It is often said “you learn best while on-the-job”. Sure, working does give you exposure and experience. However, as it is essential to any part of a job in Public Relations, it’s always better to be prepared. Imagine joining a PR firm and being able to comfortably grasp most tasks you’re given for the first time! That’s how you should feel from the moment you enter the PR world, and the institute you choose to study at should cover as much as they can during your PR course.
Here are four major pointers for PR schools to help students begin their PR journey –
1. Up-to-Date Curriculum
The PR course and its modules should be in line with and relevant to what’s happening in the PR and communication business.
Workshops during a PR course can make up for any gaps in the course structure, as they are independent and can be conducted based on what’s happening in the PR world in real-time.
Breaking down case studies is one of the best ways to show students how PR can be used for different things in different ways. It helps when the examples of familiar brands are used.
2. The Right Faculty
The faculty should comprise of PR and corporate communications professionals, as well as others who are connected to the profession in different ways. Practical knowledge is the key. For students, going from being part of the target audience to eventually joining the business – it only makes sense to learn from these professionals.
Students need to be encouraged to ask questions in whatever they do. Teachers must also facilitate experimentation with the way students approach projects and assignments.
3. Choose a Place that Offers Practical Exposure
It is not enough to give students notes to which they may or may not refer. Students doing a PR course need to be able to apply that knowledge and perform tasks on a regular basis using that knowledge.
- Writing: Practice makes perfect. The focus should not just be on the theory of the perfect way to write, but instead, a weekly practice of writing in different styles, via different mediums and for different sectors etc.
Most people who manage to make their way into a PR course can write, covering the general basics. But once you’re there, even the basics must be reiterated, and extra guidelines added on. This should also include how to write emails and draft different kinds of documents such as a pitch note and a press release (they are not the same).
- Computer skills: There should be a strong emphasis on the importance of PowerPoint presentations, and the use of Microsoft Excel. Mastering these should be a major part of the computer skills curriculum. The basics of digital design and editing are also essential.
- Social media: Students must get used to being active on Twitter. It’s best to start them off from the first week of their course. Since Tweeting is one of the fastest ways to break news, it may be a major part of their lives in PR. Starting off early will help once they begin working. They also need to be reintroduced to social media – when to use different platforms – and how to build brand audience or strengthen existing ones with engagement.
- Public speaking and presenting: Assignments on how to conduct themselves – body language, tone, speech etc, is a must. This should also include soft skills, dressing and etiquette. These are usually taken for granted, but when introduced as part of a course, it serves as a reference point in the future.
- Mock interviews and scenarios: Mock interviews should be conducted in class as presentations. These should include job interviews and media/client interviews. Along with this, team building assignments and exercises are a must. This helps in training students on how to think and deal with different people and situations.
- Event planning and management in PR: Students should be introduced to how events are organised, especially in the PR world. Making a real event or two a part of the course is the best way to apply that knowledge.
- Visits to corporate offices: Meeting and learning from people in corporate communication helps students see how they work to maintain and build almost every brand there is.
- An internship as part of the course: A well-planned internship shows students what life will be like when they start working in PR. They may not be involved at every level, but they get to observe and sometimes even be part of the kind of work their teams, seniors and bosses do. This is also their first chance to apply what they’ve learnt during their PR course in a real setting. Monitoring this internship makes sure students get the most out of it.
Through this exposure to corporate offices and PR firms, students also get to see how PR and corporate communications teams work together.
4. Build Skills for Research, Clients and Media Relations
- How to read news: Help students get into the habit of reading the news every day. This includes studying the way news is reported across the media, along with the proper way of scanning newspapers and mapping opportunities.
- Research: The students must have an idea of what to expect when interacting with the media. They need to get used to researching before they reach out to anyone. This will help them be prepared with some background information on a brand or person. Students should also be encouraged to begin noting the kind of stories a journalist writes. This helps create a database, which will be part of any PR job.
- Rapport-building and smart pitches: Help students understand that client servicing is a two-way street. Students need to be introduced to the nuances of client-firm relationships. The next bit of learning is how to get the media to care enough about a story. This should include practical activities and assignments, including things like mock pitch calls and how to build and maintain a rapport with the person you’re pitching to.
There is so much more to how the world of PR and Communications functions, but covering these points in a PR course gives both students and institutes a good start.
For students reading this – If the institute/course you’re considering covers these essentials (and hopefully more), you’re good to go. Above all, as they say, “It’s what you make of it!”
A version of this article originally appeared on Shiksha.com
– Amani Kerr
Amani is currently a Digital Communications Associate. She studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC), Mumbai. Amani loves to sing and has lent her voice to several musical projects. She is currently writing and composing original music for her first EP. She can be reached at @amani_kerr on Twitter and here on LinkedIn.