“You have to think about the event logistically. Where will the press stand and how will we separate them from the attendees? And we need to remember to tape down that microphone wire. These are things they don’t teach you in class!” A PR veteran at my former internship was always trying to pass on whatever advice and knowledge he could to the next generation of professionals. “It’s all in the logistics,” he would say.
I would typically nod my head in compliant agreement without giving it much of a thought. But when I actually stopped recently to consider it, I realized universities don’t tend to instruct their students to think of public relations practices in terms of logistics. We’re not taught to consider the practical scenarios that the speaker could trip over a mic wire or that the photographers need to stand on a platform to get the best view. And in a small office, it would be up to us as PR practitioners to take care of those small details that can make all the difference.
But of course, schools cover all the vital information needed in this industry- the traditional skills like public speaking, press release writing, media relations, even persuasion. All are necessary for succeeding (or simply getting hired at all) in public relations. But there are some skills, such as thinking critically while executing a press conference, that can make or break that success.
Maybe skills needed in on-site media management, for instance, cannot be taught in the classroom. Perhaps the only way to gain this knowledge is from a direct, and sometimes hectic, experience working an event. Most elements of PR, and life in general for that matter, are best learned and perfected through practice.
I bring up this topic not to speak critically of degree programs but to spark a discussion among public relations students and industry professionals. Is it a university’s responsibility to teach us to think logistically in order to create effective PR practitioners? Or is it up to us to get the hands-on experience in order to set ourselves above the competition?