My first exposure to public relations was during a stint in the US in 2013 – I saw Kim Kardashian’s publicist convince her to walk the red carpet with a man dressed in a gorilla suit and holding a huge banana. I decided there and then that PR was the career for me, so I applied for an internship at Atmosphere since I wanted to learn from the best. During my year as an intern I learnt many important lessons – here are my top 5:
- PR is glamorous on the outside, but gritty on the inside. I now know that PR is not as glitzy as the reality show made it seem. PR is not about walking down the red carpet and being photographed (although sometimes our pictures do end up in magazines). PR is the hard work and sweat that goes into making sure all the media show up to take the pictures and convincing the celeb to do the outrageous thing they promised beforehand.
- Build strong media relations from the outset. As an intern, the aim of the game is to build contacts. The key is not to make fleeting, multiple connections but rather to focus on building lasting relationships with a few key media. Knowing how to write proper releases and how to pitch them will help with creating a strong bond – the more you help individual contacts, the more they’ll want to help you.
- Read the news every day to keep abreast of trends and current affairs. The ability to create a good hook for a pitch or media release depends on whether you are up to date with current affairs. Reading online news and watching TV is good but reading the newspapers will give great insight into trends and stories that journalists are interested in. It also serves as a good intro if you’re able to link your pitch back to a piece that they have done recently – it shows that you’ve done your homework.
- Stay ahead of the game by constantly upskilling yourself. As in most industries, the world of PR is forever changing, and there will never be a time to stop studying. As time goes by, your well-honed, and tried and tested skills may become outdated. It is crucial to continuously look at courses in your field to upskill yourself and remain relevant.
- The little things matter. Factors such as correct email and phone etiquette, grammar and spelling all influence your image. I had a very strict English teacher in high school who made sure we all knew correct communication etiquette (not SMS short-hand!), which I came to appreciate during my time as an intern. Knowing how to draft a pitch or release without grammatical errors goes a long way towards securing a permanent position at the company you are working for. Having the ability to answer a phone correctly and courteously also definitely counts in your favour.