5 career tips for budding PR professionals

Looking to get your start in the PR industry? Here are some tips from veterans in the field about how to develop your skills and reach the next level.

Are you getting your start in PR?

In the next nine years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 23,000 Public Relations jobs will be added, making PR an attractive job market for many college undergrads.

While most universities do a great job of preparing students on communication theory and application, it can sometimes be difficult for students to transition into the job market. New graduates need to make sure that they take initiative to build and refine skills supplementary to academic studies.

Here are five tips to start your PR Career:

1. Find a Mentor.

Be on the lookout for a mentor, someone who understands PR and can help you navigate your career. A good mentor offers both career and life advice, making introductions to reporters or senior members of your organization.

They are your biggest fan, helping celebrate with you when times are good, and offering a parachute when things don’t go as planned. Finding a mentor isn’t easy, but is essential for long term success in any organization and industry.

Beth N. Carvin, CEO of Mentor Scout, says that the best way to find a mentor is to just ask.

“Keep your eyes open for inspiring PR professionals,” said Carvin. “When you have the opportunity, let them know you admire them and ask if they would be open to talking with you from time to time. You’ll be surprised how often they will say yes.”

2. Read, read and read some more!

Cathy Summers, CEO and founder of Summers PR urges new graduates to make reading and news scanning part of a daily routine.

“It is imperative to spend time reading about events that could impact your employer or clients. Whether it’s jumping on breaking news and trends or identifying new reporters who are writing about relevant topics, you must be aware of the news cycle and what’s topical.”

She suggests setting up Google alerts, creating a list of news sites to check daily, setting your homepage to the top news source for your industry, and creating a Twitter list to follow for breaking news.

3. Expand your experience.

Work with as many people, and on as many projects as you can to understand your areas of strength and interest.

That’s the recommendation Sarah Hilmer, director of communications at BetterWorks. “Very early on in my PR career, I worked at an agency that did a great job of putting new employees on a wide range of accounts, so we could learn what we liked, where we excelled, and where there was room for improvement,” she said.

Hilmer reflected that those opportunities helped her grow as a young PR pro. “When I look back on that experience,” she said, “I’m able to see how the varying roles I played on diverse teams, combined with an autonomous environment, enabled my success.”

4. Be Curious.

Curiosity is a huge driver of success, especially as you are entering into a new industry like public relations, or vertical market like technology. It’s important to learn as much as you can about your industry from a variety of sources.

“Don’t know a reporter? Look up his or her recent coverage and find the patterns. Don’t know an acronym or technology? ‘Google it’ so you too can sound like an industry insider,” said Maya Pattison, director of public relations at Barkly. The more informed you are, the better your pitches, new business outreach and client communication will be. It all starts with being curious and doing something about it.”

5. Write like you read.

Tony Keller, senior vice president of SSPR, suggests that new hires read everything they can and incorporate reporters’ style into their own writing.

“The easiest way to connect with a journalist that you may not know personally is to—quite literally— speak their language,” said Keller. “Every print reporter has his or her own style and specific voice when communicating with their audience. Study their individual patterns and writing personalities.”

Although this approach may feel tedious in the beginning it will eventually become second nature, and help build relationships with reporters.

What advice would you give to new graduates, PR Daily readers?

Kristin Miller manages public relations for cybersecurity leader Webroot. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMiller.

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