9 must-have resources for PR newbies

Want to break into the industry? Here is the ultimate online guide to kick-starting a successful career.

TJ Dietderich, of PR Breakfast Club fame, recently posed a simple question to me:

“I get a lot of questions from friends looking to switch to PR as a career. What are the best online resources to send them to?”

Good question, right?

A number of blogs and Web sites came to mind immediately, but then I thought more about the term TJ used—resources. We’re talking about more than blogs here. What would really help someone looking to break into PR to learn more about our profession, who we are, and where we’re going in the next 10-15 years?

After giving it some thought, I came up with the following list. I really think the blogs, sites, podcasts, lists and other resources below would give someone thinking of making the switch to PR a pretty good glimpse into our industry:

1. Journalistics

Follow the heart of PR by subscribing to Journalistics, where Jeremy Porter and crew talk about all things at the intersection of PR and journalism. What I like most about Journalistics is that it doesn’t tend to cover the trendy, social media based topics of the day. Sure, there are posts that discuss Twitter, Facebook and social media tools du jour, but for the most part the blog sticks to topics that PR pros and journalists would care about. Here are some good ones:

2. #pr20chat

#pr20chat is a fantastic weekly Twitter chat hosted by Heather Whaling and Justin Goldsborough that focuses on the PR “2.0″ world. Topics range from social analytics to educating the next generation of PR pros to writing and consulting basics. I can’t think of a better way for someone looking to break into PR to get up to speed on what’s happening in PR right now.

3. For Immediate Release podcast

This is one of the longest (if not the longest) PR podcast on record since April 2008. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson typically record two podcasts a week, taking on various topics in the PR and corporate communications industries. They usually use one podcast as the “report” for the week—think of it as a 45-minute CNN-type newscast for PR. The other podcast is dedicated to an interview or panel discussion of sorts. They recently featured a great discussion around social media analytics.

4. Follow Help A Reporter Out (HARO) for a week

Like it or not, media relations is a big part of PR. And, contrary to popular belief, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What better way to learn more about what reporters are looking for and how they frame stories than to follow HARO for a week? I mean really follow it. Read the inquiries. Try to understand what they’re looking for and what kind of story they’re developing. Reading HARO for a week will definitely help you get a sense of the kinds of stories and angles reporters take—and what they want, need and expect from PR pros.

5. Help A PR Pro Out (HAPPO)

(Disclosure: I’m a co-founder of HAPPO.) If you’re looking to make the move to PR, this may be where you find your first job. That’s the hope at least, and it’s a part of the reason HAPPO exists. However, HAPPO isn’t all about jobs—it’s about helping other PR pros. That can mean providing news and information, connecting others with potential mentors, and meeting new pros from across the world-via Twitter. All of these features would be hugely beneficial to someone looking to start a career in PR.

6. Bad Pitch Blog

Sometimes as much as it makes sense to learn how to do a job well, it also pays to learn from others’ mistakes. This is exactly why I encourage newbies to read the Bad Pitch Blog regularly.

What I’ve enjoyed most about Kevin Dugan and Richard Laermer over the years is that they’re not afraid to take on tough issues and “A-listers.” Case in point: this post which was fairly critical of Peter Shankman and his Klout-based holiday party last year. Of course, they also talk about everyday issues and lessons that impact us all, like the recent post on typos and proofreading. For either reason, I’d suggest it as a must-read for those considering a career in PR.

7. PR Breakfast Club

(Disclosure: I’m a contributor to PR Breakfast Club.) Founded by Nathan Burgess, Keith Trivitt, Marie Baker and CT Michaels, the Breakfast Club is a great place to get all things PR on a daily basis.

Here’s why I would recommend the Breakfast Club to PR newbies: You can get a sampling of a number of PR voices in one daily email. Since April 1, the Breakfast Club has featured a whopping 20 different authors and bloggers from across the Web and the U.S. You won’t get just one person’s perspective on PR, you will get a number of different views. And, many of them are young professionals (30 or younger), so you get a glimpse into what it’s like to start out in PR. This is one of the better group PR blogs on the Web.

8. Start following some great PR blogs

I mentioned a few already, but start a list of 10-15 PR blogs and follow them religiously for two months. I guarantee that in those two months you’ll learn a ton about the industry.

Start by pulling blogs from lists that already exist—Journalistics, Paul Roberts and Jeff Domansky’s lists are good places to start. If that doesn’t do the trick, check out Alltop for a more comprehensive list of potential PR blogs.

9. PR books

While the online resources I’ve listed here are great, I’d still recommend picking up a good, old-fashioned hardcover book every once in a while (or download one to your Kindle, if you prefer). Obviously, there are hundreds of books to read about PR.

Where to start? I compiled a list a couple of years ago based on PR pros’ recommendations, which is still a good starting point. I particularly like Kellye Crane’s suggestion of “Elements of Style” and Lauren Vargas’ recommendation of “Never Eat Alone,” which is not a PR book technically, but a wonderfully useful read. If that’s not enough, you can see what I’m reading this year.

What about you? What online resources would you suggest to someone considering jumping into the PR industry?

Arik Hanson is the principal of ACH Communications, and co-founder of HAPPO. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where this article originally ran.

Topics: PR


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