“Public relations professionals are fascinating, because they know so much about so many different topics,” a colleague at my summer internship told me.
It’s true: While working for an apparel company client, I learned more about Bangladeshi manufacturing than I ever thought I would know. I spent hours each week monitoring media outlets and became passionate about a topic I’d never found interesting before.
Research is one of the best skills PR professionals possess. The ability to analyze news and current events is not only crucial in entry-level positions but at every level in an organization.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I often tuned out the 6 o’clock news when it discussed the latest scandal in Bangladesh. I thought: How does this affect me?
My internship taught me firsthand that in the public relations field, all news is important news. Who knows when a recent event—national or international—might cause client crises or even spark inspiration? I began listening to the news with the ears of the clients, an opportunity for continuous learning and professional development.
, our student-run firm at The University of Alabama, has an insights department that is crucial to every campaign we run. It specializes in formative research and analytics to ensure our clients receive the most effective communication strategies and tactics for their organizations.
The students in that department might be the most qualified for jobs following graduation. They have the research and analytical skills sought after by employers. They could probably talk your ear off about how to get certified in physical therapy or the definition of binge drinking—or maybe even the latest scandal in Bangladesh.
[RELATED: Learn how to create content that sticks for the long haul at our December NYC summit.]
Even if you’re not a member of a research team, the news is still important. Consider the following:
• Think about current events from the viewpoint from a company you admire or a potential client.
• Focus on enhancing your global perspective.
• Keep an eye out for PR campaigns that work and those that don’t. This is a common question during job interviews.
• Try writing a press release for an already published article to better understand the process behind creating a news story. This practice can improve appreciation of the journalistic process as well as media relations skills.
Current events are never too far removed to affect practitioners and clients. My political science professor’s favorite saying is, “All politics is local.” In public relations, everything is local.
Jacquie McMahon is director of The University of Alabama's student-run firm, Capstone Agency, as well as an editor with Platform Magazine, the school's student-run public relations publication.