For many, our interest and passion for PR developed in college. As a recent graduate, those who I have learned from and have been influenced by are fresh in my mind. So I wanted to pick the brain of Rachael Jurek, one of my PR instructors from UW-Milwaukee, to see how she uses her experience and knowledge to teach future generations of PR pros.
What do you hope to instill in students each semester about the PR world and how to succeed in it?
I hope students see PR as something more than an agency resource used by businesses to promote their brand. I want them to see PR beyond a publicist or a full-service marketing agency. They need to understand that the job of a PR practitioner is to be mindful of all affected publics, not simply the ones that may purchase or use a product or service. PR professionals should also know how to report back to the company about how the outside world perceives their brand, good or bad.
What has changed in the industry over the years, and how do you change your teaching material as the industry changes?
The primary change is the way we communicate and the public’s need for instant information. Twitter and blogging allow anyone to “spread the word.” PR practitioners need to be more proactive than ever. More importantly, though, is being honest and upfront. When something happens, whether good or bad, the PR practitioner of today must be available to provide a statement for the company.
In addition, the PR team needs to stay abreast of how the company is being represented, not only in the media but also on the Internet. Monitoring Twitter mentions and blog accounts are now as important as tracking and analyzing media attention. Building on this, two-way communication is key. The Internet is a fabulous tool to better connect and communicate with the various publics involved with your brand or company.
What has stayed the same over time is that PR practitioners are needed to provide a sense of community for all involved publics. The ways in which we can do this, however, have changed as social media and the Internet continue to become useful tools.
Because you have a lot of valuable experience working in the industry, what have you found is difficult to teach versus experience in real life?
Students need to understand that there is not a textbook to life. No two experiences are alike even within the same organization. Hopefully students can take the broad concepts and theories discussed in class and think critically about how to apply them to future tasks and positions.
I encourage students to participate in as many internships and volunteer opportunities as they can while in school. Internships are a valuable learning experience where students are able to employ some of the ideas we discuss in class and transfer them to a real world setting. Students who are able to apply the concepts, strategies and skills that they are learning excel beyond students who do not.
Students do need to understand that learning is up to them. Instructors can provide tools to learn, but a student must connect the dots on how particular lessons relate to the real world. Being a strong writer, thinker, problem solver and communicator are extremely important in this industry.
What should veteran PR pros consider, even though they’ve been in the biz for years?
I’m lucky in that research is part of my job so I am able to explore some of the industry’s new trends. I also have the liberty to play around with social media at work. PR practitioners are expected to understand the world of social media. As the internship coordinator at UW-Milwaukee, it appears that the practitioners who are not knowledgeable in these new forms of communication are either scared to use them or do not fully understand the power these tools can and should have in this industry.
I can’t imagine I would have the time to learn about all of the emerging technologies and trends if I held a full-time PR position. Any PR practitioner knows there are not enough hours in the day and staying connected can be very overwhelming (social media fatigue comes into play here). I’d encourage any practitioner to continue learning, reading and connecting. Do a little research on the top blogs and Tweeters in the industry. Read the many, many emails from PRSA. Establish a LinkedIn and/or Google+ profile. But if you do, check it daily. Set aside 30 minutes at the start or end of the day dedicated to research and social media. Remember quality of information over quantity. Select the social media that works best for you and your business and stay true to your publics.
This is an industry that is always growing and evolving, so practitioners must always be learning.
Jodi Osmond recently graduated summa cum laude from UW-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and media communication and certification in digital arts and culture. As a social media and community engagement intern at Allée, she is eager to continue growing professionally while embracing her passion for public relations and social media.