Are you a high school graduate preparing to declare a college major in public relations? Perhaps you are an undeclared college freshman considering a PR degree. Regardless of your current academic stance, a degree in public relations is a near-guarantee for landing a full-time position once out of college. The public relations field is constantly changing, rapidly evolving and moving forward at speeds which allow it to stay current with society’s needs.
If you plan to pursue a degree in this field, it would be wise to seek out PR experience and internships while in college. This way, you will be better prepared for your full-time position after graduating, and you will have experience to add to your resume, something future and potential employers will certainly be looking for.
Here are a few ways you can market yourself as an independent PR consultant while in college, as well as some tips on how to gain preliminary PR experience.
- 1. Develop a web site for yourself and begin to advertise your services.
One of the first things you will need in today’s technology-driven world is a web site. If you are savvy with web design, hosting company set-ups, etc. this should be a no-brainer. If you plan to pursue a position in public relations, odds are you will be required to take at least one basic web design course. However, even a simple blog site will suffice. For personalized and customizable blog sites, check out WordPress.com.
When formatting and designing your site, be sure to dedicate a page to your basic contact information: your cell phone number, personal e-mail address, even your social media contact information such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. This will let potential clients know that you are reachable and that you are staying current with today’s modern social media.
Your site should also include a page that outlines the public relations services that you provide for your clients: social media services, web site creation, community relations, crisis communication, media relations, political campaigns, event planning, research, etc. Each of these services should then have its own page, where visitors can find a full, detailed description of each service.
Also, it is a good idea to include a page that lists and summarizes your case studies. As a student, this list may be relatively short, but fear not, it will grow over time. A case studies page is where you will list any previous public relations services you have performed in the past, including who your client was (whether it was a local religious ministry, an independent restaurant, or even your friend’s rock band). Only list those PR campaigns that boasted successful results. List the specifics of your success. For example, the web page that you built and designed for your friend’s band resulted in twenty attendees to the group’s next concert because they discovered the band via the Internet and Google searches. Be sure to include a link to the site you designed and list any additional information that summarizes your work (you may have set up and managed a Facebook and/or Twitter page for the group, or even uploaded their music to iTunes).
Slapping all of your information onto an attractive, well designed web page or blog site will give you the ability to sell and market yourself easily and professionally to your clients. It will also allow new and potential clients to discover you online and to learn more about what you have to offer.
- 2. Connect with your church and/or local nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofit organizations are great place to volunteer your public relations services. While the work may not pay much, it is a fantastic way to gain valuable experience and will add to your resume as well.
Do you attend a small or midsized church with little to no web presence? If so, meet with your church’s senior pastor, or appropriate pastoral staff member (some churches have pastors specifically in charge of media), and volunteer your web design and social media services. Begin by developing logos and graphics for the church’s various ministry groups (Sunday school classes, youth and college student ministries, worship ministries, etc.). A strong church web site will include the following basics and essentials:
- A pastoral staff page complete with professional photos of each staff member and a mini-biography on each (which will require one-on-one interviewing).
- An “About Us” page summarizing your church’s story and history.
- Sub pages on the “About Us” page: Our Beliefs, Our Strategy, Our Values.
- Calendar page listing upcoming events by date, time and pertinent information.
- “Contact Us” page complete with phone, fax, street address, e-mail, etc..
- “Find Us” page complete with printed directions to the church, as well as an interactive Google Map.
- “Service Times” page with information on Sunday School times, main worship service time, Wednesday night service times, etc..
- “Ministries” page outlining/summarizing the church’s ministry venues. This page should include subpage links to each ministry. Every ministry venue of the church should have its own page.
- “Sermon Notes” page with that week’s Sunday sermon notes. This page will require weekly updating.
- “Home Page” with weekly updated announcements for upcoming events.
- A link to your church’s social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc..
If church public relations work is not for you, there are plenty of nonprofit organizations in large cities and towns in need of basic PR services. Homeless shelters, orphanages, nursing homes, etc. will typically hire PR associates to manage their community relations and to promote their organization to the public via radio ad campaigns, brochure and document designs, copy writing, newspaper ad promos, etc. You may also want to find ways to promote the organization through other local places, such as college campuses and retail chains.
- 3. Market yourself to your school’s political bodies.
College campuses are filled with students who are running for all sorts of student government positions, from SGA presidents and secretaries to chairs of athletic organizations. You can help these students promote themselves across campus with public relations strategies more dependable than the white poster board and colored markers many students tend to rely upon.
Start by giving the student a personalized and unique presence on campus. You can accomplish by creating and designing a simple campaign logo and campaign colors. You might also consider button-pin and t-shirt designs, on which you can print the student’s political motto or slogan.
Keep in mind that this student is now your client. His or her political success may very well depend on how you market him or her to the student body. This is a great way to exercise your PR abilities and to gain essential experience. If your student client wins the election, add the experience and information to your resume and to your web site’s case studies list.
Remember, building your public relations experience while in college is a great way to graduate with plenty of qualifications that potential employers will be looking for. Your resume should boast this experience. Be creative. Search for those unique venues in which to stretch yourself and utilize your PR skills. It’s not about the money right now, it’s about the experience. Get out there and start marketing yourself.