20 tips for PR students

Some of the best lessons about PR come from experience rather than a classroom.

This semester, I’m teaching a graduate seminar in public relations management at John Carroll University. This is the first week. One of the things I’m going to share is a list of tips that the professional I am now would like to have given the journalism student I used to be. Here they are:

1. In PR, deadlines are just as prevalent and often as frantic as they are for reporters.

2. Respect others’ deadlines, including those of peers and journalists.

3. Psychology and diplomacy are important in PR. So is a sense of humor.

4. Fearlessness will sometimes result in failure. Be fearless anyway.

5. Playing it safe will lead to lost opportunities and less growth.

6. Treat people decently. Snubbing reporters or colleagues can, and often does, backfire.

7. Do not lie.

8. But be careful where, when and with whom you are totally, openly, brutally honest.

9. If you spread gossip in writing—texts, emails, notes, hashtags, etc.—you might as well broadcast it.

10. Difficult or complicated conversations with a boss, client or reporter generally do not go smoothly via email. They fare even worse as texts.

11. Strategically, however, at the end of such a discussion, getting certain facts, comments or commitments in writing through email can be very helpful.

12. Job-related communication is an emoticon-free zone.

13. Writing, spelling, grammar and coherence always matter. Facts, names, titles and details are worth triple-checking.

14. It is possible to draw lessons from dreadful experiences, such as toxic colleagues and unbearable bosses or clients.

15. If you don’t know, say so.

16. Always give credit for others’ ideas or work. This is not only ethical, but will increase your own credibility.

17. Cut wasted efforts when and wherever possible.

18. Never cut corners to compromise quality.

19. Humbling, cringe-inducing mistakes can also impart searingly effective wisdom.

20. Don’t make the same mistakes repeatedly, especially the humbling, cringe-inducing kind.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I don’t want to overwhelm them on the first day.

Whether you’ve been working in PR for a long time or are at the newer edge of your career, what would you add to this list? Any here you’d delete? And why?


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