Friday, October 9, 2009

Mark McClennan Offers Advice to PR Students

Last night, I attended the PRSSA Induction ceremony at Syracuse University. The guest lecturer, was Mark McClennan, a Syracuse alum, past president of the PRSA Boston, and VP at Schwartz Communications in Boston. His lecture consisted of his experiences starting out after graduating, and advice for students who will also be starting out soon. He offered a lot of great information and tips that I will definitely be remembering when I graduate in 2010; I'll highlight some of the tips I found most useful.

Mark frequently speaks about social media, including a discussion at the PRSA Northeast District Conference this past Thursday. His advice to students was, not surprisingly, that they need to have a great understanding of social media. He warned that although Twitter and similar social media outlets might not necessarily be around in a few years, that idea of instant information boards and microblogging will be for a long time. Therefore, get familiar with the technology and how it is most effectively used, and be ready to leave it behind for something better.

Mark also spoke about how every company nowadays is jumping on the social media bandwagon, thinking they need to use every social media outlet there is available. Therefore, they have several accounts, and aren't doing much with any of them. His advice - pick the three services that will be best used to reach YOUR audience and be actively involved on those accounts.

Since Schwartz is a tech PR agency, he offered his best advice to students trying to get into that field; read all the industry magazines available and be knowledgeable. You can read every Google alert you get, all your Google reader accounts, 10 newspapers, and every blog you subscribe to and still miss something. No matter how much you're reading now. It's not enough. That goes for any type of PR.

You don't have to be a tech person to be in tech PR, most people at tech PR agencies aren't tech people. You simply have to be a PR person that can speak tech, because tech people usually don't know much about PR.

Additionally, Mark says that if you don't have an internship on your resume, your application is likely to be thrown out, at Schwartz and at many other companies. If you're going into tech PR, you're better off having an internship with a tech PR firm.

Mark also encourages people entering into PR to be aggressive. Silence is deadly - speak up and be assertive. Those are the people that rise to the top faster and the people he says he wants on all of his biggest accounts.

If you're new in PR, and your superior tells you to contact reporters, be assertive and use the phone over e-mailing news reporters. It's still 33% more effective than e-mailing. Pitch your idea fast though, because once you get them, you have 7 seconds to convince them.

Lastly, writing skills are vital to success for any PR person. It is possibly the most valuable skill to master. Practice writing a pitch letter, over and over again. You can never get enough practice and it's an imperative skill. Everyone who works at Schwartz has to write one before they get hired.

Overall, Mark's lecture was beneficial to anyone who is hoping to be successful in public relations. Syracuse offers a lot of great lectures about social media and PR, and my advice is to go to as many of them as possible. Take advantage of these free opportunities because they won't always be there. It's a great way to network and to learn information that you might not get other places. That's my PR thought for the day.

Image is from Google images.

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