Skip links


Tips from the Pros

Posted At: January 1, 2008 9:27 AM







“Everything you do in business either adds to or detracts from your personal and professional credibility. Be mindful of this in all you do, from spelling words correctly to returning phone calls.”—Jack Dietrich, president and founder, Strategic Market Alliance

“First impressions are so important—whether that first impression is by written word, by letter, e-mail or other document, or in person. In addition, a person’s skills with writing are so important—how many times have we received a document with poor grammar, misspelled words, etc., and have just tossed it aside or not thinking very much of it and its author because of it? Or, how many times have you met a person for the first time that stands tall, looks others directly in the eye and is not afraid to address all issues directly, and be completely impressed with that person? PR, as in most businesses, is not only about being able to do the substantive work, but is also about being able to run a business. There are two opportunities to make the first impression—first, as a businessman/woman to try to obtain the client to do the work, and second, to the actual performance of the work. Both first impressions are, in my opinion, crucial to success.”—Michael Wiggins, partner, Cabaniss, Smith, Toole & Wiggins, PL

“In all things, maintain your personal credibility. In the end, that is all you ever have and you should guard it and treat it well.”—Jack Dietrich, president and founder, Strategic Market Alliance

“My own personal and ethical code guides my professional ethics.”—Jonathan Bernstein, founder and president, Bernstein Crisis Management Inc.

Back to top


“You won’t have a few hours to write a press release when you get your first job, you’ll have a few minutes. You need to be able to get your research done and get your ideas on paper to hand off to a senior person many times within an hour or less and anything less than perfect will put your job on the line—there is a lot of talent out there and agencies will not employ mediocre people no matter how wonderful their personalities may be.”— Julie Jarrett, vice president, Heyman & Associates 

“Look for jobs or internships that will provide you with valuable experience to show a potential employer. Employers are looking for experience that separates you from the pack. Be able to show them things you had success in, and things that you planned out and brought to fruition.”—Chris Barnes, senior executive sales representative, Johnson & Johnson

“PR is a behind-the-scenes job. It’s not for anyone who wants to be on camera or see their names in print—it’s a win only if your client’s name gets air time or receives ink.”—Allison Matthews, account executive, Ketchum

“New hires that have been recommended by employees have a much higher success rate at staying in their new job longer than hires who have come from outside sources.”—Julie Jarrett, vice president, Heyman & Associates

“Job availability is out there—it’s making yourself marketable so you’ll be hired. For the student who has a strong GPA and rounded out internship experience, getting an interview will not be the battle you need to win. Learning to interact within the business world, having an extroverted personality will.”—Julie Jarrett, vice president, Heyman & Associates

“As you search for a job, look for an employer who’s honest, trustworthy and someone you can respect.”—Chris Barnes, senior executive sales representative, Johnson & Johnson

“Diverse experience in your early years is good. Young people can get
good experience early in politics, journalism, and PR agencies.”—Bill Heyman, president and CEO, Heyman Associates

“Start thinking of search engines as your principal publicity channel. Write in terms that customers use in search queries. Terms like “market-leading,” “best-of-breed,” and “mission-critical” are meaningless because nobody searches on those terms. So stop using them. Learn to think like customers think.”—Paul Gillin, writer, social media consultant and author of “The New Influencers: a Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media”

“Don’t be picky about your first job; just get a job! Once you have a job and are in the ‘workforce’ learning, you can truly think about your future and decide where to go from there… in the meantime, you’re making money and gaining experience.”—Rosanna Fiske, associate professor and graduate program coordinator, Florida International University

Back to top

“Finally, send electronic copies to friends with different computers to see how your resume looks when they open it. Another option is to turn it into a PDF file so that it won’t change from system to system. This also prevents sending a version that shows tracked edits from your word processing software.”—“Positioning” by Heyman Associates, April 2007 Issue

“Interviews are so important when applying for a public relations position. Don’t be afraid or apprehensive when explaining your objective. The interview is your opportunity to describe your experience and strengths, and show them that you have what the employer is looking for.”—Leigh Marie Lunn, vice president of PR, Gish, Sherwood and Friends Inc.

“And as obvious as it may be, the resume must be truthful. We have seen too many fraudulent resumes over the years. Employment dates, job titles and responsibilities must be accurate, as should the educational background and awards. Background checks by a search firm or potential employer which produce discrepancies almost always result in a job opportunity immediately vanishing.”— “Positioning” by Heyman Associates, April 2007 Issue

“Be sure to carefully read through your resume several times yourself—don’t just rely on spell check to catch errors. For example, we’ve seen too many resumes with an unfortunate misspelling of the word ‘public’ in public relations, ‘manager’ often becomes ‘manger’; you see our point. Innocent errors created by typographical slips at best suggest a candidate may not pay attention to details. Also, check all of the company names you reference from previous positions. If company names have changed, you should use the current name of the company and include the name the company had during your tenure in parentheses.”—“Positioning” by Heyman Associates, April 2007 Issue

Back to top


“A broad, liberal education is important with an emphasis in writing, math and speaking a foreign language.”—Bill Heyman, president and CEO, Heyman Associates

“Get involved online. Start reading blogs and listening to podcasts. There is so much opportunity to learn – it’s up to you to seize this opportunity and run with it.”—Paul Young, senior account executive, Converseon

“A public relations degree is important opposed to other degrees because you learn to get your point across quickly and accurately. This is critical because most people you work with are on strict deadlines.”—Brandt Garrison, development director, GreaterGoal

“Make sure you have a quantitative background in public relations, whether you minor in a business field or pursue an M.B.A. after graduation. It helps so much to be able to talk ‘business’ and budgets with marketing executives.”—Leigh Marie Lunn, vice president of PR, Gish, Sherwood and Friends Inc. 

“The things I learned in school were how to budget your time and prioritize what is
most important. While there are always things to be done, big and small, it’s important to know what needs to be done now and what can be done later. Deadlines are important in school and they are absolutely essential in media relations.”—Hank Hager, assistant director, athletic communications, Oregon State University

“While you’re in college, try to gain experience in as many things as possible to develop as many skills sets as possible.”—Chris Barnes, senior executive sales representative, Johnson & Johnson

“Take a summer and do an internship at agency in a big city. I interned in New York at an agency and I had the best time. It is so great when you can learn from professionals first hand and apply everything you take in, in the classroom. Exploring a new city is just amazing as well. You can visit a city and say you love it but working there will really show you what the city is all about.”—Reaghan Roper, communication membership coordinator, The Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association 

“Regarding the job market, think about your career in its totality. That’s hard to do when you’re getting out of school and looking for employment. By this I mean that entry-level jobs are what they are, entry level. They’re to be thought of and used as a means of beginning your professional maturation. You need that. Give yourself the chance to learn and work your way up. When you begin your professional career, you’re not likely to get a high-profile, high-paying job in communication. You have to, and will, earn that by developing a track record and resume. Do that, and allow yourself time to learn, develop and round into someone who is equipped to lead an organization.”—Jack Dietrich, president and founder, Strategic Market Alliance

“I attended a liberal arts college, which I believe prepared me well for my career. My college experience exposed me to a variety of fields and placed an emphasis on thinking broadly about issues. I think that’s a very important part of my job, being able to pick out large trends and seeing the big picture among the many day-to-day things we have to deal with.”—Corey Hoodjer, assistant sports information director, The University of Alabama

“Writing is the skill that I learned in school that I use the most in my job. Your writing can always improve, but my PR writing classes taught me how to write a pitch and press release, and how to write in a professional environment. I also took a graphics class, which helps me immensely when I design PowerPoint decks and create invitations for events.”—Allison Matthews, account executive, Ketchum

Back to top


“I think that today’s young professionals, if they have the confidence to counsel their more mature coworkers, should speak up about how their generations, the one directly preceding and following, use social media so they can make an impact when it comes to PR and identifying the logical vehicles to target and the ones to stay away from.”—Julie Jarrett, vice president, Heyman & Associates

“Get out there and learn it. If not in school, spend some time yourself. Most of the experts taught themselves. There is not enough time for curriculum to catch up with the trends, so you have to teach yourself.”— Josh Hallett, New Media Strategist, Voce Communications

“Start a blog and get a voice out there in the marketplace that is ‘Brand You’.”—John Bell, 360° Digital Influence (Ogilvy PR’s global digital practice)

Back to top

Return to top of page