tips in mind, you will make the transition from graduate to PR pro in no time!
Looking to expand your professional experience? We offer multiple internships throughout the year to prospective journalism and communications students. Check out our internship program here.