The PR Skills They Don’t Teach You in College


By: Brittany Martin

After four years of learning the world of public relations (PR) from the wise professors and curriculum in my undergrad, I was ready to finally get the opportunity to use my learned skills and show them what I’ve got! Not to my surprise, there would be still much to learn before I was to be named a true PR professional.

Your professors really try to prepare you for the “real world” of PR with lessons on being clear, correct and concise with your writing, on being unique and persistent yet not a pest with your media pitches, and on skipping the “ums” and “likes” when you speak. While this preparation was very necessary and most arguably worth the thousands spent on my degree, there are a few skills that cannot truly be mastered until you have the opportunity to practice them.

Tools of the trade:
Depending on the company or agency you work for, you will likely encounter some programs they use in which you have not before that you’ll need to acclimate yourself to. For my first agency position here at Motion PR, I had to learn the great program of Cision to make media lists, never before given the opportunity to use it. Another new one for me was Tweepi where you can monitor twitter handles and their followers’ activity.

The media:
Coming into the PR world, I knew already I was going to have to broaden my daily reading queue from People magazine and my small effort to follow national and international news through CNN and BBC Twitter feeds to many more relevant news sources used every day in my city’s Designated Media Market DMA.

Learning about publications I had never heard of, like Crain’s Chicago Business, was definitely a wakeup call for my news radar. Additionally, as your professors may have also already mentioned, it is a good idea for the PR professional to keep an eye out for good articles in how to become savvier in your field by reading up on PR focused publications like Reagan’s PR Daily.

Relationships building:
In public relations, networking is possibly the most important skill you could have. Both forming and solidifying good relationships with your clients, media contacts and your team are vital to a successful career in public relations. While we discuss relationship building in class, it is hard to get the real world experience of creating those relationships in the classroom.

Not only does the world of PR have its little terms you’ll want to pick up to be on the same page as your coworkers (here’s a list to name a few,) but also you’ll want to know the basic word jargon used in the industries relevant to your clients.

Time management:
A skill I am still working to master today, balancing your to-do list is sometimes overwhelming. Knowing how to prioritize your day’s task is key in getting done what’s most important and by the required date and time. Clients and reporters both have deadlines to meet and you need to stay on top of both of them.

Last but not least, it is important to realize that although you may have deadlines to meet, your priority is not everyone else’s a lot of the time. With this, must come patience.

If a client or media contact isn’t getting back to you, it’s because they have their own agenda to take care of and you may not be on the top of their list for responses. You must try your best to accept this, as well as learn how to best, ever-so politely, nudge them along until you hear back—especially if their response is putting a catastrophic halt to an important task with a deadline you have at hand.