Conference Corner: Virgil Scudder’s Ten Essential Tips for a Successful PR Career

Virgil Scudder (courtesy of

It’s what everybody wants, right? An easy step-by-step guide to succeeding in our chosen career path, but at the same time we know that it just doesn’t work that way. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t tips that can point you in the right direction.

Check out the advice from the president of Virgil Scudder & Associates, Inc., Virgil Scudder:

1. Writing Skills: Think of your writing as a window into you as a professional. You don’t want the employer’s view of you to be smudged because of simple grammar mistakes. Take the time to edit your work so the employer’s view is crystal clear.

2. Presentation Skills: Learn from the best. Study the way your professors or even guest speakers present to their audience. What kind of eye contact do they have? If they have a PowerPoint, how much information is on it? If you really want to connect with your audience, tell a story. Don’t use words where an illustration would be more effective.

3. Read, Read, Read: I think that pretty much says it all. Read as much as you can. Not only will you pick up on new terms or words, but it can help with strengthening your writing skills. Also, don’t just stick to online articles or blogs, read the newspaper, a magazine or journal.

4. Professional Demeanor: Present yourself in a positive light. You want to be nice and humble, but don’t forget to share credit where credit is due. And a piece of advice that you’ll probably be giving your clients, don’t be afraid to apologize. Sometimes we’re wrong and that’s all there is to it.

5. Listening Skills: Do your friends tell you that you’re a good listener? If so, you’re off to a great start! Sometimes all we need to do is listen to get the information we need. Just remember the 80/20 rule.

6. Know the Profession: As future PR pros were beginning to develop our skills as researchers. The same way we research for class assignments or will do for our future clients, we have to research our field. Get some background from studying case studies, successful campaigns, even PR disasters. Immerse yourself in the field by going to professional functions and networking with experienced practitioners. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions, more than likely these professionals are waiting to share their advice with students like you. If possible, find yourself a mentor. They can expose you to several opportunities that you can’t always see.

7. Know the Media: Research what stories journalists are looking for and what audiences are reading their articles. Don’t forget that it’s a two-way working relationship. You can be a resource to them just as much as they can be a helpful contact for you.

8. Know Business: Read the business pages, watch shows that recap the business news for the week, even study shareholder earnings. It all goes back to research.

9. Good Work Habits: It’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Be punctual, reliable and open. If there’s a gap in your work load, volunteer to help someone else. Most importantly: MEET YOUR DEADLINES.

10. Network: Possibly the most important skill to have in PR is knowing how to network. How can you get a jump start on this? Easy, join PRSSA. PRSSA can be helpful in making the first step to building a rolodex of professionals. This can be through meet and greets, socials or conferences. For example, a great opportunity to learn from experienced professionals is EMU PRSSA’s 15th annual Student Development Conference in December. There are plenty of other resources out there; you just have to find them.

Even after these great tips, Scudder left us with one more piece of advice.
“Work hard, be ethical and do the right thing.”

Cherese Colston


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