By Brooke Weidenfeld, Communications Committee
As a public relations student, there are some things you simply cannot learn in a classroom. Until you’ve spent your summer in an internship, there are certain skills and tips you won’t truly grasp because they could never be conveyed through a PowerPoint or lecture.
After four months of interning at Gloss PR, a Philadelphia-based public relations firm that works closely with the businesses of Rittenhouse Row, I realized there are certain things you need to know and skills you need to have to be successful in the industry.
Based on my experience, here are some things you need to know to be successful in PR:
1. It really isn’t a 9-to-5 job.
Every public relations professor has drilled this into our heads, but I never truly believed it. In class, I always brushed it off. The schedule of PR person couldn’t be that different. However, within one week of interning, I learned just how true it actually is.
The first event I worked called for a 12-hour day. I thought my boss would give me a day off to make up for this grueling Sunday, but I was mistaken. There was still so much work to be done in the office. This would soon become normal.
I often worked normal business hours in the office during the week and then helped run events at night or on the weekends. Some of these events entailed very long hours. I realized that with public relations, a large part of the job does not take place in an office.
Events and other promotions typically take place outside of normal office hours and you have to be prepared to accommodate your personal schedule. Even though the hours are demanding, I learned that the more you put into your job, the more you get out of it.
2. Client relationships mean everything.
In the PR industry, if you do not have clients, you do not have a job. Therefore, the relationships you build with your clients are critical to your success. From months of observing, I learned the best way to create strong relationships with clients is to maintain balance between being professional and friendly.
In terms of the professional side of your client relationships, the most effective way to keep them satisfied is to create a timeline of your course of action. So, if you want to have two events and three promotions within the next six months, it is best to set up a meeting and provide the client with copies of your plan of action and calendar and get their feedback. This provides an unofficial agreement of your responsibilities, keeps both you and the client on track, and is useful if there are any discrepancies regarding your services.
While maintaining a professional relationship with your clients is of the utmost importance, it is also extremely beneficial to know your client on a more personal level. I’m not saying you and your client have to have slumber parties and braid each other’s hair, but you should establish a friendly relationship. Crack some jokes in your meetings, compliment the manager’s new hairstyle and turn on your charm. After all, people will be much more inclined to hire you and recommend you to others if they are a fan of both your work and your personality.
3. Being shy is not an option.
In the past, if my pizza delivery order were over two hours late, I would not have had the courage to call and ask about it. However after my internship, I would be on the phone faster than you could say “extra cheese.”
Working at Gloss PR, I quickly learned that in the public relations field, you cannot be afraid to talk to people. I frequently had to make phone calls to clients, sponsors and event guests to go over details, discuss payment options and clarify information. It took a while, but I eventually got the hang of how to professionally convey my message on the phone and how to leave an effective voicemail. At first, I got nervous every time I had to make a phone call. But by the end of my internship, I had no hesitation when it came to communicating with clients.
Phone calls are not the only form of communication you need to be comfortable with. Face-to-face encounters are even more important. I often had to go into stores and speak to managers about hanging event posters or giving out promotional items. I had to speak with confidence and professionalism. If I had allowed my shyness to take over and used a quiet voice while stammering, the managers probably would not have agreed to help us out.
In a job that focuses so heavily on communication, it is simply not an option to be shy. Confidence is the best weapon a PR professional can have.
4. The key to success is to love what you do.
No matter how skilled you are or how much you know about your job, you will not be successful unless you love what you do. I can honestly say I was excited to go into work every day. I loved that no day was the same as the next and that I never knew what exciting new task or adventure laid before me. I also loved that I was gaining experience and knowledge of immeasurable value.
Realizing I love what I am going to be doing for the rest of my life was amazing. Judging by my bosses’ unfaltering affection for their jobs, I know this passion for public relations will not fade. After months of interning, I have concluded that the number one key to a successful and happy career is being passionate about your work.