It seems like every week I field a call from a desperate college student seeking my advice about how to break into public relations. I’ve answered their questions so often that I thought I would jot down a few tips that I’ve learned over my more than 20-year career in public relations.
- Think strategically: What is your end goal? How can you get there? Have a plan. Write it down just as you would a business plan and then work it.
- Seek internships: Be sure to have one; they often lead to jobs. Furthermore, they’ll help you to understand if this business is really for you. (It can be very stressful at times!) Treat an internship as if it’s a job. Be ready with a professional resume and photo. Be prepared with questions and skill sets you to have offer.
- Set yourself up for success: Have an outlet after your internship. Look for opportunities. Volunteer. Play up your accomplishments. Example: MarketingMel’s intern Sarah Williams was the top PR student at her community college. That impressed me.
- Communicate with communicators: Communicate on their terms through their channels (and be sure to identify yourself.) Since founding MarketingMel there was only one time that a college student reached out to me in such an engaging way that I asked for a meeting with him. Yet that was how impressed I was with the abilities of David Ford. (Remember that name. I think he will go far in the advertising business!) If you want to see what the pro’s are doing listen to tweetchats like # soloPR and #journchat and say “Hello.”
- Study the thought leaders: Look who’s leading the way in your chosen field, in your community, and in the world. (I treasure my virtual friendships with my international friends. Judy Gombita in Toronto with PR Conversations is a great example.)
- Innovate: Use the latest tools and learn about new ones. The field of communications changes daily. Be sure you are running at all times to keep up with it. Is your Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn up to date? (Yes, I said LinkedIn. More than 80 percent of all headhunters are there so you need to be there as well.) Use YouTube to present yourself on video to a future employer. Skype is a another handy tool.
- Learn something new: Do you know a foreign language? Spend time abroad. Be open to opportunities elsewhere. There will never be a better time in your life to pick up and move somewhere and do something different. It will expose you to a new way of thinking.
- Show kindness: Put the phone away in class and share some real (not virtual) Facetime with your teachers and friends. This goes for our online behavior as well. Others can tell when you genuinely care about them.
- Follow journalists: Media relations is part of public relations. Follow your favorite journalists and engage with them. I often chat on twitter with our local morning news anchor, Josh Smith via twitter. He and I are both early risers and our friendship has deepened with our regular tweet banter.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses and focus on your strengths: (Now Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton is a book well worth reading with an easy-to-take online quiz that will help you determine your top strengths.)
- Create your Personal Brand: Put some thought into this one and again there are some great books available (see Tom Peters and Brand You.) Remember your personal brand will follow you from job to job throughout the rest of your life.
What suggestions do you have to add to this list? Please post your comments here. I’d love to hear from you!