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.





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Teacher’s Pet: Advice for PR students, recent grads and enthusiasts

September has arrived and with it, brought a whole new crop of students pursuing a career in PR. To give you an edge, we’ve decided to share some of the top tips that we’ve learned from our time in the biz.


You know that a publicist needs stellar writing skills and an interest in media but do you really know what it’s like to work in a busy PR office? If not, it’s ok. You won’t have an accurate picture of the PR world until you’re actually in it. However, the ladies on the fourth floor are some of the best people to give you a realistic introduction to a world that can be crazy and busy, yet fun and fulfilling.

Image source.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Questions are not just a great way to learn – getting answers guarantees that you and your team are on the same page. Take advantage of their collective experience and ask as many questions as possible. You may feel like you’re being annoying but it’s better to ask and avoid a possible catastrophe. 

Excel, Paint/Photoshop and Outlook
If you have ever fibbed on a resume and said you’re a pro at using these programs, you are in for a rude awakening when you start working in the PR biz. A seasoned publicist knows these programs inside-out so start downloading those tutorials.

Twitter
To quote Barry Waite, coordinator of the corporate communications and PR program at Centennial College, “If you don’t have Twitter, you won’t find a job in PR.” ‘Nuff said. Social media has become an essential tool for PR, and Twitter is at the top of the game right now. Luckily, it’s fun and you will quickly understand that it’s an important information source and not just people posting updates about what they ate for breakfast. 


If you’re just starting out, read our Twitter tutorial here.

Start media monitoring
Chose a company you admire and read the dailies every day to find coverage of the company. Media monitoring is something you will do a lot when you’re starting out, so learn how to set up Google alerts and practice your scanning skills. Also, it’s the best way to get to know a writer, a TV show or radio program which is one of the most important aspects of working in PR.

We have just scratched the surface and have tons more advice to give so send us your questions @rockitpromo (or comment below) and we’ll give you the low down. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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.

Teacher’s Pet: How to get your name out there and get hired

For our third student inquiry, we’re tackling a question that applies to any job or industry. Sophie Garber, a Humber Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate student, asks: When starting out in the PR industry, what is the best way to get my name out and land the job of my dreams?” We’ll answer it from a PR perspective, but many of the tips apply to other positions.

Twitter: @SophieMGarber 

Our Answer: Graduating from school can be both an exciting and scary time. Start off on the right foot with these tips and let the job offers roll in!

Volunteer – Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, and when you feel you’ve done enough, volunteer some more. If you’re into fashion PR, apply to volunteer at Fashion Week. Into film? Put some time in during TIFF. Volunteering truly is the best way for students to get practical experience in a corporate environment. 

Volunteering hot-spot: volunteering at the door of events is a great way to meet media members and industry professionals face to face. At rock-it, all staff are expected to check guests in at the door, as we all enjoy greeting people as they come in. It’s often a misconception that the door is a lousy place to be. It can actually be the best place to make good connections and ensure that you see everybody who comes in.
Informational interviews – If you have your eye on a coveted internship position, set up an informational interview a couple months before applying. Professionals working at the company will be impressed by your initiative, and will likely be more than happy to talk to those who share a passion for their work. These meetings give you a foot in the door, teach you about the company and make a contact or two. Always remember to follow-up with a thank you note. Bonus points for something handwritten and snail-mailed.
Use your school’s resources – Your school’s employment office, instructors and career counsellors are great resources for internship positions, jobs and job hunting tips. When in doubt about a job opportunity or internship dilemma, ask them!
Networking – Take advantage of networking opportunities both online and in person. If you aren’t already signed up, join LinkedIn now. The professional network is an amazing tool for connecting with the right people, and finding business and job opportunities in the industry. Volunteering at events is not only a chance to gain work experience, but also a break to network. Introduce yourself to people – now’s not the time to be shy (especially if you want to work in people-oriented PR!).
Do some research – This one is said often but deserves repeating: Research the name of the hiring manager. “To whom it may concern” fails reflect genuine interest in a company. Be sure to tailor your cover letter and resume by focusing on work and volunteer experience that is relevant to the company.
Pay attention to details – SPELL CHECK. We can’t say it enough. Spell check your resume and cover letter. It’s crucially important – this industry is all about communication, so all communications, both written and spoken, should be accurate. Have a friend who’s good with writing read over your application with a critical eye. Give yourself enough time to put together an application you’re really proud of. It will show your effort and that will get you noticed.
Have a PR question you want answered? Send it to carly.intern@rockitpromo.com. We’ll choose the best and answer it on our blog.

Teacher’s Pet: a new series

PR students who are still in school and trying to figure out how to start in the industry have many questions. Fortunately for inquiring minds, rock-it promotions has the answers. Today we introduce a new feature called Teacher’s Pet, where we will answer some student questions. Whether it’s about mentoring, corporate culture at agencies or how to contact a journalist, we have the right industry knowledge for budding professionals.

A little while ago, we invited students to ask us questions about working in the PR industry. We received some great responses, so we’ll be posting our thoughts every few weeks. Check back often to see if your question was chosen, or just to catch up on the latest in professional advice.
Today we’re answering a question from Ashley Cabral (@ashley_cabral), a fourth-year public relations student at the University of Guelph-Humber.
Ashley’s Question: When interviewing for an entry-level position or internship, what makes a candidate memorable?
Our Answer: Interviews can be nerve-racking, but they don’t have to be. Follow these six steps, and stand out for all the right reasons!
Make an entrance – Start off your interview on the right foot by arriving early. Coming in 10 minutes before your scheduled interview suggests to your company that you are both punctual and organized. 
Arriving earlier than this is not a good idea. Work is busy, and we feel badly making someone wait while we wrap up whatever we’re working on. We plan for interviews to be at specific times, and build our day around that.

If you are arriving late, it doesn’t mean your chances are shot. Call as soon as you know you will be late and let us know. Things happen, and sometimes you can’t help but be late. Calling ahead shows consideration and thoughtfulness.
Score extra points by dressing appropriately in a professional outfit that is simple yet current.
Come prepared – It is difficult to convince employers that you really want to work at their company when you aren’t familiar with their clients. To be an engaging, informed candidate, it’s important to be able to reference a company’s client list, campaigns and past events in conversation.
Know your media – We appreciate that you read Vogue and Vanity Fair; and we get that you’re fashionably up-to-date. But if you want start out at a Canadian firm, it’s important to be familiar with Canadian journalists and their outlets. If you are looking to start in fashion but don’t know who Lisa Tant is, start researching. (Hint: @LisaTant)
Be Yourself – Know what separates you from your competition. Whether you are editor of your school newspaper or are producing your own fashion show, discuss the unique qualities and experience you bring to the table.
Relax! We understand that interviews are nerve-wracking, but if we’ve called you, we’re excited about meeting you and getting to know you. We want to hire someone great and you could be it. Let your personality shine through. Bringing us to our next point…
Be confident – PR superwoman Kelly Cutrone suggests that sometimes in PR you have to fake it to make it. You may feel nervous, but now is the time to act confident. This means eye contact, and no hair playing. Be sincere and smile. If you’re going into this field, it shouldn’t be hard to do that.
Follow-up – After the interview, remember to send a thank-you email or handwritten note. For a personal touch, be sure to reference a couple of points discussed during the interview. Keep it short and sweet, and be genuine in thanking your interviewer for their time (we are busy people)! 
If you don’t hear back, follow up again. And again. And again, until you get a hard no. You aren’t being annoying, you are showing us that you want the job. 

Have a PR question you want answered? Send it to carly.intern@rockitpromo.com. We’ll choose the best and answer it on our blog.

Calling all PR students! We want your questions

We’d like to start a new regular blog feature, and we need your help. If you’re just starting out in a PR program, are in the midst of completing it or you’ve just graduated, we want to take your questions.

 Have a burning PR question? Send it to us!

We all know that it can be tough to get started in this business, to figure out whether you should work for an agency, at a corporation or for a non-profit, how you can find a mentor, how to dig up contact info for a journalist… the list goes on and on. We’ve asked those same questions at some point in our careers.

Send us your burning inquiries, and we’ll answer them on our blog. There are other people out there with the same questions as you. We’ll give you a shout out for your brilliant question, of course.

Just send to abigail (at) rockitpromo (dot) com. And remember: spelling, punctuation and grammar count – you’re representing yourself as a future PR pro. You never know when an opportunity will arise.