Just before graduation, I asked myself many times how I can really be best prepared for my future work place. Being in an internship right now, I certainly decided for myself that my university education is not going to be enough to be optimally prepared to tackle real life work place issues. But, how can degree programs include hands-on experience to help students find a job they are prepared for in PR?
Rochelle R. Daniel’s latest article in PR Tactics, “Preparing Students in the classroom for the PR workplace”, underscores three key points that she uses to prepare her students for the workforce. These points are: 1. Confidence, 2. Client Feedback and 3. Evaluation. The program which incorporates these three points is the ‘Advanced Public Relations’ course that emulates a real-world PR firm and gives the students true insights into the PR world.
Confidence: You need to feel at ease at your workplace in order to be successful. Thus, it is key that students develop confidence in their skills. Confidence in your theoretical knowledge isn’t sufficient, you need to be confident in your practical skills to be ready for the real workplace. As we all know it is almost impossible to gain this kind of tangible confidence by reading books. Rather, students must actively practice their skills by doing tasks, such as making pitch calls, speaking publicly, and writing press releases and professional content for a variety of mediums, from blogs to newsletters to social media platforms. Hence, university classes should provide training on these skills with real-world projects such as doing PR for nonprofit organizations as done in Daniel’s classes.
According to Daniel the most common lessons learned during these hands-on classes are:
- Stick to deadlines and be flexible to last-minute changes;
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of what clients want;
- Communication is key; and
- Get as many people as possible to proofread materials before submitting to the client.
Although we have a variety of real-world oriented classes in colleges in Germany and for sure also in the U.S., I still believe that a long-term internship is the only way to successfully get the last bit of confidence in your skills.
Client Feedback: The PR world is all about feedback. We have to make sure that we deliver what our client wants. The client’s satisfaction is of utmost importance as the client is not going to hire us again if we didn’t do a good job. The only way to assure this is through frequent, open communication and feedback. Evaluation forms are a way to provide this kind of information, but we should not wait until the project is over to solicit input. And a project is only finished when the client is satisfied.
Evaluation: The most important characteristics for rating a PR specialist’s performance are:
- writing skills;
- professional attitude and appearance;
- punctuality and meeting deadlines;
- adaptation to change;
- task performance;
- problem solving and creativity;
- productivity; and
- client follow-up and group communication.
These evaluation points that are so important in the professional world should also be considered for class grading. Grades shouldn’t only be based on theoretical knowledge, but on how students apply their knowledge. In her classes, Daniel doesn’t just provide feedback to her students, but seeks feedback herself from students, as well as from clients for all of her classes to improve the experience for everyone.
Summing up, college classes should try their best to teach students the real-life skills needed for their future workplace. These classes are not only beneficial for the students, but also for the clients supported and that client feedback allows colleges to gain insight about resources that may increase their marketability in the future.
Stay tuned …