What should a PR student know about working in PR?

Jan 25, 2023
3 mins

Hi, I’m Jasmine and I’ve just finished my first month working in PR as a Words + Pixels Account Executive.

I can confidently say that everything I knew about PR has been turned on its head. I have recently completed my Masters in Public Relations from the London College of Communication at the University of the Arts London, and although that experience was invaluable, it can feel like a drop in the ocean compared to what I’ve learned in the past 31 days...

PR isn’t only a fast-paced industry, it’s constantly evolving and shaping the way that we see the world in this moment. As a PR, you need to be creative, thought-provoking, and always on the pulse of the newscycle.

Here are some things I’ve learned about working in public relations after finishing my MA PR:

1. You haven’t learned everything yet

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” - Aristotle

You won’t learn the best ways to pitch a story, devise a campaign strategy or build relationships from textbooks in a classroom. You’ll learn by doing it—repeatedly. Thanks to my team, I’ve already improved my pitch structure, learned how to communicate genuinely and effectively with journalists, and how to position a story so it’s appealing to particular audiences. And I’ve learned all of this by practicing, getting great constructive feedback, and learning how to think differently.

2. Pick an agency for the people, not the clients

Love it or hate it, someone once said “team work makes the dream work” and it stuck.

If you plan on working at an agency, one of the most important things I’ve learned since working in PR is that you shouldn’t be drawn into an agency based solely on their clients. We have some incredible clients at Words + Pixels that I’m thrilled to be working with, but it’s the culture at work that really caught my attention and made me want to join this community. It makes a huge difference when you feel supported by everyone you work with, and it really shows when you feel yourself learning quicker, more diligently, and enjoy coming to work.

You’re supposed to be asking questions as an AE, gaining insights from your team leaders and directors, and learning how to own your opportunities and be proactive in seeking them out.

3. Celebrate your wins, even the little ones

“Small things make base men proud.” - William Shakespeare

Our harshest critics are often ourselves, and it’s very easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong so much that you overlook how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished. Celebrate your wins, and the wins of your teammates, no matter how big or small, because their wins are your wins when you’re working on a team. Secured a feature with a national publication? Send kudos. Got positive feedback from a journalist? Let the team know the great news. Every win is building on the last, and results in a better outcome for your team and your clients.

4. Learn from your mistakes, and learn quickly

PR is a fast-paced industry. If you accidentally send an email with a typo or send a pitch to a journalist who isn’t interested, note it and learn from it. Always double check your emails before they go out, and do more research on the journalist you’re pitching to beforehand. Also, listen to your peers and coworkers—more often than not, they’ve made some mistakes before that you’re bound to make, so the best way to get ahead of making them is to learn from them and their experiences.

5. Stay curious, and be proactive

A healthy curiosity will challenge you to be more proactive–seeking out journalists, creative ways to pitch a story, and while you’re learning it’s good to share all of the different angles you can think of with your team. They’re there to bounce ideas off of, help you refine your thinking, and package it in a way that makes it suitable for publication. Curiosity means constantly asking questions about what you’re reading and learning about—the more you read and absorb, the better you’ll become at understanding your client’s challenges, interests and strengths.

Ultimately, working in PR is entirely different from what you learn in university.

The best way to learn out here is to fully immerse yourself in your agency or your team, learn from them, know you won’t know everything at once (as frustrating as that is), and enjoy it because there’s really nothing like it!