PR newbies are like young, inexperienced Jedi who need a few good training lessons if they truly want to become a public relations “Jedi Knight.” Here are 4 public relations basics that every PR newbie should tackle if they want to master public relations.
1) Learn the basics of what you’re going to be doing
This is the #1 task you should start off with. Some of the main tasks of an entry-level public relations position are media monitoring, writing pitches and press releases, and doing tons of research. You can look up job descriptions of a “public relations intern” or “account coordinator” on Craigslist and LinkedIn to see what different companies want in their ideal candidate.
How good are your research and writing skills? Excellent research skills are going to be needed, since you’ll be creating media lists of outlets and reporters, and mining those same lists when a write up for a client is needed. Like the managing director of Change Communications says,” get to know the tech/consumer/business beat reporters for major outlets like Wall Street Journal or online blogs like TechCrunch.”
Press releases are generally news-oriented and informative, while pitches are more creative, persuasive, but still informative. Google press releases and pitches to get a sense of the type of writing are needed for both.
2) Research different working environments for PR:
What’s the difference in working environments at an agency versus a non-profit?
Agency environment: Working at an agency, you usually start off on the corporate ladder as either an intern or as an account coordinator (common at smaller public relations agencies). Generally, agencies hire interns and after the internship is over, decide if they want to hire them on full time. Public relations agencies can range from full-service global agencies with multiple practices (Ogilvy, Hill & Knowlton, etc), to mid-sized boutique public relations firms that specialize in outreach to select industries: like technology, consumer, video game, legal, and entertainment public relations. All public relations firms exist to help enhance the marketing endeavors and to nurture a positive brand image of their clients. They do this by media relations: reaching out to reporters and bloggers of TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine outlets. Press releases about a company product or launch are sent out on wire services like PR Newswire or BusinessWire. Pros of agency life: security, fast track onto the public relations lifestyle, and easier career advancement. Cons: Rigid schedules with no ability to choose clients. For more information on agency environment: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/definition-boutique-pr-firm-19323.html
Non-profit: In a non-profit environment like (Red Cross, American Breast Cancer Society, Glide Foundation) public relations practitioners work very closely with their board of directors, to ensure that messaging is in alignment with their organization’s mission statement. Sometimes there may be only 1 or 2 people working in the non-profit’s public relations department, since not every non profit has a huge budget for public relations. As a PR newbie, you could gain experience working as a public relations volunteer –helping with press releases or doing social media outreach. PublicRelationsCares.Org matches up non-profit organizations with the skills and talents of students in college and public relations professionals. For more info on the program: http://www.goodcausecommunications.org/cms.php?id=109
3) What PR specialties does your area have?
Different metropolitan areas are well known to be meccas for certain types of public relations. In the San Francisco Bay Area, due to being neighbors to Silicon Valley, most public relations firms specialize in consumer and technology public relations. Los Angeles is where you’d want to go if you’re hoping to do entertainment, film, or sports public relations. Over on the East Coast- New York City’s expertise is in fashion, consumer, and healthcare PR.
4) Get Experience And Find a Mentor(s)
Hands-on learning as a public relations intern or volunteer is more valuable than just research alone. You’ll learn what goes into a press release, what a boilerplate is, and how to meet client expectations.
Definitely reach out to public relations veterans for their advice on what it takes to succeed in public relations. You could turn to your boss or to professionals from public relations associations like Public Relations Society of America. Go to different sources to get more detailed information on the different types of public relations practices out there. Every seasoned public relations professional knows what it’s like to start out in public relations, and are happy to share any advice and tips with younger, less experienced people just starting out.
By Courtney Lee