Professional Advice for AdPR Students
Internships are becoming a necessity as the stepping stone to entry-level positions. Six recent Grady College graduates from the AdPR Department took the time out of their busy schedules to give current students advice about what to expect and what not to expect with an internship or entry-level position.
Basic Computer Skills
Never underestimate simple computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel.
Jessica Neville (ABJ, BS ’13) is a project coordinator at Moxie USA. “I never thought I would have been doing so much math after college and knowing how to use excel to do some of that math for me would have been really helpful,” Neville said. In her job, she uses Excel to keep track of many things like budgets, revenue, time allocations and individual time spent on projects.
Will Linto (ABJ ’13) recently interned at the Edelman Washington, D.C., office. He wished that he would have focused more on Excel and business planning skills, like budgeting. “While I thought I had a good grasp on Excel before graduating, I quickly discovered I didn’t,” Linto said. “Do you know how to remove duplicates from a spreadsheet? Do you know what a pivot table is? If you didn’t answer yes to one of these questions, you might not know Excel either.”
Most students do not think about taking courses outside of Grady College to enhance their skills in public relations. Alexa Munford (ABJ ’13) is an account coordinator at Moxie USA. She said “I definitely would have taken a course in Excel. I think the Terry Business School offers a pretty advanced one.”
Last but not least, remember that PR students have the unique opportunity to take a graphics course. Students who continue to strengthen their design skills after the course will benefit in the future when seeking internships or jobs.
Develop Strong Writing Skills
The ability to communicate effectively in an agency setting goes hand in hand with strong writing skills. The news journalism and PR communications courses teach students the most important writing skills, from AP style to media relations via press releases, pitches and action plans.
Damareus Barbour (ABJ ’13) is currently an intern at Edelman in Atlanta. “A lot of your time is going to be spent writing pitches and media outreach if you are in the agency setting,” said Barbour. His biggest regret is that he wishes he learned more about how to develop pitches and build relationships with journalists in college.
“I’ve taken a ton of writing courses throughout high school and college, which I think has had the biggest payoff,” Munford said. “You can learn Excel, Google Analytics, etc. but if you can’t communicate effectively and sound well-versed in your emails, briefs or any communication internally or with the client, you’re going to be at a huge disadvantage.”
Discover Digital Platforms
“Since I was a PR major I started my internship and my entry-level position with very little knowledge about different digital platforms beyond Twitter and Facebook,” Neville said. “Now I understand not only how brands can leverage these platforms with paid media and content testing, but other platforms like Thinglink, Storify and Google+ Hangouts that I had never heard of!”
Social media is a powerful tool of which all PR students should have a solid grasp. Learn as many digital outlets as possible before starting an internship or entry-level position. Doing so will create an advantage and the opportunity to introduce new platforms to professionals.
Industry Trends & News
Public relations is a fast-paced industry, especially in an agency setting. It is important to be aware of current affairs and what is going on in the PR world.
“Stay up-to-date with current affairs,” said Barbour. “The more media you consume, the more you can begin to think more like a journalist and know what kind of stories they are interested in.”
Neville agrees with Barbour and adds that “it’s important to know what other brands are doing and what platforms and tools are out there. You never know how that could help you stand out in an interview!”
Get Involved & Integrate Public Relations Into Student Life
Certificate programs, like the New Media Institute, are offered at Grady to help students develop more skills to apply toward future careers. Jade Thomas (ABJ ’13) is an assistant account executive at Edelman in Washington, D.C. She said “I wish I had taken more advantage of the New Media certificate and all of the skills it had to offer.”
Munford wishes that she had joined UGA clubs like PRSSA’s Creative Consultants in college to gain more experience. Additionally, “just because you are a PR major doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join AdClub or one of Terry’s Marketing clubs; and vice versa if you’re an advertising major,” Munford said. “All three subjects are very intertwined and valuable in the industry.”
Be sure to incorporate PR into all of your hobbies throughout college. The ability to speak about your passions in an interview that incorporates PR will serve as an extra benefit.
Thomas said “If you don’t have an agency experience in undergrad no one is expecting you to, but if you have a field of interest that you intern in while in college it shows that you have knowledge of that industry and can serve as an asset.”
Meghan Kanter (ABJ ’13), account coordinator at Dodge Communications, said “I think one skill that is really important for communications professionals, especially in AdPR, is how to work well in groups. Leadership skills are definitely great to have, but I think group communication skills often get put on the back burner. In reality, you work as part of a group or team on a daily basis and it is crucial to be a supportive and cooperative team player.”
Additionally, be aware that an agency that prides itself on public relations does not only hire employees with PR backgrounds.
Thomas advised students to “realize that while we are surrounded by PR majors or communication majors in college, agencies tend to have people from all backgrounds so just be open to that; it can be difficult and absolutely amazing at the same time!”
One of the most important attributes to offer an agency is the ability to manage time well.
“I definitely learned that while I was heavily involved in extracurriculars in college, this indeed helped me learn time management and balancing important tasks which is crucial in any agency environment,” Thomas said.
“One skill that young professionals need to learn quickly and without specific guidance is how to prioritize their own time best,” said Kanter. “Everyone has a different way to handle scheduling and organizing, but it is important to figure out what works best for you immediately and make sure that you are prioritizing your time in the most efficient way.”
Last but not least, good luck to all Grady College students currently seeking an internship or entry-level position in an agency setting!
May 2, 2014 Author:
Julia Hemingway, firstname.lastname@example.org