A Letter to the Class of 2012

Dear Class of 2012:

Are you interested in a challenging, engaging career—one that exposes you to the world and pushes you to grow professionally and personally? Do you want to get in on the ground floor of a dynamic, rapidly expanding industry? Are you intellectually curious, a go-getter, a critical thinker, creative and a hard worker? Consider an opportunity in public relations.

Public relations firms have been on a tear these last few years, growing at nearly a double-digit pace on the way to becoming an $8 billion global industry.  Between now and 2020, the US Department of Labor projects employment for public relations jobs to grow more than 20%.  We need resourceful young communicators to help us grow and build the vibrant public relations firms of tomorrow.

The industry is transforming in exciting ways.  Graduates entering our workforce have a chance to learn not just about public relations but also about the business world in a broader sense. Working at a firm, you might find yourself helping to educate consumers about new consumer brands or drug therapies, or explaining complex technologies and why they’re important for businesses and consumers, or you may work on corporate or public affairs assignments.

As a result, we don’t just need people with communications degrees; graduates with technical backgrounds and specialized knowledge in fields like law, the sciences, finance, public policy, the arts, and the humanities will do well in our profession. We also seek out candidates of diverse ethnic backgrounds whose perspectives can help us counsel our clients to best engage with their target audiences. Finally, we welcome graduates who understand the power of social media, since our clients are now engaging across multiple platforms to reach customers and other stakeholders.

Public relations firms make a positive difference in the world. In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, a public relations firm handled virtually all elements of disaster response communications on behalf of the Salvation Army. In addition to press releases and media alerts, this firm created blog stories and Facebook and Twitter posts. And that’s just one of hundreds, even thousands of examples. If you want to make a difference, not just locally but globally, this an industry that deserves your consideration.

What should you do to get a job in our industry and move up quickly? I’d suggest several things:

  • First, learn the business of public relations, but also the business of our clients. It’s not just about being able to write well or pitch stories, but thinking strategically about clients’ broader marketing opportunities and reputation challenges.
  • Second, be authentic and true to who you are. You can’t represent clients well unless you represent yourself well.
  • Third, be transparent. We’re all held accountable, so we all need to genuinely care about our work and do our best.
  • Fourth, be interesting. Read a lot, listen a lot, and absorb information from many perspectives. Understand the issues about which people feel passionate. Bring new insights and energy from the outside world into your job.
  • Finally, have fun! It may be unnerving to contemplate what life after college is like, but you really can have a lot of fun in the public relations industry. Make the most of your opportunities.

Public relations offers you a chance to embark on a career full of learning and challenge. In our industry, you can become an ambassador and advocate for companies and brands. You can become a practice leader with deep knowledge about a particular area, or a global client leader working with colleagues based in countries around the world. You can lead a team in a particular office and put your stamp on how to define corporate cultures. I encourage you to explore the many exciting places public relations can take you.

10 thoughts on “A Letter to the Class of 2012

  1. As a recent graduate, I have found that one of the most rewarding aspects of working in the PR industry is the constant learning process. I am always learning about my clients’ businesses, different industries and how to grow as a PR professional. At Peppercom, the firm I am interning at, we are even trained in stand-up comedy to help improve our presentation skills and to be authentic, transparent, interesting and have fun. A career in PR has the perfect balance of professionalism and creativity with plenty of room for growth and learning.

  2. My recent foray into the PR world as an Intern has been nothing short of an eclectic and varied experience. Immediately upon my arrival I was placed on a plethora of accounts from finance to consumer with responsibility bestowed upon me. As a newbie to the PR world, ‘the fear’ kicked in as I entered my first conference call with a client, my perspective and ideas were actively encouraged, notions that I can see are actively practiced and preached at Peppercom. Authenticity, truth and specifically energy are a key component to the company; In a conference call yesterday, on a whim fun suggestions were made surrounding an upcoming client in the entertainment industry; by the end of the call both parties were laughing, joking and throwing fresh and fun ideas around the room. If the past two days are signs of what the next few months have in store I am a very lucky intern, Peppercom is the place for me.

  3. Andy, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years – and I still look forward to every new day. When I was in college, I used the measure of the “3 Fs” for choosing my major and ultimately my career path. It had to be fun, fulfilling and financially rewarding. For me, public relations has been all that and more. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Andy, your suggestions for breaking into the PR industry hit home to many of the exiting expectations I have for my future career in PR. From learning about a new client product, truly becoming an advocate of your work, and adding creativity, are all essential pieces of working in PR.

    Your article highlights what many professionals have expressed to me, you can work hard and love your job. This inspiration is what fuels new graduates, like myself, to remember to have passion as we make this transition in our lives.

    Thank you!

  5. As a recent, saxophone-playing graduate of a Master’s School of Public Policy (who happens to be black), I’m happy to hear that you all are open to “graduates with technical backgrounds and specialized knowledge in fields like…public policy, the arts, and the humanities.” I also think you offer some great tips.

    What I’m having trouble with is the “will do well in our profession” part. In my recent applications to firms, most of what I’ve heard back is along the lines of “fantastic interview, we’ll pay you millions, and you can telework” (cough, some of this may be prone to exaggeration), “BUT we’re looking for someone who majored in communications.”

    Do you have any advice on how to clear that hurdle? Practically speaking, I’d love to go back to school (perhaps for an MBA), but after 6 years of undergrad and grad, I need a bit of a break. Do you have any tips for public policy folk who may want to enter a communication-ier field?

    And if anyone reading this is accepting applications, I might be open to a position that has the previously-mentioned requisites (telework, millions, cough) at a non-profit oriented firm. Please feel free to contact me via my site (name link).

    (Cool blog, by the way.You’ve been google reader’ed)

  6. Andy–You nailed it–the industry needs to reach out to “non traditional” talent to fuel our agencies and to provide our clients with innovative and creative solutions!


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