Tag Archives: The New Rules of Marketing and PR

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!

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Must-read PR books for the summer (or really anytime)

I recently Googled “must-read PR books” and found some good lists. Since PR and marketing is refined and updated quite a bit, in addition to incorporating constantly changing consumer trends and figures, I don’t read many books about the subject that have been out for more than two or three years. So, without further ado, here’s a list of five books that are on rotation with me right now: four I’ve read, one I’m currently reading, and all my versions of good “beach reads!”

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer (2010, Mariner Books): In order to be effective and successful PR and marketing specialists, we need to understand the psychology behind why people buy, what’s important to them at each life stage, and how they come to conclusions in general. Lehrer explains the use of our rational and emotional sides of the brain, and how each factors into how we decide. The single-most important factor in building better decision-making skills, he says, is making mistakes: the best decision makers are “students of error.” That is, making mistakes is a good, necessary thing: it allows us to reconfigure our brains so that the next time, we get closer to making the right decision. Or the more correct decision. Your brain’s neurons actually think about what they could have done differently so that next time they know what to do. The brain always learns the same way, accumulating wisdom through error. The really fascinating part of about this book is the author’s stories of folks whose brains lack the ability to learn from their mistakes: sociopaths, gamblers, and others on the fringes of society.


Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom (2008, Doubleday): I first listened to this book about a year ago and fell in love with it and Lindstrom. Since then, I’ve listened to it at least three times and have passed it onto friends. Lindstrom is a pioneer in “neuromarketing,” first incorporating lessons like the ones offered by Lehrer (above) to figure out what makes the brain tick when it comes to consumerism. Lindstrom takes his research a step further in actually examining the human brain as it reacts to certain stimuli, like advertising and product placement. Guess what? His research has concluded that, among other such messages, anti-tobacco messages not only do not work, but actually encourage more tobacco use. If you’re a smoker or have ever smoked, this really isn’t so surprising. Think about it.

Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller (2009, Viking): I’ve purposely put these books in the top three because they share a common thread: exploring the psychology behind consumerism. Miller applies evolutionary psychology to modern-day consumerism. I’m just 100 pages into the 300+ page book, but his message is becoming clearer: Why have we lowered ourselves to purchasing symbols of wealth, intelligence, and strength when evolution has given us ways of doing this without going into debt? Furthermore, if we go into debt purchasing symbols of wealth, these symbols are rendered false and therefore potentially misleading and dangerous when it comes to mate selection.

Here’s a thoughtful quote I’ve highlighted and underlined: “If we buy products primarily as signals of our underlying biological strengths, their signal effectiveness—especially as carried by brand recognition—is, logically, paramount, while their efficiency in serving their normal purpose (as a garment, appliance, or vehicle) is only of secondary concern.” He then says, “The fact is perfectly clear to every marketing professional, but it must remain perfectly obscure to most consumers” (85).

Manager’s Guide to Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations by Barry Callen (2010, McGraw Hill): This is a textbook and guidebook for any PR pro. Its initial messages are basic, and so it’s a good source for beginning professionals. However, we all need refreshers from time-to-time, and this is a fabulous place to get them. Tip: for more seasoned PR pros, start in the back. The more advanced, “hard” marketing is there.



The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott (2009, Wiley): I’ve saved the best for last. Scott’s book is my Bible, and just like every other person who loves the book, my copy is covered in highlights, ink and Post-It notes (see to the left?). Much like the Manager’s Guide above, The New Rules covers basic techniques in marketing and PR; again, good for beginnings and great for refreshers. It does, however, go a step forward to offer case studies and examples of the lessons he provides. In addition, the origin of the book shows that Scott doesn’t just speak from a textbook: the man knows his business. The book began as posts on his blog, and he actively sought input from readers. Combining his experience with input from outsiders, he created this book. Which is always either in the backseat of my car or in my bag. Thanks, David, for such a great book, in case you’re reading this. And I think you just might be!

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