What I didn’t learn about PR in college

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  • June 2, 2016
  • Abby O'Connor

During my final semester at college as a PR major, I was simultaneously interning at INK. The contrast between my PR education at school and at work fascinated me. I was constantly learning, but in very different ways, every other day as I transitioned back and forth between student and employee.

My coursework covered everything from high-level campaign planning to the nitty gritty details of copywriting and AP style. It prepared me to work well on teams – lead them even – and meet strict deadlines. Above all, it provided me with the tools and theory behind being an effective communicator.

But it wasn’t until I arrived at INK, literally my first day, that I realized there was a major area school hadn’t covered: pitching the media. Pitching the media! What’s PR without pitching? In fear that I was the only one who missed this lesson, I consulted with the other recent college grads in the office who attended universities across the country. We were all in the same boat.

I won’t go so far as to say they didn’t touch on the fact that, as PR professionals, we would be interacting with journalists. That’s PR 101, of course we learned about that. I knew to be aware of their deadlines, contact them through their preferred medium, and not to send flowers as a thank you gift for coverage (because that’s weird). But I never once drafted a pitch.

If you’ve opened another tab in your browser to google what pitching is, let me save you some time. PR pros pitch story ideas and announcements to the appropriate media sources in order to help their clients get included in articles. When done well, and proactively, these pitches are personalized and relevant to a specific journalist or media contact. Stories they’ll want to cover.

So here are some ways you can learn about pitching if you’re still in college:

  1. Get an awesome internship that exposes you more to “real world” PR and everything that comes with it. Listen, observe, ask questions, and hone your skills.
  2. Go to your professors’ office hours and chat with them about the ins and outs of pitching. They’re pros themselves, so who better to ask?
  3. Conduct your own research on the topic. You’ll be much more prepared to take on your first internship or job in a PR agency if you at least have a basic understanding of the process. One of my favorite searches is “successful media pitch example,” or on the flip side, it can be helpful (and a little bit funny) to read through pitching mistakes. Finally, I’d recommend digging into some great INK advice and the approach we take to pitching.

As valuable as college is, there’s always so much more to learn about your chosen industry – even some of the basics. But that’s the beauty of internships; they’re the perfect supplement to your college coursework. They’re the yin to your major’s yang. Take your education beyond the classroom and I guarantee you’ll walk away from college feeling so much more prepared to take on the real world.