Like 1,000+ other aspiring PR professionals, I just returned from a great week at the PRSSA National Conference. At Conference, I got the chance to present in front of fellow students and leaders, hear from award-winning journalists, and talk with executives from the biggest agencies in the world. Needless to say, I learned a lot, much more than I could ever fit into a single blog post! However, here are my top three takeaways for all young professionals…if you were at Conference, please weigh in with your favorite takeaways in the comments section below!
1. Relationships always matter. When Gary McCormick, APR, and Fellow PRSA, shared with us that he doesn’t accept business cards, we were all a little surprised. Even if they go in a drawer somewhere, doesn’t everyone accept them? Mr. McCormick told us that’s precisely why he doesn’t accept them — if the card goes straight into a desk drawer, why even take it at all? Business, and in particular public relations, is all about relationships. If you exchange business cards but then end contact, that’s not a relationship; that’s an exchange. Business professionals should challenge themselves to build relationships by reaching out to others in their network on a regular basis, whether it’s through email or by phone. Are you connected on LinkedIn? Don’t let your exchange stop there. Cultivate your relationship by reaching out to people in your network to check in with them.
2. People matter. Fox News journalist Rick Leventhal reminded us the importance of knowing your audience as individuals. If you’re pitching to a journalist, know who you’re pitching to. Know what types of stories they usually cover. Know what information they need. And, let them know they matter. Personalize your pitch and address it to a single individual, not an entire organization. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien also emphasized the importance of remembering people and people stories. In both journalism and public relations, everyone has a story tell; it’s up to you to find it and tell it. As she said, both industries are “service industries” in the business of giving people what they need.
3. Peers matter. While we often try to get face-to-face with professionals, spending time talking and connecting with our peers is just as important. Throughout the conference, professionals encouraged us to engage with fellow students. Whether you’re at a PRSSA conference, regional activity, at your school, or just active in a student community on Twitter, always be networking. Connect with other students, both online and off. General Motors Director of Social Media & Digital Communications Mary Henige reminded us that our network will always be there. Therefore, we have to make each relationship count — follow-up, reach out, give more than you take.
If you were at the PRSSA National Conference, what did you learn? If you weren’t, what have you learned as a young professional? Share with me below!
Also, take the time to expand your network. Connect with me on LinkedIn!