Three Pressing Questions in PR: What Students Want to Know

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 7.38.16 PMLast week, I had the pleasure of visiting my PRSA friends in Rochester at the PRSA Northeast District Conference. Together, we were blurring the lines and carving out the Modern Day Communicator. We set aside the hype and buzzwords and focused on strategic communications and technology to advance the practice of public relations.

It was a day full of questions, ideas and forward thinking for the PR industry. One of the highlights of my trip to ROC was sitting with a group of students prior to my luncheon keynote session. We sat in a small circle, about 15 of us, and got into a pretty candid discussion on what you need to know and also need to hear about PR.  There were three burning questions, which one week later still stand out in my mind.

1. What is the one thing that really gets your attention when a young professional meets with you or interviews with you?

You might think that I would focus on writing and speaking skills, or how much a young professional knows about public relations. That’s part of the equation, but not the first thing that stands out. Quite simply, I look for passion. You can teach anyone how to do advance their PR skills and train someone on strategy and planning best practices or relationship building. However, you can’t teach someone how to get excited or to be naturally more proactive as a result of a driving passion. Wanting to forge ahead with incredible energy and enthusiasm comes from within. Yes, you can share where you find your own inspiration, but passion itself is not something that can be taught.

2. I reached out to a professional I admired and did not receive a response. Should I have sent that email and continue with this practice?

It’s important to get right back up to the plate and swing that bat again. So many times, you will reach out to colleagues, the media, bloggers and influential people to develop a relationship. But, you will not always receive a response. In some cases, they may not even have received your email to begin with. However, whether it’s PR and communications or another industry, rejection comes with the territory. My best advice is don’t stop. You need to be confident and continue with different ways to build relationships. Similar to a media or business pitch, eventually you will hit a relationship home run.

3. PR appears to be a very competitive. I admire how PR professionals want to help one another but where do you draw the line between helping your peers and being more competitive to land that job for interview?

You have to find the balance between the competitive side of PR and the helping and mentoring part that is so valuable to the public relations profession. At the same time you’re taking the opportunity to build your own brand and to challenge yourself to get ahead. I find it extremely gratifying to help and mentor students and other professionals. However, because being in the PR business means when you’re in the boardroom or meeting someone for an interview, you’re there for a very specific purpose. It’s important to draw the line and know when to focus on the business of communications and when you can pour your heart into the education and giving generously on a daily basis.

These three questions open the door to so many more. What are your burning questions?