Posted At: March 24, 2010 1:34 PM
A message for public relations students and young professionals
by Lauren Novo, Contributing Writer
I used to be an invisible student … figuratively speaking, of course. I studied hard, excelled on tests and papers and brought home stellar report cards — all under the radar. I typically only participated in class when it was required. I was the nice, quiet girl.
I’m still that shy girl in many ways. However, something about me has changed in the past year. I’ve developed a confidence in what I want to do (PR), what I can do and how I am going to do it.
But I didn’t just wake up one day feeling good about my progress and place in the public relations industry. It took time and a whole lot of effort.
I made a conscious decision to continue working as hard as ever. But this time, I did it all over the radar. I would advise other students and young professionals to do the same.
What does it mean to be all over the radar?
Consider the following scenario.
Person A: Hey, do you know so-and-so?
Person B: Yes, I do. Well, I mean, I know who he/she is but we’ve never actually talked … or even met really.
Sound familiar? You’ve probably had a similar conversation at least once in your life. So, who are you in this situation? If you are Person C (the one not even present for the exchange) you are on the radar.
For whatever reason, you have made enough of a name for yourself that others refer to you and even feel like they know you in some capacity.
Hopefully, it’s “good” radar – meaning that you’re known for something positive – but either way, at least you’re out there.
How can I get all over the radar?
There are so many facets to being on the radar. You can be a local star: that one person who seems to have a hand in every community outreach project and professional committee in town. Or you can create a national brand for yourself through strategic use of social media outlets.
It’s all a little overwhelming at first. Especially if you’re “invisible.” My best advice? Start small, but think big.
My first attempt to “reach out” was opening a Twitter account. I knew I wanted to do public relations and had been told that Twitter was a great outlet for networking with professionals and learning more about the industry. To this day, I’m still shocked at the enormity of the medium’s impact on me.
I started by following a few key leaders (such as Deirdre Breakenridge) and paid careful attention to whom they were interacting with and how they were interacting. My “following” list grew as I eagerly sought to become acquainted with anyone and everyone involved with PR. And because I made and continue to make a genuine attempt to actually get to know my fellow “tweeps,” my list of “followers” is pure quality (in my opinion, of course).
PR is about relationships, so why shouldn’t Twitter be approached accordingly? If someone asks a question, do your best to answer it; if someone posts an interesting blog or article, take the time to share it with others; take pride in the content you put out there and you will be seen as a valued resource.
My second attempt to reach out was joining the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Capital Chapter. Since then, I have volunteered at an annual event; signed up to serve on a committee; attended monthly lunch meetings; taken advantage of scholarship and award opportunities; and again, made a genuine attempt to get to know others. I’ve taken my role seriously, even as a student, so that I will be taken seriously in return.
And then in September, I made possibly my boldest move by starting a blog. Did I know blogging was a considerable commitment? Yes. Did I realize that the whole world could read what I said and possibly hate and even criticize it? Yes. Did I know that it would be difficult to routinely produce compelling and relevant content? Yes. But did I let that stop me? No way.
In each of these three cases, I started small but thought big. It took no time to set up a Twitter account, become an FPRA member and start a blog. But Twitter has since become my main news network, an opportunity to speak daily with some of the best PR pros out there, and an outlet for me to share my own contributions to the industry.FPRA has helped me meet most of the PR professionals and students in town. There are people I know I can call if I ever need advice or help, because I’ve invested time in getting to know them. And my blog, well, that is my special place to show my dedication to my PR professional growth. It’s my chance to engage others and develop my writing and critical thinking skills.
Simply put: you can’t be all over the radar if you’re hiding under the covers. Focus on improving your skills, networking and serving others and you will be noticed.
What should I do once I’m all over the radar?
Use your powers for “good.” By this, I mean it is a privilege that others are paying attention to you. With more distractions out there than we can keep up with, you shouldn’t for a second feel entitled to having your blog posts read, your tweets re-tweeted, your questions answered by mentors, and your application selected for further review.
So when you do get on the radar, take the opportunity to let others shine as well. Help someone the way you’ve been helped. Write a guest post for a new blogger. Allow a college student to shadow you at your new job. Provide some free PR counsel from time to time.
What’s the point of being all over the radar? Why does any of this even matter?
Budgets are small, the number of job seekers is high and competition is extremely fierce. PR pros-to-be are entering an industry that is often focused on staying all over the radar.
If you can’t highlight your best assets and stand out, how will you be able to help a nonprofit attain contributions when there are so many other organizations out there looking for funding, as well? How will you help a start-up company show its unique value in the already clustered marketplace? How will you ensure that important messages are getting to the right people at the right time?
So, are you all over the radar? And if not, what are you waiting for?