I can’t think of a more exciting time to be starting out in the public relations industry than right now.
Heaps of change thanks to the ever-evolving new communications landscape spells plenty of opportunity for today’s young PR turks.
But as is always the case, the best opportunities generally will go to ‘cream of the crop’ – i.e. those willing to go the extra yard to learn more skills and build a credible personal brand.
If you’re a progressive, whip-smart young practitioner, you are extremely well-placed to surge ahead of the pack in terms of your employability.
If I was starting out in PR now…
ONE – I would read books, heaps of them, and not just ones about traditional PR; I would also include books that cover core aspects of communications today, including social media, content marketing plus broader aspects of doing business or creating impact on a societal level. The goal is to challenge your thinking, particularly what you’ve been taught in university, and to see PR from a more expansive perspective.
Here’s a pretty eclectic selection to get you going:
- The Content Code – Mark Schaefer
- The New Rules of Marketing & PR (5th edition) – David Meerman Scott
- Epic Content Marketing – Joe Pulizzi
- Whatcha Gonna do with that Duck – Seth Godin
- Lethal Generosity – Shel Israel
- The Business of Podcasting – Steve Lubetkin & Donna Papacosta
- Trust Me, PR is Dead – Robert Phillips
- Social Media Rules of Engagement – Nicole Matejic
- Your Brand, the Next Media Company – Michael Brito
- The Cluetrain Manifesto – Christopher Locke, David “Doc” Searls, David Weinberger, and Rick Levine
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World – Gary Vaynerchuk
…(plus from the ‘oldie but goodie’ category: The Marketer’s Guide to Public Relations in the 21st Century).
TWO – I would regularly keep up to date with the business/social media/PR/marketing blogosphere; by way of example, here are some blogs I read on a regular basis (in no particular order):
- Seth Godin
- Web Ink Now (David Meerman Scott)
- Businesses Grow (Mark Schaefer)
- Spin Sucks (Gini Dietrich et al)
- Lush Digital Blog
- Convince & Convert
- Content Marketing Institute blog
- Owned Media Mindset (The ID Group)
- Your Brand Less Ordinary (Ian Rhodes)
- Shift Communications blog
- Social Media Examiner
- Buffer App blog
- HootSuite blog
THREE – I would regularly listen to podcasts. How much time do you spend walking around, or on public transport? Put this idle time to good use and get ahead of the pack by listening to some of the brightest minds around – for example:
- Six Pixels of Separation (Mitch Joel)
- Marketing Homebrew (Mark Masters & Ian Rhodes)
- Brand Newsroom (Sarah Mitchell, Nic Hayes, James Lush)
- The Brand Journalism Advantage (Phoebe Chongchua)
- Social Media Marketing (Mike Stelzner)
- Content Convergence (Steve Rubel)
- Brand Storytelling (Rakhal Ebeli/Phoebe Chongchua)
- The Marketing Companion Podcast
- Managing Marketing (Darren Woolley)
- Social Pros Podcast
- For Immediate Release
- Marketing Smarts
- Inside PR
FOUR – I would immerse myself in the Twitterverse – no ifs or buts, and no lurking over an extended period – but digging in to the platform to try and work out how it ticked. Twitter has the potential to wreak havoc for your PR clients (or the company that you work for) – you need to understand the platform inside and out.
- Ditto Facebook, but you’re probably already doing that personally.
- Ditto LinkedIn (you have got a profile that does the professional you justice, yes?)
- I’d also try and get my head around the possibilities of other emerging new media platforms such as Blab and Periscope.
FIVE – I would write a blog. It doesn’t have to be work-related, it could focus on anything you’re passionate about (blogging, after all, is the ‘passion medium’).
- I researched the art of blogging like crazy before I actually started one, and then I learnt more in six weeks of actually doing it.
- Get involved, have a crack! Get noticed – consider a blog your ‘calling card’!
- Don’t use the excuse it’s too hard or you don’t understand technology…pffft! You can keep it very simple by using a platform such as Tumblr (you’ll be up and running in a matter of minutes).
- Alternatively, your schtick maybe a podcast or YouTube video show – all good!
SIX – I would read every newspaper I could get my hands on (online and hard copy), hang out at the newsagent and flick through as many magazines as humanly possible without getting sprung; subscribe to various ‘hybrid’ media (websites such as such as Huffington Post, The Guardian etc); swap radio stations often (over-indexing on talkback stations but not forgetting community stations either); I would also subscribe to Foxtel (it should be tax deductible) and understand the myriad channels on offer.
- Traditional media is not going away any time soon (but it is changing); if you can ‘join the dots’ between traditional and social media, you will become a lot more valuable to your employer!
SEVEN – I would take extra classes in writing (and practise, practise, practise). In my experience, the bulk of PR graduates and young practitioners cannot write to save themselves. This is not a habit you want to reinforce as you get older!
- Save the flowery ‘creative’ writing for your journal – learn how to write economically like a journalist, it’s a skill that will serve you well over your career.
EIGHT – I would get as much work experience as possible.
- If you’re already working at an agency or in-house, see if you can get some media work experience ‘on the side’.
- There is no substitute for practical experience!
- Let me repeat that: There is no substitute for practical experience!
NOTE: While the advice dispensed above is aimed squarely at young PR practitioners, equally a lot of it is relevant to seasoned comms pros as well. We should never stop learning in the PR game, particularly now when we’re faced with an ever-evolving media landscape that continues to force us all to constantly rethink the way we communicate with our constituents.