Ron asked me to give some advice to young people entering the PR profession. I’ve actually thought a lot about this recently, having been asked for something similar from my alma mater, Ohio University.
I love to mentor young people and help them…in college, getting out of college and early in their careers. Why? Because a few people took the time early in my career to help me. Find one – or more — of those people…now!
That, obviously, was my first piece of advice. Now let me offer 5 more ideas.
- Curiosity killed the cat, but not your job. Learn all you can about your company and your industry. You can’t recommend effective communications strategies if you don’t know the business. Ask questions, take colleagues to lunch, attend industry events. Be curious. And learn about something in the world that interests you, just to inform yourself. More knowledge makes for a better person.
- Write like Hemingway. Remember he’s the guy who wrote 110 pages about a man relentlessly pursuing a marlin. Short, simple, clear. Those are the watchwords describe Hemingway’s writing style. Long, convoluted sentences and paragraphs confuse the reader. Complex explanations lose the reader. The ability to summarize a difficult topic will be more valued by your executives and the ultimate readers than overwrought, dense prose. (And the ability to summarize verbally in a meeting will make everyone happy! Don’t drone on; it bores people and turns them off.) PR leaders look for good writers and constantly lament the lack of many.
- Detail, detail, detail. When I interview young PR people, the biggest mistake they make is not providing me details about their internships or extracurricular activities. I want to know what they did and, most importantly, what they learned in those roles. In PR, a lot of companies hire interns and make them into glorified administrative assistants. I want to make sure that isn’t what they did. And don’t try to tell them about all of your extracurricular activities. Pick the one or two that offered the best lessons and explain.
- Practical experience. Early in a PR career, try to do as many different tasks as you can – write news releases, organize events, conduct a social media campaign, help with a crisis. Take advantage of every opportunity you can. PR agencies are the best avenue to those experiences. Small companies can offer that as well. Large companies will put you in a narrow niche but over time, you will eventually get a lot of experiences if they move you around.
- Cover the bases. Get government experience and learn financial communications. Government communications (whether it is a political campaign or working in a government department) deals with weighty issues on an urgent basis. Government communicators handle large staffs but not correspondingly large budgets; they learn to do more with less. Most PR people say they got into PR because they couldn’t add. That’s a fear more than reality. And it leaves our profession with a dearth of people capable of understanding numbers. Learn them and master them. It will serve you well later.
These are the end-all to climbing up through the ranks. They are just my thoughts. But in most cases, in my numerous conversations with colleagues, these topics frequently come up. Use them as you see fit…and good luck!
Ron Iori is a Senior Counselor at Iori Communications, providing strategic financial communications, crisis and issues management, policy strategy, employee communications and social media outreach.