The beauty of hindsight: What I wish uni had taught me about PR

Reaching the end of a degree is one of the best feelings I’ve ever encountered but this feeling of accomplishment comes hand in hand with another feeling, an unsettling one that begs the question; Am I ready to enter the workforce? Upon completion of any task, a person is able to look back on the process with a wealth of knowledge and there is always that lingering thought; if I could go back I would have done this or that differently. This is where I come in, to provide you with a recent graduates guide to the three most important aspects of PR they don’t teach you at uni.

A public relations degree will only get you so far. Interning will get you further.

When I chose to study public relations I didn’t have the first clue about the industry or how it worked. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I also didn’t know the first thing about interning and a year and a half into my degree had a minor [okay major] freak out. All of my classmates began talking about internships and I heard whispers about the difficulties of securing a job upon graduation without having interned first. It was from this point onward that I began actively volunteering and interning in several different areas of public relations that interested me.

Internships will teach you things that your degree cannot and are a per-requisite for entering the industry after you graduate. Intern as much as you can, as often as you can and as early into your degree as possible. Even if you have just started your degree and believe you have nothing to offer an employer, you’re wrong. Your employer will expect you to be a little rough around the edges; you’re a student after all,  so don’t let your fear of being inexperienced hold you back.

First things first: learn how to write a media release

So this isn’t exactly something they didn’t teach me but more something I wish they had taught me earlier, much much earlier as I wasn’t taught how to write a media release until a fair while into my degree. If you are to know only one thing walking into your first internship, let it be the basics behind writing a media release and I say this for two reasons;

a. writing media releases will be your main duty as an intern and will help you build your portfolio and

b. you will be asked to write media releases in job interviews so that potential employers can gauge your level of writing.

If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of pre-degree advice it would be to:

Utilise your university’s library resources and read literature on how to write a media release before they even broach the topic in class. I found it was vital information that I was learning far too late into my degree. Also, at your internships ask your superiors for feedback on your media releases and tips on ways in which to improve your writing.

What’s that? You want me to pitch a story to the media? Sure I can do that, just give me a moment to start breathing again.

Pitching is a word my tutors had thrown around at uni but one that had never quite been explained to me until my first internship when I was passed a phone and asked to pitch a story to a journalist. The feeling I got in that moment was one of sheer terror; when your entire stomach lurches into your throat. I was absolutely terrified. Why hadn’t they taught me how to pitch at uni? Why had we not done practical pitching exercises in class?

As scary as it is, don’t shy away from pitching. Embrace it until you own it.

Unfortunately, pitching is one of those things where practice makes perfect and your best bet is to start interning, dive into the deep end and learn to swim as you go. You will be required to pitch for your internships and although it may seem scary at first it’s something that becomes easier with time.

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