In many fields including public relations, classroom knowledge can only take you so far. Internships are an important tool for getting the feel of the daily routine of a PR pro. But a mentor is what separates a new professional in the fold.
I have reached a fork in the road of my career which takes me away from seeing my mentor on a daily basis. With that change, I have been reflecting on the wealth of invaluable knowledge that I learned from my mentor. This knowledge is not just how to craft the perfect press release or pitch a reporter, but how to conduct myself as a professional and the importance of being an eternal student of the trade.
You can spot a PR newbie from a mile away. We can all remember that one PR pro who took the time to stop what he or she was doing and teach you what you needed to know to be successful.
“Being a mentor is about passing down knowledge and wisdom through the generations,” says Angela Betancout of Ambit Marketing. “I will never forget the impact my mentor had in my life and it’s important for me to be a mentor now.”
Remember that someone helped you get started in your career. It is important to share your experience and time to help shape and mold the next generation. By investing time in their growth, we continue to develop the trade and instill values and skills needed to be a “good” PR pro.
A mentor can help a newbie learn acquired skills which sometimes take years to develop. The mentor/mentee relationship provides the newbie exposure to skills beyond the textbook. It will help young PR pros advanced their skills and separate them in the piles of resumes for a job.
What a mentee can learn from a mentor is only as good as the quality of the relationship. The recipe to be a good mentor is to be available, invested, open, honest and provide access to foster the network of your mentee.
Some of the most memorable lessons learned from mentors:
- My mentor always remained calm under pressure and didn’t stress over mistakes. – Phyllis Ershowsky, PKE Marketing & PR Solutions
- Small things do matter so take the extra time to make sure the document is formatted perfectly, that you double checked your facts, and said thank you. – Cathie Ericson, Freelance writing and PR consultant
- Listen to what the editor or producer is telling you. Even though they may be saying no to a particular pitch, they may be giving you clues as to what they are looking for. – Andrea Rodriguez, Flavor PR
- Build relationships, not contacts. – Jasmine Bina, JB Communications
- Respond quickly, be polite and above all keep to the message. – Bonnie Russell, PersonalPublicRelations.com
“I would tell my mentor, thanks for putting your trust in me even though I was new and didn’t know a thing,” says Phyllis Ershowsly of PKE Marketing & PR Solutions. “You gave me an amazing amount of responsibility and let me fly. I credit my mentor for enabling me to do that—allowing my confidence to grow.”
A good mentor/ mentee relationship has shared accountability. The mentor and mentee have to both be invested in the relationship. Make sure you are accessible to PR students and welcome questions and conversations.
I want to thank my colleague, mentor, boss and friend, Leslie Doles, for taking the time to help a PR newbie. I have learned so much I can’t even begin to thank you.
Linzy Roussel Cotaya is the communications director at the American Heart Association. A version of this article first appeared on PRBreakfastClub.