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.





Rant: Email Etiquette

Email is a huge part of our day. It’s how we communicate with media, clients, vendors, project partners, and each other. Sometimes we wish Email 101 was taught alongside PR 101 (listen up, Teacher’s Pets). It’s surprising how many people lack proper email etiquette skills.

EMAIL 101

  • First and most important to us is, include an email signature IN EVERY EMAIL: first and last name, professional title, company name, mailing address, office line, alternate phone number if applicable, email address and website. Don’t make us search through your last 20 emails to us just to find a phone number or mailing address.
  • Our email addresses have our first names. So, if you’re writing to rachelle [at] rockitpromo [dot] com, don’t begin your email with “Hi Rachel”. A mistake is cool, but try to care. Not so different from many Media, Darling pet peeves.
  • We’re not huge fans of the “read receipt”. It just seems pushy. Try not to overuse “reply all”. And careful when marking something “high priority” – you don’t want to end up like the boy who cried wolf.

Image source
Stop marking everything urgent!
  • Capitalize and punctuate. It’s fairly simple to throw in a few periods, commas and question marks, and makes it easier to understand what you wrote.
  • Also, please don’t shorten words or use numbers for words. We understand you may be in a rush, but an email riddled with short forms can come across as a) confusing, b) cryptic, c) unprofessional, d) annoying and e) it’s not a text.
you ≠ u
are ≠ r
for ≠ 4
to ≠ 2
great ≠ gr8
  • Read our entire email before responding, and try to address all of our comments and questions – we included everything for a reason. Going back and forth and re-asking questions wastes your time and ours.

  • (Side note: We love when media include their story request, deadline, any special instructions, and publication or issue date right off the bat! And we promise to get you all the necessary information by your deadline.)
  • A quick note on RSVPs – identify yourself (especially if you’re writing from a personal account like Gmail). We’re receiving lots of other RSVPs, so including your info off the top definitely makes it simpler and faster to track them. While you’re at it, tell us which event you’re planning to attend – we’re often working on more than one shindig at a time.
  • When replying or forwarding an email, keep the entire message thread. It’s more efficient to file *one* email in the chain instead of three or four. Plus, it saves time when you have to look back on something; you won’t have to look up several emails and piece together the entire conversation because all the info will be in one nice, tidy chain. We like nice and tidy.

 Have you committed any of these crimes against email?
Emailers Anonymous might be for you.

Please help us in making the e-world a better place, one email at a time. What really grinds your email gears? Tweet us your etiquette rants and tips @rockitpromo.