In an economic downturn, it’s pretty obvious that fresh entrants to the business do themselves a favour by honing skills employers desire.
The awesome thing about the web is that people give away excellent advice for free every day. If you’re in PR and getting started there’s a plethora of great books, blogs, podcasts and cool chats on the business that can give you a leg up. All you have to do is read, listen and participate.
While it’s important to immerse yourself in the PR world, sometimes you learn more by getting away from the fishbowl. Students in particular do themselves a BIG favour by looking outside the game for learnings.
Here are three non-PR related activities that will help you get better at PR:
- Reading Ernest Hemingway novels: Papa Hemingway was a trained journalist (who worked for, among others, the Toronto Star). Hemingway’s prose has been described as “lean and athletic,” which sounds kinda pretentious but is actually quite true. He remains the grandmaster of the concise, to the point, declarative writing you need in PR. Read his stuff and you’ll not only pick up great writing tips but be thoroughly entertained. My personal faves are For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms.
- Seeing some art: PR is not a formulaic, repetitive, robot game and the letters don’t stand for press release. If you are doing it right, it’s art. This is especially true if you are creating off the wall crazy, cool things that get loads of attention. While I’ve never come up with something the scale of the T-mobile dance sensation, we’ve done some fun things. The inspiration has not come from reading PR blogs or listening to podcasts, but from being exposed to creativity. So get out to the nearest gallery, performance art show or whatever appeals to you from this realm. It should get the juices flowing.
- Watching sports: My girlfriend cries at the beginning of each NFL season. If you are like her, ignore this. Jokes aside, the sporting world has a lot to teach PR people. Sport is, in many senses, organized chaos where the winner does the best job of influencing the uncontrollable. Back in the day, “control” used to be a goal of PR, but now “influencing the uncontrollable” is a more apropos description of our craft. Sport is emblematic of this and, as such, has valuable lessons for flaks. (there ya go couch potatoes, you can thank me now!)
Do you have activities from outside the industry bubble that help you become better at PR?
For an excellent on-subject reading list re social media/PR/marketing see this post from Mitch Joel. Re on-subject marketing/PR podcasts check out Danny Starr’s list.