Editor’s Note: Throughout May, we will be offering helpful tips on transitioning into the PR industry and shifting from PRSSA to PRSA. As college seniors begin their move from the classroom to fulltime practitioners and undergrads search for the perfect internships, industry leaders will answer pressing questions, address concerns and provide general advice for establishing a strong foundation for a positive PR career. Whether you’re a new pro or veteran, this is information you can use.
I recently spent an amazing…and enlightening…two days in New York City with a group of Communication majors and faculty from Curry College.
The “amazing” part was the generosity of professionals from all areas of the communication field…public relations, television, radio, theater….who spent time in the middle of their busy work week to talk with our students.
The “enlightening” part was my own re-realization of the wealth of knowledge out there for students…and others, I might add…to take advantage of.
I tell my “troops” time and again that all they have to do is ask, with the expectation that they actually will do that.
Some do. Most don’t.
I keep forgetting two things…(a) that these students are just that…students and (b) that I was/am exactly like them…reluctant to simply walk up to someone and fire up a conversation. (Yeah, I’m an introvert, with a lifetime membership card!)
Then I think of those…myself included…who are considered the “professionals”…and how we could be more proactive in our efforts to connect with and provide advice to the next generation(s) of professionals.
PRSA, as the largest organization representing those of us who ply the trade (apologies to Edward L. Bernays, who most assuredly did NOT consider our field to be a “trade”), has done a terrific job through its local chapters’ outreach initiatives as well as through PRSSA of offering guidance, advice, mentoring, job search assistance to young would-be professionals.
But they/we/you/I can do better.
First and foremost, recognize and accept that you, as a “seasoned” public relations professional, scare the bejesus out of our younger brethren.
You know stuff, and you’ve done things, that they’re only just now reading about in their textbooks.
Whether you realize it or not, you’re one of the “cool kids” in their estimation. And cool kids are unapproachable.
So here’s a thought…
Next time you go to a PRSA meeting…or any meeting, for that matter…where the “younger” folks will be in attendance…do something different.
First…write this legibly on your “Hello, I’m XXXXX” nametag: “TALK TO ME!”
Second…if you see an obviously new or unfamiliar younger face, break away from the shrimp cocktail, walk over, stick out your hand, and say “hello.”
I know this flies in the face of everything we teach, preach, and beseech our up-and-comers to do. And, yes, they should be the proactive party. But…
Thirty years ago, I went to my first PRSA meeting in Boston. I was a public affairs intern just starting out in my transitional assignment to become public affairs officer for the US Army Intelligence School at Fort Devens, Mass.
I was new to “real” PR. I was new to Boston. I was new to PRSA.
And, as the card-carrying introvert mentioned earlier, I was scared to death and sweating bullets!
An “older” gentleman saw me enter the room with my deer-in-the-headlights look. He motioned to me to come over (to the shrimp cocktail!), stuck out his hand, introduced himself, and started asking questions. Then he introduced me to his VP for Corporate Communications.
Turned out (this is sooo cool!) he was the chairman of The Gillette Company, and he was at the meeting with his communication folks to be recognized for something the company had done.
What a shot of adrenalin and excitement! I was totally hooked on PRSA and its possibilities. If this was typical of how members of my new profession acted in their “off” hours, what would they be like in “real” life?!?
So here I am today, a “seasoned veteran” who has done a few neat things in the course of his own career and is now sharing his knowledge and experience with future PR pros. And it’s all due in large part to a really amazing experience more than a quarter of a century ago when someone who had absolutely NO idea who I was and who was a bazillion steps higher up the employment food chain than I could ever hope to be took the proactive step of reaching out to me to SHARE.
Can you do the same?
Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. He also is Visiting Lecturer, Organizational and Professional Communication (Graduate), at Regis College in Weston, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk was inducted into PRSA’s prestigious College of Fellows in 2009 and is one of just two actively-teaching college professors in Massachusetts to have earned this distinction. You can read more of Kirk’s musings at his blog “A Professor’s Thought”