PR May have Changed but the Core Foundation Remains

Many public relations professionals today do not come from the background as many entry level public relations hopefuls do today. A large number of seasoned professionals did not have a PR internship much less a PR degree.

“I started off in TV production then as the co-producer of a ‘pilot’ entitled “Entertainment Tonight”, says Terri Hartman of Harman Media Group. Finding herself in PR, Hartman added, “PR gives me the opportunity to influence people’s lives through my client’s expertise, services, and personalities.”

These professionals have manned a fax machine for hours and didn’t know what a blog was at the beginning of their career much less have a cell phone. Without modern technology they have been trailblazers of the industry practicing in the middle of the morphing of public relations industry into this 24/7/365 force to be reckoned with.

“Everything does not go as planned, but you can’t be afraid to take risks in this industry,” says Tina McCormack Beaty of TMS Strategy. “A PR professional who is afraid to fail and thus doesn’t try, will fail before their start.”

The industry has changed and expanded from the days of fax machines and having to FedEx images to include email, cell phones, bloggers, You Tube and services such as PR Newswire, Business Wire, Cision, and Vocus.

“PR professionals have to be more strategic in order to be successful. The old days of faxing a press release to the local paper are gone. We have to engage more with the media and provide more content for our clients in the form of blogs, articles, comments on blogs and social media promos,” says Becky Boyd of MediaFirstPR.

Even though the industry has evolved there are core elements that remain top of mind regardless. “I continue to take my fact checking very seriously. It’s my name on the contact page,” added Hartman.

While these professionals did not take classes on public relations writing they are industry experts and a wealth of knowledge. They have learned by doing.  There are core elements of public relations that have remained key in determining success in the industry. Here are a few tips from seasoned practitioners to help those getting started in the industry,

  • Take a few business classes. Yes, your AP class will help you write a press release but that business management class will help you 10 years into your career when you are managing employees.
  • Add a few journalism courses in the mix too. Better writing, writing and writing.
  • Learn how to make a budget and stick to a budget whether this is for a campaign, an event or a company.
  • There are long hours in this field. Know it, understand it and then keep going.
  • Sometimes it is less about working for a large global agency and more about the people you work with or the clients you serve.
  • Be able navigate Photoshop or other graphics programs.
  • The line “other duties as assigned” in your job description could mean ANYTHING.
  • Be kind to others and show respect as you never know what positions of power they may hold in years to come.
  • Network. Network. Network.

Public Relations practitioners move so fast that sometimes it is easy to forget where we started and the small victories. “The one thing that I would not have predicted that I would love about my PR job is the adrenalin rush of getting a top-tier hit,” says Leah Gabriel Nurick of Gabriel Marketing.

Linzy Roussel Cotaya is a New Orleans based public relations professional with a social media hobby. Her resume includes a mix of ad agency and nonprofit experience.  Follow Linzy on twitter, @zzcrawfish, or on

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  • The taking of some business courses is great advice! AP writing is great for news releases but a PR pro should also be able to write business correspondence and reports so they can adequately communicate with senior management. Enjoyed the post!

    • Thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Nice post Linzy, especially liked the “taking risks” comment. I recently heard someone say that failing is ok, but you must learn to “fail forward.” So true for PR pros. 

    Being kind and showing respect seems like a logical thing to do but oh so easy to quickly forget when you work in the high paced world of PR. The only other tip I would add is to learn how to apply analytics to your efforts, and learn it fast. The days of the blank check for PR are gone and people want to see the measurable results of your actions.  

    • Great point on the analytic John! Thanks for the feedback!

  • All good stuff Linzy.  In fact, I may take a few of your points and share with a PR class I will be sitting in on at my alma mater Bethany College in W. Va. on Friday.  Thanks for sharing.

    • So glad you can use the info for your presentation.

  • Jordan728

    Great post Linzy. I like that you’ve addressed in your post how many skills are necessary in the public relations industry today in order to be successful. Business management experience is key in knowing how to manage employees, but it’s also important because it helps PR professionals communicate more effectively with their management peers. As you’ve described in your post, being a jack of all trades is a large benefit in this field. 

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  • Heather Caldwell

    Loved your post.  I have a business and marketing degree and am currently pursuing a masters in communication with an emphasis in PR and enjoyed reading about the other important skills needed to be successful in PR.  I hope to combine my PR degree and business background into a long-term PR career.  What would you recommend to help future employers recognize that your skills could be beneficial to them even if you haven’t been working in PR yet.

  • Gsideman

    Regarding your comment that the core of PR hasn’t changed, you’re very right. I shared as much with a college class to which I guest spoke last week. We have more tools to do our jobs, which can sometimes be overwhelming. Those, however, particularly social media, can also boost our networking options and dare I say, make PR life more rewarding. What’s important to remember and practice is to be accurate, honest, prompt and responsive. Those elements will never change for credible PR pros. 

  • Mollie128

    I enjoyed this post and the message behind it about professional experience being as valuable (if not more) than a specific degree or internship. I love reading about practical application of PR skills and what is needed to succeed in the field to succeed. Thanks for the post.

  • KristinM

    These are some great tips!  I’m a first-year graduate student emphasizing PR, but I have a Bachelor of Science in business.  It’s good to get confirmation that my background can be beneficial in a future PR career.  You mentioned that knowing how to use Photoshop or other graphics programs is beneficial.  What other graphics programs do you recommend?  Thanks again for the post!

  • Caleb0228

    I really appreciate the insite provided in this particular article.  I am currently in my senior your at Missouri State University and some of the hints are things that I have really noticed.  If we offered classes specifically on photoshop or InDesign I would definitely take them.  We are forced to get samples within other classes.  Networkings is one thing that is pushed really hard at our University and that I am thankful for.  Another thing we constantly here is to evolve.  As we graduate we are taught to be pioneers in the field of Public Relations.  We also here a lot about social media and the coming role that it will play.  Social media is the newest attraction, what’s next?