Today marks the beginning of a weekly series on prTini. Each week, we’re going to highlight a different person. I’ll briefly tell you why I recommend that person, but more importantly, you’ll get to read a guest post from them. See for yourself why they’re interesting, doing cool things or worth adding to your reading list. (Thanks to Spin Sucks for the inspiration!)
To kick things off, I’d like to introduce you to Nikki Little, a smart PR pro in Detroit. After connecting initially on Twitter, Nikki and I finally meet in person a couple times last year. Every time I spend time with her, I’m more and more convinced that we’d be nearly inseparable if we lived in the same time (aside from our common love of PR, we both enjoy nonprofits and shoes, among a long list of shared likes). Plus, Nikki’s one of the nicest people I’ve met on Twitter, and she had a hashtag to document her wedding day! Enough about why I like her, read Nikki’s thoughts on the importance of education people about the PR industry.
Happy New Year! A big thanks to Heather for inviting me to be the first person to participate in her new guest blogging series. It didn’t take me long to determine what I wanted to discuss in this post because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as more opportunities come my way. And it’s something I believe is crucial for all PR pros to embrace. On to the details…
It’s a new year, which means change and growth are on the horizon. Whether you made resolutions, set new goals, created a “what to stop doing in 2012” list, picked your three words for 2012 or created a bucket list (my favorite option!), hopefully you’ve started making progress toward whatever challenges you set for yourself this year.
On that note, I’d like to propose that if you work in the PR industry, you add one more “must accomplish” item to your list this year. I know what you’re thinking – “Please, no more! I’m already overloaded and we’re not even a week into 2012.” I promise what I’m asking doesn’t have to require significant investment.
Maybe you’re doing this already. If you are, I commend you. But if you’re not, 2012 is the year to start. The one thing I’m asking all PR pros to commit to doing in 2012 is only one word, but it’s a powerful word. Educate. Educate people on what PR is all about. Educate people on what it means to work in the PR industry. Educate people on why it’s so incredibly important to adhere to ethics when you work in PR. The list goes on.
The choice is yours when it comes to the specific topic, method and time you devote. Choose what works best for you. But make a commitment to educate people at all levels – whether they’re on the brink of graduation, need some advice on how social media has changed public relations or still believe that PR is synonymous with spin (just writing that word makes me cringe!).
Don’t think you need a certain amount of industry experience in order to educate. You don’t. If you’ve learned valuable lessons from PR internships, pass those along to your pals who are still in college or someone looking to make a career change to PR. Your advice won’t be the same as someone who’s been in the industry for 10 or 20 years, but it’s still valuable to others in the profession.
If you need some inspiration to get you started, here are a few ways to educate:
- Be a mentor. Find a college student or young professional who is looking for a PR mentor, and help pave the path to success for that person. You can find a mentee through your local PRSA chapter, PRSSA chapters at universities or through the Help a PR Pro Out (HAPPO) organization. I’ve seen a few posts in the HAPPO LinkedIn group from people seeking a PR mentor. You may even have a coworker or close friend who could use some mentorship.
- Speak about PR. Not everyone loves being the center of attention, but a great way to provide PR education is to speak at conferences and events, present on a webinar or speak to college classes. Find a presentation partner or organize a panel if you’re not completely comfortable speaking on your own.
- Answer PR questions. You’ll find plenty of questions related to PR if you monitor relevant hashtags on Twitter, participate in PR-related Twitter chats (like #PR20chat, #journchat, #PRstudchat or #HAPPO) or are part of PR-related LinkedIn groups. If you want to get creative, think of some common PR questions and create videos or host a Google+ Hangout to address those questions.
- Comment on negative blog posts about PR. There are way too many posts and articles talking about how PR is dead, why PR pros suck and why social media has replaced PR. Sadly, there are industry pros who make unwise choices that give PR a bad name, but none of those statements are true. While it may be a challenge to change people’s minds, it’s worth the effort. Add your two cents in the comments and educate the author and other commenters on why those negative statements about PR aren’t true. Don’t fight fire with fire by getting defensive or being disrespectful. Simply share what you know and your experience to show a different (and more positive) side of PR.
- Write your own blog posts. It’s not too late to start your own blog if you don’t yet have one. Especially if you currently or plan to write about anything related to communications, use your own platform to share PR advice and lessons learned. Don’t have or want your own blog? Seek out a guest post on a relevant blog or site. Come up with a great educational topic and reach out to the blog owner.
So, what do you say? Can you find time in 2012 to make PR education a top priority…and continue making it a priority in each new year? If you have feedback on this challenge or other suggestions on how to educate, please share in the comments.
Nikki Little is a public relations professional and social media strategist at Identity in metro Detroit. She blogs on her personal site, Essential Elements, and Identity’s blog, ID Tags. Nikki is also the Help a PR Pro Out (HAPPO) Michigan champion, secretary of Social Media Club Detroit and a discussion leader of the bi-weekly, in-person social media conversation group, Tweetea.