April 18, 2012
by: Emily Pifer
I am willing to bet that this is not the first time you have heard this advice. However, I think this is the best piece of advice for students new to Public Relations. Just a year ago, I was a freshman here at Ohio University. I felt a bit out of place around the prestigious professors and experienced students that make up the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. I wanted to be experienced too. This motivated me to heed the advice I had heard so many times before and to use my connections.
In high school, I made a connection with Sarah Irvin. This was through a scholarship I received from one of her clients, the Columbus Marathon. Sarah is a well-known, Columbus-based PR guru. It seemed like hopeless attempt, but I proofreaded my email over and over and then finally sent it. Surprisingly she offered me—the PR rookie—an opportunity to intern with her firm, Irvin PR, over winter intercession.
It was the first day of winter break this past year and I stood in front of my closet, trying desperately to put together the perfect “business-casual” look. I headed out the door with my laptop and a huge knot in my stomach. What was I getting myself into? I did not know the first thing about the real world of PR!
As I got closer to the city, amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Columbus in the early morning, I began to feel like a real PR girl. I still had no idea what being a PR girl entailed, but I was excited to find out. My internship was only about four weeks long, but I learned more than I ever thought possible in that short period of time. I did research for some of the firm’s accounts, pitched stories to local media outlets, edited press releases, attended meetings and enjoyed lunch dates with Sarah and her small staff. I soaked it all in and loved every minute of it. My time with Irvin PR taught me many valuable things about our future profession.
I have comprised a list of the most valuable things I learned from my internship, myths about the PR industry I found to be completely false and what is truly behind the glamorous life of a PR girl.
- Always be nice.
Sarah had to deal with many frustrating situations and people on a day to day basis, but she never once let her composure slip
2.Return emails and phone calls fast, instantly if possible.
Delaying the process of communication is never productive.
3. Save room for lunch.
This may sound trivial, but lunch outings spring up out of nowhere and you are going to want to take full advantage.
4. Remember where you park your car.
I had to deliver 22 promotional gift bags all around the city in one day. This task would have been much less stressful without two hours of desperately roaming around Columbus in search of my vehicle.
5. Be prepared for changes in the plan and always be flexible. In PR, having a “Plan B” is just as important as having a “Plan A.”
This is something I picked up from Sarah along the way. Plans seemed to be made for changing, but she always had the next direction mapped out.
6. A PR professional’s day does not end at 5 p.m.
Running a successful PR firm requires an immense amount of hard work—late nights, lots of emails and lots of pulling in all directions.
7. Your reputation will follow you.
Everywhere I went with Sarah her sparkling reputation followed, but I know that this goes for bad reputations too.
8. As a PR person, you are always representing yourself, your company and your client.
My affiliation with Irvin PR was present in every email I sent, phone call I made and errand I ran. It served as a constant reminder to exemplify the qualities of Sarah’s firm.
Using your connections is the best way to get started in the PR industry. I put my connections to use and gained irreplaceable experience. Don’t wait for the doors to open, open them yourself.