Lately I’ve realised I’m learning more and more vital PR skills that I was never taught and using less and less of what I spent three years at university learning! Was uni important? Of course, not many companies will hire someone without them having a degree these days. Other than getting the piece of paper, uni taught me how to interact in a more professional environment, but most of the classes weren’t THAT interesting and I’ve found I’ve learnt more in 2 months of doing an Internship than I have in 2 years of uni Education seems to begin after the classes finish.
We spent a week learning basic grammar skills a 10 year old would find easy and examined the history of media instead of the future of it. With half a year to go, I’ve done countless assessments, sat through hours of lectures and classes and read hundreds of thousands of related texts. What have I learnt? That PR is moving so fast that our teachers are out of date, and that if they don’t catch up quickly, a whole generation of PR graduates will be left behind as the industry speeds in to the future.
That’s not to say that I didn’t take anything away from my time spent at Uni. But there certainly are some pretty important things you need to know in this field that are for some reason entirely overlooked.
There are some things that need an overhaul, namely these:
PR is not a glamorous industry
Working in PR is not all glitzy parties and events, or 2 hour client lunches. Graduates need to be told to prepare to work hard, these quirks are rare and most days will be spent in front of the computer.
Companies now expect interns and graduates to know how to compose media lists, what a CSO (creative send out) is, compile reports and communicate effectively with media and clients. None of these things have been mentioned once in all the hours I have spent at uni, c’mon universities!
Every office is different, but the basics on how one must conduct themselves in the workplace remain the same. No one tells students the things they should (or shouldn’t) do or the rules that govern office relationships, the kitchen, expectations, conflict management and dress attire.
Communicating and creating a support network is such an essential skill in all areas of life, so it’s surprising this isn’t taught or even assisted at university. There’s a huge advantage that comes with being able to connect with a key influencer and other like-minded people, gain advice from industry insiders and make a lasting impression.
Chasing up people and pitching to media are a simple part of working in PR, but at university, pitching is only mentioned in terms of advertising, when an advertising company is pitching to their client for a campaign idea! I never knew pitching was such a huge part of PR until starting an internship.
It comes as no surprise to PR professionals that a huge portion of the day is often spent on email correspondence, but not so much to new graduates. It was drummed in to us that we MUST address a Professor and a Doctor as what they are, but formal email writing was never discussed.
Goal setting & Time Management
Understanding productivity gives an instant advantage over other people, if you have learnt key skills then you will be far ahead. Prioritised to-do lists, using blocks of uninterrupted time and using goal/vision boards can make a huge difference to your work day. Using these skills will enable you to sit down feeling accomplished at the end of the day.
Multi-tasking is key
No one tells graduate’s that they will be so busy they don’t have time to think. Working in PR often means constantly working on 10 things at once so take notes and keep track of each task. While this can be stressful, it keeps life interesting and you never get bored.
Media coverage tools such as Slice Media are used every day in the office environment, yet these are never mentioned in the classrooms. Using analytics to monitor a business isn’t a new technology but can be overwhelming for someone new to PR.
What actually happens in a job interview? What questions you’re likely to be asked in the PR industry, what do different roles do? Where do you apply for jobs? All important questions for someone trying to break out in PR, but these topics aren’t covered at uni and they need to be.
Public Relations is a fantastic industry, full of fun and hard work and I can’t imagine working in anything else.
Blog post by Kate McKay
Image credit: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02357/students_2357903b.jpg