BY: SAM MURPHY
For the past few weeks, “Night With the Pros” was overflowing my social media and email inbox, stressing the magnitude of this exclusive networking opportunity. With this being my first year attending, my nerves were as high as my expectations as I entered the Career Services Center room displaying my best business casual and an open mind.
As the event began, four professionals whose expertise radiated intimidation sat before us: Jonna Ford (Director of PR and Social Media at Aloysius Butler & Clark), Katherine Bartell (Assistant Account Executive at MSLGroup), Katie Wilson (Press Secretary for Senator Tom Carper), and Jon Buzby (Director of Media Relations for Special Olympics Delaware). Myself along with other students were as hungry for their wisdom as we were for the delicious pasta and sandwiches that welcomed us inside. Our Program Director, Brittany O’Connell, kicked the panel off by asking each professional about their day-to-day duties (although we all know that in PR, there’s really no such thing). Each panel member conveyed their most glamorous job aspects including media relations, event planning, social media campaigns, and more. Whether connecting with people globally like Kat Bartell, or acting as a liaison between government officials and the media like Katie Wilson, each day achieves that appealing adrenaline rush we PR people live for. However, with this exhilarating uncertainty also comes daily challenges. In Jon Buzby’s field of nonprofit work, these challenges may revolve around “wearing an extensive amount of hats,” considering nonprofits are usually composed of less employees and more responsibilities. In Joanna Ford’s unpredictable agency life, an everyday hurdle encompasses developing and maintaining good relationships with the media.
Even though each professional covers a different job description and undergoes diverse struggles, it was refreshing to hear them reinforce one another’s advice to prove that each individual’s perspective could be applied to any career path. The following tips were reiterated time and time again, permanently ingraining themselves in your memory. Some may spark you as a valuable, new gem of knowledge to scribble into your notebook. Regardless of how you perceive them, each of these habits is deemed beneficial in building a successful career in public relations:
Network Within your Job: The networking doesn’t stop once you’ve secured a seat in the office! Introduce yourself to people outside of your department, and let them know you’re available to lend an extra hand if needed. This shows initiative and that you value learning new things, rather than just getting the task at hand finished.
Always be Thorough: Regardless of whether you’re an intern or full-time employee, it’s easy to make simple mistakes when rushing to meet a deadline. ALWAYS proofread and when you’re finished, have two others proofread as well. The consequences of not doing so could result in an unprofessional image of you projected towards either your boss, clients, or both.
Keep up with Current Events: Staying tuned into what everyone’s talking about on social networks platforms can prevent your company from sounding tone deaf in the media atmosphere. Remaining up to date can also sometimes open a door of opportunity by finding a commonality between the public conversation and the company.
Be Proactive: This one may seem redundant, but each professional emphasized the importance of being eager to take on responsibility. Whether this be staying that extra hour after work, asking your team what else you can do to contribute, or doing a little more than was asked of you, this ambition resonates with employers.
Structure Surpasses Subject Matter: When exploring the PR field, our ears perk up at words like writing, creativity and storytelling. However, even if you don’t consider yourself a master of words, you can partially redeem that quality by being grammatically correct. Knowing how to accurately write a press release or establishing proficiency in AP style are favorable skills in the industry.
Many other lifelines of advice were thrown at us students at this informative Q&A session. Through this panel and the personal conversations initiated afterwards, the nerves I initially felt entering through the doors of the Career Services Center room dissolved, along with my preceding fears of being unprepared for the workplace.
Thanks to all of our four professionals who came out and offered their experiences!