Four Things PR Students Need to Know (But Nobody Tells You)

By: Mike Schaffer


We’ve been lucky enough not only to have Mike Schaffer speak to Ferris State PR via Skype, but he has volunteered to be a guest blogger for us as well! Thanks, Mike, for this awesome post! Enjoy!

There are a lot of misconceptions about the PR industry, and it’s time someone shared the truth with you, right? I asked several of my colleagues at Hager Sharp about what they wished someone told them about the PR industry while they were still in school. I’ve combined their advice with mine to create this list of Four Things PR Students Need to Know.

1) Be versatile: If you know how to promote or market something, you, in theory, know how to promote or market anything. The more you can expand your footprint of knowledge, the longer your career will be. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go as deep as you can into an area you are passionate about. But be prepared to translate those skills to another subject.

2) Never stop networking: If you look at networking as a way to help get you a job, you’re missing the point. Networking is a forever thing.  Go to events, meet people, schedule coffees and lunches and happy hours. Stay in touch with former coworkers. Connect on LinkedIn.

3) From Janine – Trust is indeed, everything: You might have a strength or skill that is awesome and will bring great things for the client, but if you don’t have the trust and backing from others on your team (who might be more experienced) no one will open the door of opportunity for you to bring that skill to the table. To build trust takes time and patience. There is no equation to get it right, you’ve got to be reliable and prepared for anything—even when no one asks you to. I used to be afraid my age would be an issue when working with the client, thinking they wouldn’t want to work with me or wouldn’t listen or pay attention to my work because I am not a senior member on the team. Now, I realize that with the support of my team the work I do will get noticed and small interactions with the client will build a larger platform for discussion.

4) From Carrie – Client relations takes time: Something I didn’t think would weigh so heavily on the work is the dynamic between you and the client, and navigating that relationship. Maybe it was naïve of me to not realize it, but so much of the effort, with certain clients especially, goes into fostering that relationship and earning the client’s trust. It’s hard when you know that you have a good idea, and you face a roadblock from your client in using that good idea, even when you know that the client would ultimately benefit from it. I’ve found that learning all of those soft skills about interpersonal dynamics takes time, but is worth investing in.

Mike Schaffer is the Director, Digital Strategy, for Hager Sharp in Washington, DC.


About ferrisprssa

We speak the truth with compassion. We embrace diversity in all forms. We are innovative, creative, upbeat and engaged. We are the Ferris State University PRSSA Chapter! Our student-run PR firm gives students outstanding hands-on experience and professional training.
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