Jobs in media relations is not for everyone. It can, however, be a rewarding one and very interesting career when approached with the right attitude.
Knowing and understanding the media means the difference between getting the job done and not getting anywhere. The goal of public relations is to obtain free editorial space. To reach this goal, the material you present to the publication must mesh with the publication's needs, style, and a host of other requirements. Being totally familiar with those requirements (and being willing to put yourself at the disposal of often overworked editors) can make the difference between success and failure.
Get Ready to Get Ready
How do you reach the point where you have both familiarity with media far and wide and the (often intangible) positive attitude that results in consistently successful media placements? Starting in college, there are a number of things that you can do to put yourself in a position to achieve success in public relations or related media relations fields.
Most colleges have on campus media opportunities newspapers, radio and TV stations, perhaps magazines, even work study programs within the college or university PR departments. Such opportunities should be pursued relentlessly. Not only do they provide valuable experience, but, seen on a resume, they provide a definite indication to would be employers of your motivation and willingness to work. College media experience helps to hone writing skills and give you an understanding of what it is like to be a reporter or editor faced with the task of assembling an interesting and balanced story under deadline pressure. Such experience is almost never wasted.
While still in college, more formal coursework in public relations, media, or journalism is also available and should be pursued. Many colleges offer opportunities in advertising, journalism, business/communications writing, and public relations. In advertising courses, you can begin to learn copy writing skills and gain some understanding of demographics and target markets. Journalism courses can help you understand the meaning of words and how to write concisely and expressively both vital skills in the public relations field. Communications or business writing courses help teach letter, resume, and proposal writing skills. Today, there are often related courses to train you in desktop publishing, layout, and design. Finally, courses in public relations can be useful, especially at the introductory level, to give you an overview of the field and the skills you need to succeed.
As a good speaking voice is essential in PR work, don't hesitate to avail yourself of a course in public speaking if you feel you need work in this area. You should also take such a course if you feel that a strong regional accent may make it difficult for you to make yourself understood.
And How to Become More Ideal
Much of what I have said above revolves around the importance of learning how to communicate. This includes verbal and written communication, both the creation and presentation of words and ideas. There are a number of books on writing form and style, editing, and even desktop publishing available. Spare time spent reading these and practicing their advice will not be wasted for the media professional.
As we in the PR field must deal with a great variety of individual TV and radio shows and publications, it pays to familiarize yourself with as many of these as possible. Read, watch, and listen to them. Get to know which writers and editors are covering which stories and the types of audiences at which they are aimed. Thorough knowledge of such things will go a long way towards making a candidate shine at an interview and succeed afterwards.
A knowledge of current events both within the communications and advertising fields, as well as worldwide trends and events outside of that field is most useful. It helps put matters in perspective on both a professional and personal level. It also goes a long way towards giving you a base of knowledge upon which to gain credibility with the elements of the media with which you will be working.
I began by pointing out the importance of being able to deal with editorial rejection and temperamental clients. For every successful placement there will undoubtedly be many dead ends, yet I have found the public relations field to be one of the most rewarding imaginable. There is still a thrill I get when it all works and an article is published or a segment aired.
Dealing with the media can be tough, but the skills one gains in so doing are invaluable. Sometimes I feel that if you can successfully deal with the media, then you can deal with anything life throws at you.
CLAUDE DELIBES founded Delibes Marketing Associates. Ltd. in 1976. Prior to that, she was a vice president at the Seisel Company, corporate product news and information director at West Point Pepperell, and public relations director at Ethan Allen Furniture.
Before starting her public relations career, Ms. Delibes was an editor covering the fashion and textile industries at Fairchild Publications and, prior to that, associate editor at Printer's Inc. magazine, a trade publication for the advertising community. She was also sales promotion director at WINS radio when it was a rock and roll music station.
Some of the organizations and companies Ms. Delibes has represented include: Renault USA automobiles, Rhone Poulenc (French fiber manufacturer), Selig Furniture, The French Textile Industry, Inter coiffure, Frette Italian Linens, Ermenegildo Zegna, Italian menswear, Bally Shoes, Revlon, and Heimtextil America.
Ms. Delibes is president of Club Internationalis, New York Chapter, and is a member of the International Furnishings and Design Association, The Fashion Group, Women Executives in Public Relations (of which she is past president), and the Public Relations Society of America. She is listed in Who's Who in the East, Who's Who in American Women, and Who's Who in Society. She was born in France, educated in the United States and Europe, and is a graduate of Sorbonne University.