The blog post “Is PR Right for Me?” generated a lot of interest this past week. I thought it would be great to do a reverse interview with a PR student. I wanted to get a future professional’s perspective on the public relations industry, focusing on the excitement and challenges that a student experiences today. Angela Hernandez, who is the president of PRSSA at CMU, participated in the interview. She is pursuing her degree in integrative public relations and will be graduating from CMU in May 2010. You can also check out Angela’s blog, In The Lede, where she discusses her journey as a PR student.
Q: What do find interesting about the practice of public relations and what attracts you to a career in this field?
A: What interests me the most about a career in PR are the endless possibilities. I love the idea of a fast-paced work environment that also allows for creative freedom. Writing is definitely my passion and I’m glad I’ve found a career path that will allow me to do a lot of that. I find it interesting that each day in PR is usually different than the next. I also like the idea of helping clients achieve their goals. When a client comes to you with a wish list, I love trying to figure out how to make it happen.
Q: What are some of the challenges in PR that you see based on your experience as a student (either during as internship or in regard to something you learned in one of your classes)?
A: Personally, I think demonstrating the value of our work is one of the biggest challenges we face. These days, people are really looking at ROI and making cuts. It’s also hard when a client has big expectations with a small budget. What’s more is that a lot of clients judge PR effectiveness based on the number of media placements they get, which is difficult to deal with since our job involves so much more than the press release. Also, the value of the online world is still unclear to some. Whether it’s an Internet-only placement or a Twitter page, a lot of clients are only happy when they get placement in their local daily.
Q: How do you think you and your peers will make a difference as future PR leaders?
A: I believe my peers and I will have a great impact on the industry. We’re unique because we’ll be part of the first wave of entry level candidates that will be expected to have knowledge of not only traditional media, but also of new media and technologies. Before, this type of knowledge was more of a bonus than a requirement, but that is quickly changing. I think we’ll use our variety of experiences and knowledge to really take the industry to a new level as far as what we can accomplish.
Q: Are you learning about PR 2.0 and social media communications in school? If so, how much of your curriculum is devoted to this area of study?
A: I’m noticing more and more of my professors are starting to incorporate 2.0 concepts into the classroom. At this point, I’d say only about 25 percent of the PR course curriculum is devoted to exploring these new concepts. We touch on social media here and there in my classes, but we really haven’t started to dig deep. For example, we learn that there are a lot of new tools out there and we talk about some examples of how they’ve been used, but as far as taking the reigns and doing extensive analysis—not just yet.
The issue here is that many faculty members have been in the industry for very many years and are still in the process of learning the concepts themselves. To combat this, practically all of my professors frequently bring in PR pros and alumni who have experience in social media communications to help us understand these new and emerging trends. My university also recently established a new online journalism major, so even though we don’t yet have a PR 2.0 course, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one in the near future.
Despite this, I know many students take it upon themselves to stay ahead of the learning curve. Whether it’s through involvements like PRSSA or just from reading and learning on their own, I think the majority of PR students are doing a good job of staying informed.
Q: Do you have a PR role model or favorite PR personality (could be a professor/industry professional)?
A: This is a tough question. There have been so many people who’ve inspired me and taught me valuable lessons about the PR industry that I really don’t think I could pick just one. From CEOs to faculty members, and alumni to my fellow PR students, I really admire and respect a number of individuals—each of whom has accomplished great things. I can’t say I have a favorite PR role model, but rather that I aim to embody the best qualities of the most successful students and practitioners.
Getting the students and PR industry professionals to discuss the opportunities and challenges in public relations will strengthen our professional and motivate PR people of all ages. As a result of the interest of the student and PR pro interviews (Is PR Right for Me?), Valerie Simon (@valeriesimon) and I decided to begin a #PRStudChat on August 19th at noon. We’re excited to have industry professionals and students share their perspectives and insights in a dynamic discussion. For more information, check out http://bit.ly/1SgaQE.