By Rachel Peck
While college is farther away for some of us than others, it’s probably not difficult to recall your ambitions and expectations regarding your post-college career. Was it to be a life-long journalist – breaking news at all hours of the day/night? Or possibly you dreamed of working in public relations, putting out fires left and right and handling crisis communications for *insert brand name here. * However, like most careers, there are many elements you won’t learn about in college, and the public relations world is no different. Here are a few things about PR they didn’t teach you in college:
How to write
This may be controversial, but without some sort of background in writing or journalism while at college, many don’t actually learn how to write for a variety of audiences and in different formats. College is often associated with writing – turning in essays, reports, etc., but that’s the problem. You might take a class on press release writing, but you probably won’t learn about the variety of press release types, how those differ from a thought-leadership piece, content writing for websites, social media and blogs.
How to expect the unexpected
The word “pivot” isn’t one many like to hear these days, but you can’t ignore its importance in the public relations industry. Many college grads might have received a crash course in crisis communications, but the day-to-day changing of strategy is far more likely to happen. Will your client postpone a press release for another week, leaving you scrambling to update content calendars and fill gaps? They might change their messaging at the last minute – how will you adapt?
How to manage expectations
This one is tricky, because even the most experienced communications professionals find themselves wanting to over-promise – whether it be on deliverables, time resources or coverage. It’s important to remind them, and yourself, that PR is a long-term investment and results take time. Striking a balance can be particularly difficult to those new to the public relations profession, who might feel pressure to exceed expectations.
How to build and maintain relationships
Your network is a vital part of any profession, but who you know is especially important in the PR world. Building a strong relationship with your client is crucial to your overall success, but more long-term is the interactions you have with journalists and the news media, as well as your client’s audience. If you end up working in a niche industry, you’ll most likely find yourself with dedicated contacts from key media, no matter who your clients are. Building relationships is more than just sending them pitches and press releases but engaging with journalists on social media and catching up at events. Go out of your way to meet their deadlines and ensure their interactions with you and your clients are seamless.
In general, there is a lot you don’t learn about PR in college, and that’s okay. Thankfully, public relations, marketing and communications professions are constantly evolving, and you’ll always be learning new things – from social media channels, to project management skills. Public relations might not be as glamorous as many recent grads envision it would be, but it is a great career option for someone who is willing to adapt to the ever-changing world of communications.