Pounding the Proverbial Pavement

It’s that time of year again, when newly minted marketing, PR and advertising graduates are pounding the pavement…and the keyboard…in search of that elusive first job…maybe even one that pays!

Meeting with and talking to these young hopefuls has always been a highlight of being in PR; it’s one of the most gratifying parts of my career. Not only do I love evangelizing about what a great career choice PR is, especially for women, but I feel it’s important to return the favor so many dedicated PR professionals did for me, which resulted in several exciting internships while I was still an English and Communications major at Tulane University, including in the PR department of a psychiatric hospital that was right out of an Anne Rice novel. And, I had mentorship to help me secure my first real job, at age 22, as PR Director of the new River Parishes Hospital in rural Louisiana. When I say new…I mean new. The CEO, CFO and I worked for 6 months in a trailer to supervise the construction of a much needed acute care facility in Cajun country. I often wonder, How the heck did I know what to do? Where did I get the confidence? And, how did I summon the courage and the resourcefulness to reach out to Aaron Neville to play for $1,000 at my hospital opening event for the media and the community?

Much of what makes a successful PR person is innate…you get it or you don’t. You know a good story or you don’t. You know how to nurture relationships…or you don’t. I can usually tell within 5 minutes if someone I’m interviewing gets it.

Because, as much as things change…the more they stay the same. The same things that made a successful PR pro 20 years ago apply today.

Yes, social media has enhanced and broadened the role of PR in marketing and corporations. But, you still need to be able to craft a clever turn of phrase…whether it’s a headline or a tweet. You still need to know your clients’ business objectives to determine what approach will work for their brand or service. The social media smorgasbord is appealing…and everyone likes to think they’re on top of the latest platform or app. But, you don’t recommend something to the client (just) because it’s cool. If it doesn’t generate customer loyalty, media coverage, or heighten brand image or reputation…it’s meaningless.

Maybe the liberal arts degree I earned is not the only way to go these days. But, the same rules apply. Be hungry, don’t be entitled, know how to pitch a story and be willing to stand on a street corner handing out samples.

Good luck to all you graduates looking for a job in PR…it could be the best decision you ever make.

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