As a college student, I constantly think about my future. As such, I try to keep myself as up to date as possible with industry trends. Specifically, I keep on the lookout for blog posts and articles that discuss how people view public relations professionals and what our role is in the new media landscape. The question I keep in the back of my head when looking for this sort of information is: What does the ever-changing industry landscape mean for current college students as we enter the workforce?
A Mashable blog post discusses the role we may play in the public relations industry after we graduate. Mark Hopkins notes that bloggers and journalists are steering away from accepting the traditional public relations vehicles because they do not want their information “spoon fed” to them. Now, more than ever, making genuine connections plays a huge role in public relations.
So, what must we prepare ourselves for after graduation? Here is a set of guidelines for the non-traditional public relations professional:
1. Become a connector not a gatekeeper
Instead of controlling all information you give out, serve as a connector for your client as well as your media contacts. Being a connector means that you make connections that help people in ways that do not necessarily benefit your client. These connections can help you in the long run because media contacts will remember that you were a good source for information and may refer you to another media professional that can help you and your client.
2. Press releases aren’t dead
While press releases are not dead, you need to specifically target the channels that will effectively reach your publics. Yes, you are taught to do this already, but many public relations professionals are using new media as a means to reach EVERYONE and their mother. Sending press releases to thousands of media contacts without a specific target is like sending a beauty industry client’s information to a men’s lifestyle magazine- not productive.
3. Stay in contact
Remain in constant contact with the people you have formed relationships with. Correspond with them about things happening in your area of expertise over lunch or through a quick email or phone call. These conversations may have little to do with your client, but as mentioned before it is all about your connections. You never know who your contacts may be able to introduce you to.
4. Think less about the “shape” of the story
When you think less about the shape of the story, you will be able to focus more on what the public wants from your client and what journalists wants to write about versus what you think is important about your client’s product, idea, etc. Chances are, this will help your press releases become stories more frequently.
Finally, do not be afraid to get to know your contacts on a professional level. Talk to them about how they feel about trends and public relations as a profession in general. Knowing what they need or want from you will help you develop a better message. Also, continually be on the lookout for changes in the industry. Staying up to date will only help you in the long run.