What are PR and marketing students being taught these days?

Even though I didn’t study marketing or PR at university, I was flattered to be approached by a student who is currently studying PR in London. I remember how difficult it was to make industry contacts when I was just starting out so I was delighted to be able to help.
Source: mbarronconsulting.com
All that was required was fifteen minutes of my time for a phone interview about my current role, my career to date and my experience of working in the industry.

I was a little concerned, though, when my interviewer wasn’t able to understand my answer about success and coverage evaluation. I was talking about advertising equivalent values (AVEs) and how the PR value is often calculated by multiplying that figure by three – but I’d lost her with the acronym.

Even when I explained what AVEs are and how some organisations use them to measure PR success, she admitted that this was an entirely new concept that hadn’t been touched upon during her course.

AVEs have always been a topic of much industry debate (are they useful; are they useless; are they relevant at all?) so I’d have thought they would have at least been mentioned at some point during the four year course. If not, it begs the question: what are marketing and PR students being taught these days if fundamentals like measurement aren’t being covered?

I’ve always thought that the subject of your degree doesn’t necessarily make you a better or worse candidate for PR/marketing roles and this revelation further strengthened that belief. If students aren’t being taught these basics that could better prepare them to enter the industry, surely a psychology or law degree would be just as useful.

It may be a bit of a harsh view (and I accept that some courses will be more comprehensive than others) but I’m sure that work experience and on-the-job training are far more valuable than classroom-based study. I’d love to work towards a professional qualification, but only if it was applicable to my day-to-day role. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Is short notice ever too short notice in the world of PR?

Most PR professionals will tell you that when a national newspaper, A-list trade magazine or influential blogger calls with a PR opportunity, they’ll do just about anything to make it work.

Journalists work to notoriously tight deadlines and these frequently get passed on to the PR people whose clients they want/need for an interview, quote or information.

Image source: faqs.org

When an opportunity for such good coverage is presented, tight turnaround times are rarely too tight – and they’re accepted as an everyday part of the PR role. In fact, if a journalist doesn’t want something tomorrow, in the next hour or right away, it tends to be an unexpected (but very welcome) surprise.

Of course it’s not always the case. Monthly magazines plan months in advance and comprehensive forward feature tracking can negate many last-minute panics. But when it comes to being part of a breaking news story, a quick turnaround is crucial to securing the best coverage, with the freshest angle.

“If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen” – You need to be able to react instantaneously, gather your facts (and spokespeople) in record time and provide something significantly different to the rest of the PR pack if you’re going to get the results that you need, in the titles that you want.

Important distinctions between agency and in-house PR roles

After working agency-side for a number of years, it came as quite a shock to be refered to as “the client” the other day. I’m now the one who evaluates success, sets targets and controls spend – but generating coverage is still a vital part of my job, too. 

Even though my role is firmly rooted in the PR world, it’s a hugely different experience to being part of an agency-based account team.

Source: followsteph.com

While in-house and agency-side PR professionals share many of the same goals (achieving widespread coverage, increasing brand awareness, generating buzz and so on) there are some rather important distinctions.

For instance, agency-based PR professionals are focused on gaining as much media interest in their clients’ brands as possible while trying to keep the client content; a PR coordinator/manager needs to ensure that their brand is protected at all times while gaining the right kind of attention from the press. It’s a balancing act between spreading the word / getting the brand noticed and ensuring the brand isn’t compromised.

Anyone working in the PR industry will tell you that it’s practically impossible to retain control of your message as each journalist will try to put their own spin on things – but that’s what keeps this job interesting (and challenging) each and every day.