Teacher’s Pet: Education vs. Experience

Lorena Laurencelle is currently a Public Relations student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 

Her Question: What level of education is necessary to succeed in the public relations field? Is education more important, or is experience more valued?
Our Answer: Our team comes from a variety 
of backgrounds, experience and education. We look at both sides of this question by asking some with PR education backgrounds (Amalia and Meg) and some with PR experience (Natalie, Debra and Abby) for their advice.
Debra – President
I didn’t go to school for public relations. I have a degree in creative writing and started working when I was 14 years old and moved out when I was 18. I learned from experience. I took every lesson and like to think I got a bit smarter with each mistake I made. I loved to write, always had an easy time meeting new people and I spent years doing shitty telemarketing jobs where I honed my phone skills. Get good at what you love to do and you can succeed without getting a degree. Spend time in a really good internship or two and that’s going to do you a world of good in the PR world.

Natalie  – Publicist

I attended the University of Western Ontario, majoring in Media, Information and Technoculture and minoring in Comparative Literature and Civilization. While at Western, I also completed a Certificate in Writing. While I think that post-secondary education can be helpful in developing your writing and critical thinking skills, I don’t think that a B.A. is necessary for a career in public relations. At university, I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses and began to think that I wanted to work in PR. It wasn’t until after graduating and completing two internships that I knew that PR was for me.
Ultimately, my advice for anyone looking to get into PR is to volunteer/intern as much as you can. While being a good writer is a necessary skill for a good publicist, first-hand experiences are what make a great publicist. So much of what we do at rock-it involves events and the type of on-the-ground experience you get in a (good) internship is what I believe you need. Learn how to run a door, make a guest list, create a clippings package, etc. – these are the tasks that seem menial, but which are SO important to a functioning PR team. You can read about it in school, but nothing can ever beat real life experience.
Abby – Publicist
Ultimately, a bachelor’s degree of some sort is required to succeed; you need basic levels of writing, comprehension and time management to make it in any career. For PR, it boils down to a combo of natural skills and learned skills. For some types of PR, these skills are best learned in school. For others, they’re best learned in the trenches. If you are willing to work hard, ask smart questions, have great people skills and are a strong writer, you don’t necessarily need a PR-specific education. There are lots of related degrees that will help you out – English, communications, journalism, film, a technology background or even science can be relevant. It depends on what area of PR you’d like to work in. 
Communication skills are a must, so if they come naturally to you, then you’re likely able to make it without a post-secondary PR degree. If you’re not the strongest writer, take a few courses to brush up, or start a blog to develop your style. 
PR education never hurts, but landing a great internship, meeting people in the industry and participating in social media are the alternate route to making it in public relations.
Amalia – Assistant to the President
Having a bachelors degree and a certificate in PR (or something related) is very important. I think that having a PR-geared post-secondary diploma is something that will benefit you incredibly. The things that I learned on the first day of school (Algonquin College) are still getting me through the work day…so pay attention and don’t skip class!
Interning is something EVERYONE should do. I did three internships one summer, and it really paid off. Although the money isn’t great, you need to see it as a learning experience and an investment in your own future. They are paying YOU to learn.
Keeping in touch with former bosses and colleagues is also something everyone should do, especially in our field. Staying on someone’s radar is just as important as your experience, education and skill set combined.
Meg – Junior Publicist
After getting a B.Sc. and working in unrelated jobs for a couple of years, I went back to school for a post-grad diploma in PR. I definitely value that education – it taught me PR writing styles and other basics, and gave me an idea of what to expect in this business. I think a PR-specific education is a strong start to a career in this industry. Writing, editing and style are the base of everything we do, and a PR-specific education will prep you with that knowledge.
That being said, all the education in the world won’t allow you to succeed without real-life experience. Interning is hands down the best way to really learn the biz. I would be nowhere without what I gleaned from my time interning. An education is the foundation for the knowledge you gain from job experience. I continue to learn every day by watching the awesome and experienced pros I work with and listening to their advice and know-how.
In Conclusion: There’s no one right answer as everyone comes into this industry with different skills, education and experience to draw on. However, we all agree on the strength and importance of internships and that some form of education is necessary, even just to hone your writing skills.
Have a PR question you want answered? Send it to meg@rockitpromo.com. We’ll choose the best and answer it on our blog.

Fashion-able: Transitional Dressing

Admit it ladies: Even though you love summer fashion, you’re already thinking about rocking that new pair of boots you bought, aren’t you?
It’s cool. We know it’s not very Canadian to dream about cold weather in the summer, but killer fall fashion would have any stylish girl contemplating the cold. There’s definitely been talk of leather boots, thick sweaters and fitted bomber jackets On the Fourth Floor as of late.
With fall comes TIFF and Fashion Week, two events full of long days that may start with warm summer mornings, but end with chilly fall evenings. It pays to be prepared with a favourite fall accessory, folded neatly and tucked into a cute bag.
Here are our favourite staples for the hazy period between summer and fall.
An oldie but a goodie, a chic blazer is a go-to accessory for a chilly fall evening. Blazers jazz up an outfit and keep you cozy too. Plus, they’re great for taking a daytime look to a nighttime one – just add killer heels and a great necklace, and you’re good to go.

We’re also loving thigh-high socks a la Cher Horowitz from Clueless. There are so many events during TIFF that require dresses or skirts, and bare legs might be fine at 5 p.m. but not at 11 p.m. Socks are amazing because they fit into any clutch and can cover up bare legs at the end of an evening.
Cher Horowitz rocking some serious thigh-highs.
Of course, you can’t mention perfect fall accessories without including the timeless silk scarf. Especially in a bold colour or pattern, a perfect scarf adds punch to an outfit (particularly with a messy bun and pink lips) while keeping your neck toasty.

 This Matthew Williamson scarf is a perfect between-seasons piece.

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Spring summer 2011 featured loads of lightweight cropped trousers with tapered detailing. The great thing about this style of pant is that they can be worn with a pair of wedges in the summer, and carry you right through fall if paired with ankle booties and a cozy sweater. 
These 3.1 Phillip Lim draped pocket tapered trousers ($375) are a perfect example. Great for a summer night, greater for a fall day. 
 At ShopBop.com, get ’em while they’re hot.

Do you have a fave fall accessory? Let us know with a comment or send us a tweet @rockitpromo.

Yum Yum: Colombian BBQ

Our amazing assistant, Amalia, hails from Colombia and we’ve been hassling her to share a delicious Colombian recipe with us. She finally agreed, and we were not disappointed by how mouth-watering this looks. Plus, it’s perfect for a summer evening on a patio.

Summer is here. I welcomed summer with one of my most favourite BBQ dishes of all time: Carne asada con papas y mazorca. Did I lose you there?

Even though this Colombian recipe is one of the most basic dishes ever, it’s really tasty, healthy and is ready in just under an hour. It reminds me of summers with my mom. ¡Que dicha!

Finished product, hope you enjoy (I sure did).
Grilled Flank Steak, Potatoes and Corn on the Cob
(serves two)

1 pound of beef (flank steak or fillet)
2 small white potatoes
2 cobs of corn
1/2 cup of water
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced into small pieces
1/4 red pepper, diced small again
1/3 of cilantro bunch (aim to fill up about 3/4 of a cup)
2 tsp of Dijon mustard
4 tsp of cooking oil
3 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Seasoning salt (of your choice)
Dash of hot sauce (any type will do, even pepper flakes if need be)
Salt and pepper to taste

Carne Asada (Beef) 
1. Combine mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl, mix in beef and let sit for 15 minutes in fridge.
2. Once the meat has absorbed flavours of the mustard and garlic, it’s ready to go on the BBQ. Cook for as long as you like (i.e/ rare, medium, well-done, etc). Most Colombians typically cook their meat to rare.

Papas (Potatoes)
1. Wash and dice potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.
2. Mix garlic clove (finely chopped), seasoning salt and oil together in a bowl.
3. Add potatoes, mix thoroughly to ensure that potatoes are fully covered in oil.
4. Place seasoned potatoes on tinfoil, and wrap into a package, tucking in all edges. Poke small holes on top using a fork.
5. Cook for about 35 minutes on top rack (or the coolest spot on your BBQ) and rotate twice to ensure it cooks properly.

Mazorca (Corn on the cob)
1. Cut corn cob in half (or smaller pieces if you’d like).
2. Place in boiling pot of water with a pinch of salt for 15 minutes.
3. Cook for 10 minutes on top rack of BBQ (or a cooler spot on your grill) and rotate to ensure it cooks evenly.

Aji (spicy dipping sauce)
1. In a small bowl mix spring onions, tomato, red pepper and cilantro, add olive oil, a dash of water, pinch of salt and some hot sauce (or spicy ingredient of your choice). Mix thoroughly until sauce reaches a saucy texture (like photo below).

Image via My Kitchen’s Flavors.
Once everything is cooked, plate and enjoy. Dip potatoes into sauce, or do like I do, and dip everything in it. Trust me, it’s amazing that way.

My hood: Amalia

As mentioned earlier, I recently moved to Toronto (four months ago). I was lucky enough to find a cozy place to rent in Little India. And I must admit it was love at first sight!

This little neighbourhood is full of great little spots to keep occupied either shopping, eating or entertaining. After moving, I realized that the main strip of Little India is actually home to many Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Afghan and Sri Lankan restaurants, cafés, videos/DVD stores, clothing stores, electronic goods and home decor stores. Even more interesting, along with Jackson Heights in New York and Devon Avenue in Chicago, it forms one of the largest South Asian marketplaces in North America.

 Very eclectic Gerrard St. E. 
Image via Richard McGuire.
Often people (ahem, mom) have told me that I am an old soul. I like simple things, like sitting in my backyard and reading a good book while having a glass of wine. This is where the Gerrard/Ashdale public library comes in handy. This is a great library because it offers one thing that makes it invaluable in my books (pun intended) – they stay open “late” three times a week (8:30 p.m.!). Also, the people working the library are as charming as pie, and always offer great suggestions. I recently picked up Him Her Him Again The End of Him and have been enjoying it very much.

Another great thing about my ‘hood is the incredible variety of restaurants that are along a two kilometer strip. I discovered the first of many Indian restaurants, the Regency Restaurant on my first night at the new house. Amazing butter chicken and naan. They have an excellent choice of plates on their buffet, and also some tasty tandoori, samosa and pakora dishes on their menu.

Don’t let the understated signage fool you – delicious eats inside.
Image via blogTO.
After filling up on yummy food I head to Rang Home Décor and see what’s new. They carry a wide range of cute furniture accessories like throw pillows, fixtures and ottomans that are really unique and make any room pop with colour.

Lastly, what makes my ‘hood the greatest is the Fairford Roden Public School where they have a decent sized football field and basketball court. Can’t find me at home? Take a look on the field or the court and come shoot some hoops with me.

This playground is actually really fun, even though it looks gloomy here. 

Thanks for stopping by my ‘hood – see you in the east end! 

Teacher’s Pet: Mistakes during internships?

Question six in our Teacher’s Pet series comes from Laura Chang, a student at Humber College’s PR program. We chat internships and humble pie. 

Her Question: We’ll be starting internships soon and I had a question: What should I do if I make a mistake during my internship?
Our Answer: Start by taking a deep breath and remember that mistakes are part of the learning process, and every intern (and full-time employee, for that matter) makes a few.
We haven’t met an intern who has yet to make an error, but you know what? That’s completely okay. We don’t expect interns to know everything. That’s why they’re here – to learn! So, if you make a mistake, don’t panic. It will be fine.
While your first reaction may be to cover it up so you don’t get in trouble with the boss, we’d actually rather you to step forward and let us know what happened. That way, we can correct it as soon as possible. Trust us. It’s much better to admit you screwed up and ask for help than to ignore it. By not reacting right away, you actually risk worsening the situation, depending on what it is.
If it was a small error, simply apologize and offer to help fix it. Do your best not to let it happen again (it’s a bit of a pet peeve to have to correct someone on the same error more than twice) and try to observe the steps taken to solve the problem. That way, you really understand the impact your mistake had and are more likely to not repeat it in the future. Win-win! 
For more complicated errors, sometimes your senior team may need to move quickly, and they may not have time to explain all the steps they’re taking to improve the situation. If there is something you don’t understand, make a note of it so you can discuss it with your manager later. After the dust has settled, ask your higher-ups if they can go over the steps they took to recover the error, and consider it a learning experience. And again, remember to apologize – humble pie may not be delicious, but it should be part of the menu sometimes.
Being upfront about a mistake shows maturity and honesty, two qualities any potential employer loves to see. Everyone makes mistakes and a good employer will help you learn from it, rather than chastising you or making you feel badly. 
Trying to solve the issue or at least coming up with some suggestions to correct your mistake shows you’re taking your job seriously and are willing to work to learn. We love that.
Got a burning PR question that you want us to answer? Email amalia.intern@rockitpromo.com. We’ll feature you on a future Teacher’s Pet.