It seems like every week I field a call from a desperate college student seeking advice on how to break into public relations. I’ve answered their questions so often that I thought I would jot down a few tips I’ve learned during my more than 25-year career.
1. Think strategically. What is your goal, and how can you accomplish it? Have a plan. Write it down as you would a business plan, and then work it.
2. Seek internships. Be sure to have one; they often lead to jobs. Furthermore, internships help you understand if this business is really for you. (It can be stressful!)
Treat an internship as if it’s a job. Be ready with a professional resume and photo. Be prepared with questions and skill sets you to have offer.
3. Set yourself up for success. Have an outlet after your internship. Look for opportunities, volunteer and play up your accomplishments. For example, my recent intern Sarah Rowan, was the top PR student at her community college. That impressed me.
4. Communicate with communicators. Communicate on their terms through their channels, and be sure to identify yourself. Since I founded my firm, there was only one time a college student reached out to me in such an engaging way that I asked to meet with him. If you want to see what the pros are doing, listen to Twitter chats like #soloPR and #journchat, and say hello.
5. Study the thought leaders. Look who’s leading the way in your chosen field, your community and the world. I treasure my virtual friendships with my international friends.
6. Innovate. Use the latest tools and learn about new ones. The communications field changes daily. Be sure you keep up with it. (My assistant and I recently used Vine to create a video message, and have fun, too.)
Are your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles up to date? Ninety-five percent of all headhunters are on LinkedIn, so you need to be there. Use YouTube to present yourself on video to a future employer. Skype is another handy tool.
7. Learn something new. Do you know a foreign language? Spend time abroad. Be open to opportunities elsewhere. There will never be a better time in your life to move somewhere and do something different. It will expose you to a new way of thinking.
8. Show kindness. Put the phone away in class and have some real face time with your teachers and friends. This goes for online behavior as well. Others can tell when you genuinely care about them.
9. Follow journalists. Media relations is part of public relations. Follow your favorite journalists and engage with them. I often chat on Twitter with my local news anchor, Josh Smith. We are both early risers, and our friendship has deepened with our regular Twitter banter.
10. Know your strengths and weaknesses, but focus on your strengths. “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Buckingham and Clifton is a book worth reading. It includes an easy-to-take online quiz that will help you determine your strengths.
11. Create your personal brand. Put some thought into this one. Again, there are some great books available (see Tom Peters’ article, The Brand Called You). Remember, your personal brand will follow you from job to job for the rest of your life.
What suggestions would you add to this list?
Mary Ellen Miller, “MarketingMel,” mentors a rising, young PR pro each year as part of her firm’s mission. Connect with her @MarketingMel. A version of this article originally appeared on MarketingMel.com.