PR in the time of COVID-19: A word to the wise for entry-level practitioners
In the COVID-19 era, communication has played a key role in protecting public health and mitigating the side effects of this global crisis. Like many professions, the PR industry has had to pivot to meet its publics' dynamic needs. As the industry rapidly evolves, what skills will aspiring PR professionals need to be effective team members?
Gain media and research literacy
In 2020, reaching your audience has never been more complicated. Media channels are clogged with user-generated content and misinformation, and practitioners are tasked with understanding numerous technological tools that will help them build relationships with their publics.
Time and resources among journalists have shifted to meet the needs of the COVID-19 situation. They are not only trying to propagate the science and factual conversation about the disease but also working against accumulating misinformation. According to a Pew Research Study, only 3 out of 10 Americans feel that they could confidently fact check news about COVID-19. PR teams can assist journalists by having strong media literacy and considering reporters' changing priorities and beats. To do this, they must align the angle of their narrative with that of the media. According to PR Daily, another great way to combat this is by relying on owned media channels.
In addition to dominating the media coverage, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformations. With distance learning and working from home becoming a staple in many households, technology will continue to integrate with our daily lives. For PR practitioners, more technology means more research software and reliance on big data. San Diego State University Professor Dr. Hongmei Shen notes, "literacy in research will help students stand out. PR is not only a creative art but also a rigorous science. The sooner students realize this, the better chances they will have in today's job market."
Determine how to position your client in the conversation
During this time, it is pivotal to think about your company's objectives and how it lays into the world's current situation. Alexis Hopper, SDSU alumni and account coordinator at Allison + Partners, works in Real Estate for the agency. She highlighted that the real estate industry has shifted the conversation to ideas around reopening commercial infrastructure and repurposing empty office spaces to fight against the novel coronavirus. In other words, PR practitioners need to ensure that their pitches are relevant to the journalists they target.
Chase your opportunities and cultivate your relationships
Before joining the workforce, practitioners and PR professors point to organizations and internships as a great way to prepare for success. Other options include fellowships, networking events and cultivating a broad network. During the pandemic, people have discovered that connecting is easier than ever before. "People in the industry have realized how easy it is to connect over Zoom. It is so easy to access people for jobs or advice,, says Hopper. With this increase in accessibility, students can reach out to multiple thought leaders and senior colleagues to pick their brains.
Fight the imposter syndrome
When starting in any position, it is easy to distrust your ability and skills. This imposter syndrome can often compromise our ability to take on projects and achieve goals. Hopper, originally surprised by the authorization she was given to work on different assignments, noted that "the trust that your employer has in you is because they want you and believe in you."
By Makenna Millham
Makenna is a fourth-year PR student from the Bay Area. She has experience interning with the communications and PR teams at a major tech company and held the VP PR and Marketing position when she was involved with her sorority. Post-graduation, Makenna hopes to work for an agency that prioritizes sustainability.