Public relations is among the many fields in which classroom knowledge can only take you so far. Internships are an important tool for getting the feel of the daily routine of a PR professional, but a mentor is what separates a new professional from the pack.
I have reached a fork in the road of my career that takes me away from seeing my mentor on a daily basis. With that change I have been reflecting on the wealth of invaluable knowledge that I learned from my mentor. This knowledge is not simply how to craft the perfect press release or pitch a reporter, but how to conduct myself as a professional and the importance of being an eternal student of the trade.
You can spot a PR newbie from a mile away. We can all remember being there. We can all remember the one PR pro who took the time to stop what they were doing, take us under his or her wing, and teach us what we needed to know to become a successful practitioner.
“Being a mentor is about passing down knowledge and wisdom through the generations,” says Angela Betancout of Ambit Marketing. “I will never forget the impact my mentor had in my life and it’s important for me to be a mentor now.”
Remember that someone helped you get started in your career. It is important to share your experience and time to help shape and mold the next generation of PR professionals. By investing time in their growth, we are continuing to develop the trade and instilling in them the values and skills needed to be a “good” PR pro.
A mentor can help a newbie learn acquired skills, which sometimes take years to develop. The mentor/mentee relationship provides the newbie exposure to skills beyond the textbook teaching to help that person fast track his or her career with advanced skills that will separate them from the piles of résumé
for a job.
What a mentee can learn from a mentor is only as good as the quality of the relationship. The recipe to be a good mentor is to be available, invested, open and honest, and to provide access to foster the network of your mentee.
Some of the most memorable lessons learned from mentors:
• My mentor always remained calm under pressure and didn’t stress over mistakes. – Phyllis Ershowsky, PKE Marketing & PR Solutions
• Small things do matter so take the extra time to make sure the document is formatted perfectly, that you have double checked your facts, and that you said thank you. – Cathie Ericson, freelance writing and PR consultant
• Listen to what the editor or producer is telling you. Even though they may be saying no to a particular pitch, they may be giving you clues as to what they are looking for. – Andrea Rodriguez, Flavor PR
• Build relationships, not contacts. – Jasmine Bina, JB Communications
• Respond quickly, be polite and above all keep to the message. – Bonnie Russell, PersonalPublicRelations.com
A good mentor/ mentee relationship has shared accountability. Both the mentor and mentee have to be invested in the relationship. Make sure that you are accessible to PR students and welcome questions and conversations.
“I would tell my mentor, thanks for putting your trust in me even though I was new and didn’t know a thing,” says Phyllis Ershowsly of PKE Marketing & PR Solutions. “You gave me an amazing amount of responsibility and let me fly. I credit my mentor for enabling me to do that—allowing my confidence to grow.”
Linzy Roussel Cotaya is a New Orleans-based public relations professional with a social media hobby. Her resume includes a mix of ad agency and nonprofit experience. Follow Linzy on twitter, @zzcrawfish, or on www.crawfishtales.com. A version of this story first appeared on the PRBreakfastClub blog.