Tag Archives: PR career

So you want to study PR? Tips for college students

Earlier this week, Sheyda, a college sophomore, read and commented on my post about recent college grads wanting to get into PR. She’s in the middle of her bio-med studies, and she feels her future being pulled toward a career in PR: “My passion lies with the drive to build relationships with people and companies/businesses,” she told me. “I want to switch my major to Public Relations as soon as I can. Is there any advice you can give me? To be honest, one of the reasons I haven’t switched is because I’m scared of the job market.”

I’d like to share my response to her question here, for anyone else in a similar situation. In a nutshell: do your homework, then follow your gut!

To Sheyda: I think you need to follow your gut instinct here, ultimately, but first, I think you should explore PR and marketing a little more to make sure it’s what you really want to do. Networking and making people feel at ease is a fun and wonderful part of PR, and I’m so glad you’re good at it and feel comfortable doing it. That’s very important.

So next, do a few things: pick up a copy of The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. The third edition is out now; I actually just bought it and haven’t had a chance to read it! David is an excellent PR professional and a great writer and teacher. If after you finish reading this you find that you’ve dog-eared, highlighted and made notes all over the book, then I think a PR major should be in your future.

You should also subscribe to one of the many industry e-newsletters out there. Ragan.com has some great newsletters that might be a good starting point.

Being worried about the job market is a smart to do, to a certain point, but we can’t let it stop us from following our dreams. PR is diverse, and just about every type of business and industry needs a communications professional. Higher education, public broadcasting, banking, non-profits, construction, the entertainment industry…most places have marketing and communications divisions and offices.

And if you’re interested in freelancing or building your own boutique, then the time to start is now. In addition to your studies at Auburn, start doing work for clients – campus groups, become PR chair of your sorority, local organizations, causes, etc – and begin building your professional profile and portfolio.

I think it also will benefit you to take some journalism classes and spend a semester on the campus newspaper, so you get the experience working as the folks you’ll be working with in the future should you delve into media relations. In fact, interning at a local newspaper might not be a bad idea, if you have the time, in addition to definitely shadowing/interning at either PR agencies or with a communications professional.

I’m so excited for Sheyda to be embarking upon a potential PR career!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sarah Evans (the public relations one) is my kind of celebrity

Celebrities rarely faze me. (I did stand outside the Jacobs Theatre in New York back in 2006 for many hours to get playbill autographs from Julia Roberts, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper after a “Three Days of Rain” performance. But that was for a friend who’d driven from Baltimore, I couldn’t say no.)

To me, celebrities are individuals who have accomplished things I also want to accomplish. And Sarah Evans, a dynamite public relations professional, is my kind of celebrity. Which is why at the beginning of February I asked for an interview. She agreed, and I was excited. I couldn’t wait to pick her brain.

On the day of our phone interview, she calls me right on time.

After greetings, I ask her how and when she realized that public relations was the career she wanted to pursue. I’m always curious because—like so many others—PR wasn’t my intended field starting college. In fact, I was a pre-med biology major, until I passed out listening to someone tell me about her husband’s dialysis treatments. I soon switched to a communication with a journalism emphasis and English double major (still no PR; it doesn’t come to me for another five years).

Come to find out, Sarah started the same way. Sort of.

“In all I’ve done, I’ve had a mission of bringing people together,” she says. “I went away to college as a music major. I realized it was a hobby, not a career path.” After talking with advisers and doing some “soul searching,” she realized communications with an emphasis in public relations was the right path professionally for her.

And she’s excelled at her chosen path. I’ve followed Sarah on Twitter for a while now, but I really fell in love (I’m sorry Sarah, I hope that doesn’t sound weird) when I saw the January 2010 article in Vanity Fair titled America’s Tweethearts. (I mentioned it in a Jan. 8, 2010 blog entry.) Six women dominating social media (Twitter, specifically) is the focus of the article.

Sarah has more than 40,000 followers on Twitter, a following she says comes from all her work with a number of non-profits over the years. This is important and awesome, but it isn’t everything. Less than a year ago she began Sevans Strategy, her Chicago-based public relations and new media consultancy. Also, on Twitter, she created and moderates #journchat, the top-trending weekly live chat between PR professionals, journalists and bloggers. She’s a guest writer for Mashable, one of the most popular social media blogs in the world, and runs her own blog PRsarahevans.com, among other endeavors.

What’s my point? She’s 29. I’ll be 27 in July. She’s my celebrity. Before officially beginning Sevans Strategy, she worked as the director of communications at a community college. I manage media relations for a liberal arts college. Aside from the business of dialysis and passing out, our beginnings are a little similar, which encourages me that maybe I am on the right path. You know, sometimes we wonder.

Anyway, Sarah told me that she hopes print newspapers never go extinct; that businesses and organizations need to embrace marketing through social media, and not every social media option is right for everyone; and in this economy, good communications professionals and plans are as important as ever.

Our chat was brief but important to me. She wished me well in my future endeavors—opening my own PR boutique—and said she especially loves when women follow such dreams. Me, too. And I think she’s an ideal example for women my age with similar aspirations. I can’t be the only one among 40,000 Twitter followers to be admiring her career!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,