A Journalism Major’s Guide to PR

By Macy Crowe
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

Lured by the adrenaline rush that I get from a good story and a passion for writing, I began my communications career on a path different from many other young PR professionals — Journalism. Now after a month into my internship with The Hoffman Agency, I have found my experience to be both enriching and educational.

If you find yourself in a similar position, here’s a list of tips & tricks to help you through the learning curve of jumping into PR as a journalism major.

1. Organize. Organize. Organize.

While this may not apply to all journalism majors, it certainly applies to some. As a journalist, you may have one notebook easily available at any given time to scribble your latest notes, quotes, and headline ideas. It’s great for being prepared on a short notice, but in PR, it takes more than that. You also need to be able to prioritize all of your information, put it in order of account and deadline, and send it off to your team members on a moment’s notice.

It’s important to organize your accounts into separate folders, and have sections for media lists, pitches, briefing documents and editorial calendars. Additionally, your e-mail account should be the epitome of organization. For example, setting up Microsoft Outlook Rules will save you a lot of last-minute sifting through your Inbox.

2. Your notes are your life-saver.

When first starting out, you are given so much information at one time. Of course, you want to be careful not to miss anything, and your notes will help you get up to speed. One thing that I find especially helpful is to write a one-page overview of each company whose accounts I am assigned. I call them my “Cheat Sheets.” The notes include very simple facts such as the company’s locations, brief history, mission, products or services, and target audiences.

Make sure that you are taking thorough notes during all of the meetings. If you are asked to find a media target to pitch or an editorial calendar opportunity, you will do the job more efficiently if you can put it into context.

3. Learn how to Talk the Talk.

PR jargon has been a hot topic on social media lately, and just in case you don’t want to start your first day thinking that “ping” must be some e-mail service connected to “Bing,” as I did, here are some quick translations:

Vet = Edit/Review

Briefing = Interview

Heads down = Busy

Draft Action Items = Write a to-do list

EOD/EOW = End of Day/Week

Ping = Some form of contact (e-mail, instant message, etc.)

4. Grammar Matters.

Luckily, we know this one — grammar is critical in PR. Even a note as small as a quick e-mail to a co-worker should be properly punctuated and have the right spelling. Take the extra minute or two to make sure your grammar is correct in everything that you write.

5. Think Outside the Box.

Be original. Wit and creativity can go a long way. You use the same skills to make a story stand out as you do to make your client notable. Your goal is to create great content that is seen and remembered by many. Don’t be nervous to ask questions or to pitch your own ideas.

Did you enter into the PR world with a journalism background? Share your best tips in a comment below.

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