By: Hope Salyer
Every day I’m in the Public Relations Program at Eastern Michigan University makes me love my decision to major in PR even more. However, there are a few things I wish I had known beforehand. Here are five things I wish I had known before choosing to major in PR.
- PR is not a 9 to 5 job.
If you want a 9 to 5 job, PR isn’t the best choice for you. Part of your responsibilities as a PR practitioner is to do what your client asks. This can mean attending events late into the evening, getting up early for a meeting, or waking up to a crisis at 2 a.m. Things happen every day, and as social media continues to expand, a crisis is bound to happen. It might not be as big as Donald Trump’s tweet at Boeing, but even a small crisis needs to be handled immediately. This means you need to be prepared to have unconventional, unexpected work hours.
- Networking is VITAL in this field!
Don’t get me wrong. Networking is important in every profession, however, it is one of the most important things to remember when joining the PR industry. Public relations is a growing industry for college graduates, but it is also a very competitive industry to break into. Having contacts to help you get into the field is so important. On the other hand, in order to get the best coverage and meet the goals of your client, you must have connections. PR is all about building mutually beneficial relationships. This means you need to build and maintain your relationship with journalists, and your client needs to build and maintain his or her relationship with the public. Having a network of professionals you can turn to when you need help is paramount in this industry.
- If you don’t love writing, PR probably isn’t for you.
If you ask any PR practitioner what the most important skill is for someone in the industry to have, I guarantee they will say strong writing skills. Writing is key in PR. If you can’t write a compelling pitch email free of grammatical and punctuation errors, you’re never going to get any media coverage for your client. Journalists are extremely busy, and they don’t have the time to decipher the message from a terrible pitch email. Additionally, every time you send out a press release, get quoted in the media, or click post on your client’s social media page, you represent that client and the company you work for. If you don’t have good writing skills, it’s going to be an embarrassment to everyone. Writing skills can be honed in on and perfected if you practice, but if you don’t enjoy writing, PR isn’t going to be enjoyable for you.
- Take advantage of the services and organizations offered to you.
As PR students, you have services and organizations to help you out. Taking part in organizations like PRSSA will help you build connections with professionals that you can use down the road for job interviews, references or contacts in the field. It’s better to start using these opportunities now than to not know where to go when you need them after you graduate.
- Know that you will almost always get asked what PR is.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me what PR is and what PR practitioners do, I would be a millionaire. When you tell someone you’re going to school for PR, it will become second nature to you to explain to them what PR actually is, and what PR practitioners do on a day-to-day basis. On the off chance that someone does know what PR is, they are probably going to say something about spending your time covering up mistakes or planning parties. While yes, planning events is oftentimes part of a PR campaign, and sometimes a crisis will happen that you need to handle (by being truthful and honest about the situation rather than covering it up or lying about it) most people don’t understand the actual purpose of PR. PR is all about building mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders. This could be between a client and his or her publics, a PR practitioner and a journalist, or a client and his or her employees. A PR practitioner’s job is to communicate information on behalf of the client. Sometimes, that is through hosting a fun event, and other times it’s by sending out a press release.
These are just a few things I wish I had known before choosing PR. Not a day goes by that I regret my decision, and I know that PR is the absolute right choice for me. What are some things you wish you had known before choosing PR or choosing your major in general? Let us know in the comments below!
Hope Salyer is a junior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Chief Financial Officer of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s first semester serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency in the Detroit area. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.