Published on May 2, 2022, at 5:40 p.m.
by Heather Smyth.
When applying for a job, candidates want their résumés to stand out from competing applicants. Employers look at relevant skills, experience and education when deciding if a potential employee is the right fit for their company.
With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and into that summer of 2020, many students had their internships canceled or postponed. As companies readjusted to a virtual platform, some internship programs were overlooked because the experience would not be the same as it would be in-person.
In June 2020, PR Council launched its first Agency-Ready Certificate program for aspiring public relations students and recent graduates who are interested in agency careers. This eight-week online program gives participants the opportunity to get a free agency accreditation through webinars with industry professionals.
According to Kim Sample, PR Council president and Agency-Ready Certificate program mediator, the program not only focuses on public relations but also can be a great learning experience for students studying journalism, advertising, marketing and communications. Topics ranging from digital innovation to crisis communication to influencer engagement are covered in prerecorded seminars, released at the start of each week. Participants can attend the seminars live, as well.
Sample hopes that participants leave feeling eager about future opportunities. “[The PR Council] created this program in [the] spring of 2020 when internships and entry-level positions were being scrapped due to COVID,” she explained. “We didn’t want to lose the young talent because we [knew] we would soon need them.”
The PR Council is an organization of agencies that value earned media and encourage client-to-brand engagement. The council is composed of over 130 member firms around the country that focus on a broad range of PR disciplines. Its principles are based on best practices, honesty, diversity, integrity and success.
Member agencies of the PR Council were enthusiastic to connect with students throughout this program. According to Sample, members volunteered to share their knowledge, and the program quickly grew to have over 2,000 participants in its first year. College professors and administrators helped spread the word about the agency certification.
Dylan Lanas, a previous participant in the first program and current account executive at FleishmanHillard, said he signed up for the program after a professor brought it to his attention. He graduated from The University of Alabama in 2020 and wanted to stay up to date with the changing industry trends.
Emma O’Brien, remote digital marketing manager for ThirdLeaf NW and another participant from the program launch, reflects positively on her experience. She chose to complete the program to gain valuable skills and to stay productive over the summer. The presentation skills and slide-deck building were the biggest takeaways for O’Brien, and the advice still resonates with her, she said.
Students and young professionals from all around the world completed this program and were able to grow their networks. A LinkedIn group was created exclusively for fellow participants to connect, share potential opportunities and seek advice. Nearly two years later, O’Brien is still a member in the group from the first program launched.
“Seeing the variety of jobs and fields that successful PR professionals were working in was eye-opening to all of the directions I could potentially go in the future,” O’Brien concluded.
Lanas met several people with similar experiences and was able to exchange advice about the job search. He gained valuable learning experiences, which helped him through the job interview process despite the hiring freezes due to COVID. “This program gave me some topics to chat about as I followed up with my interviewer throughout the summer,” Lanas stated.
Participants like O’Brien and Lanas benefitted from how the industry adapted to a virtual environment. The PR Council overcame a challenging situation to put on a successful program to continue the education and networking of aspiring professionals.