4 important skills aspiring PR pros won’t learn in the classroom

College curriculums can help future communicators learn a lot about the industry, but not everything. Consider these crucial elements to success not often taught.

"Reading a Book" by CollegeDegrees360 via / CC BY-SA 2.0

College PR courses can provide an excellent foundation for aspiring communicators.

From writing and editing to developing an understanding of the general concept of creating and running a campaign, these courses are a great starting point for students looking to land a job post-graduation. However, in an ever-changing PR industry, what we learn in the classroom doesn’t always prepare us for what the job will actually entail.

Here are a few elements of the industry that college students should anticipate quickly learning after jumping into an internship or entry-level PR career:

1. Media list literacy

Pitching is a craft, yet many colleges don’t emphasize pitching in their curriculums.

Familiarize yourself with is Cision or another PR software platform. Finding the right reporter to pitch is crucial to the success of your outreach efforts. Although these tools aren’t always perfect, they offer a solid starting place to find the right person.

Building media lists within these tools is one of the first things you’ll learn to do in an agency internship, and candidates who have an understanding of basic pitching skills stand out.


2. Mastering “B’s” and “C’s”

B’s and C’s in school mean something much different than B2B and B2C.

Business-to-business communications and business-to-consumer PR efforts are two entirely different animals. Understanding the difference is important, as one major part of agency PR is the skill of monitoring multiple industries at once.

3. The role of social media

Social media is a major opportunity for brand managers to connect with a targeted audience. When a crisis occurs, many consumers turn to a brand’s social media channels to see their response.

Some colleges bring in experts to keep up with this area of public relations, but others are falling behind.

Organic and paid social media opportunities for brands have changed rapidly over the past few years. Organic reach for brands has been greatly reduced on social media due to changing algorithms set by each channel. The current landscape demands knowledge of paid social media capabilities and influencer partnerships.

4. Showing PR’s value with metrics and reporting

Whether it’s for social media or traditional earned media, reporting underlines the value of a PR pro’s work to a client’s business objectives.

How do you measure success? A website’s unique monthly visitors, number of impressions and social media reach, engagements and interactions are typically used to measure the success of a campaign. Learning how to monetize services and understanding how your work fits into larger business goals is an important skill for successful PR pros.

My advice to college students interested in PR is to complete as many internships as possible to learn these skills and explore the areas of the industry that you’re most interested in. The value of internships and real PR experience cannot be understated, especially in these areas where college curriculums can fall short.

Robyn Greene is an PR account executive at Nashville-based integrated marketing agency, GS&F. A version of this article originally appeared on the agency’s blog. You can apply for the agency’s fall PR internship program by emailing your resume and writing samples to careers@gsandf.com.


Topics: PR


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