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I follow, you follow, we all follow … but are PR pros really interested in networking with students?

With competition so high in the public relations field, it is only natural for PR pros to compete for clients and to develop their own personal brands via social networking sites. Building your image as a PR pro is important to helping one stand out from the crowd, but not all PR practitioners seem to remember where they came from. Do these individuals really care about the relationships they make through networking? While recently writing an article, I was shocked to see how some PR pros feel about taking the time to talk with PR students. While this may have been an isolated incident for me, it really made me start thinking about challenges PR students face when networking.

As students, we look up to professionals in the field for guidance and information. This is a common practice in many fields. But what do we — as students — do when those mentors we look up to are just too busy or simply do not care to answer our questions? Many professional relationships are now Web-based and therefore lack face-to-face interaction. As a result, some PR pros are simply promoting their own names with Twitter and Facebook, giving a false sense of friendship.

Don’t get me wrong … I have many professional friends who would and have answered questions when I asked them. However, it is discouraging to see some professionals who obviously do not care about answering questions for future professionals in the PR field.

So, if you follow me or I follow you, does it really mean we are friends? If you ask me a question, as a friend, wouldn’t you expect me to answer?

One of the challenges with writing articles that require primary sources is finding those who will take the time to respond to your request. Just because you have online relationships with PR pros doesn’t mean they will take the time to help you when you need it. I am still waiting on a response that was forthcoming for an article posted almost two months ago.

Some PR practitioners seem to be interested in promoting their professional image by helping students, but others seem to be unprofessional while chalking in the rain. PR pros need to think back to their college careers and remember specific people who helped them along. How did they get their first job? Who encouraged them their senior year in the job search? It is important for practitioners to realize the potential they have and encourage students as they approach graduation. It’s important for PR pros to give back to something they once benefited from.

PR pros should remember they were once students looking for answers, and their responses mean a lot to those who ask. PR students are not competing with professionals; they’re just looking for answers.

PR pros interested in assisting students might want to pay more attention to their questions, volunteer to speak at a local PRSSA meeting or even mentor specific students who express interest in their particular field. Just taking a few extra minutes to assist these students can make a big difference in the future of public relations.

by Scott Young


  1. Post comment

    Great topic.
    I can only speak for myself, but the reason I like to interact with students and help them where I can is because I get a massive kick out of it – not because it might be perceived as a nice thing to do.
    I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world as a PR pro and it would never have happened without people helping me along the way.
    It’s our duty to do the same back.
    If any students read this, I’ve dedicated my blogroll to comms students on at so feel free to submit yours.
    Also, if you ever need any helps with a paper, research etc please feel free to get in touch – I’ll always try and help if it adds value.

  2. Post comment

    Scott, I read your article (via PRopenMic cross-post). When I follow someone, I always offer to help (if I can). Sure some of that is for professional gain but a lot is done on my personal time and personal gratification. I enjoy talking with young professionals – volunteered and sat on a panel at a recent PRSA Pro-Am Day in St. Louis, officially mentor two PRSSA students, unofficially mentor several others and my alma mater’s chapter, etc.

    This is a great post and I hope more professionals read it and take it to heart!

  3. Post comment

    I agree with this viewpoint completely. I, too, have approached professionals in the workforce for answers, advice or opinions and have noticed a lack of interest in putting forth effort in which they feel will not advance their career or client in any way. However, not only is it respectful to consider those who can likely return the favor in the future and potentially get their name out there in the process, but these professionals can also learn a lot more from students than they may realize. As students, we are seeking out these professionals specifically because they have high status or measurable experience. Furthermore, they’ve more than likely been in the workforce for a number of years. While they may view us as inexperienced or naïve, our fresh ideas and current education just may be the factor they need to seal their next deal.


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