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Real-Deal PR: Things You Can’t Learn in a Lecture Hall

The Influencers 180 Add to collection

INFLUENCER: Mercedez McManus talks the reality of PR from the eyes of a fourth-year US college intern

Real-Deal PR: Things You Can’t Learn in a Lecture Hall

I’m in my last year of university. This May, after four seemingly endless years of sitting in packed lectures and cramped classrooms, writing long papers and painstaking proposals, and giving presentation after presentation, I’ll be the proud owner of… a piece of paper (AKA my bachelor’s degree). However, over the past few months, having interned at a company for real, I feel that the few skills I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to pick up in the classroom could have been more thoroughly and naturally learned on the job. 

PR isn’t an exact science; it’s fluid, ever-changing, and fast-paced. Those working in this field need to keep up with rapidly evolving technology, trends and techniques, as well as juggle numerous projects and clients while sorting through relevant publications and contacts.

At university, by the time a new term starts, the set PR texts from the previous term are already outdated — things move quickly. There’s almost a futility to college learning in PR as it will always be second-hand to the information businesses are updating themselves with on a day-to-day basis. In either case it doesn’t stop – even for the most confused and stressed-out students (myself included - in both of those categories!).

But, for some reason, things are clearer in this wondrous, mystical land called ‘the real world’ 

For the past eight weeks, I have interned with LBB Lab, LBB’s B2B PR agency. This was my first actual experience with PR outside of university classes and extracurriculars - and I feel like I’ve learned far more than I ever could have from a lecturer or a student group. Instead of giving presentations on PR theory, I’ve been attending meetings and sitting in on client calls. I’ve started to really understand the business problems that PR can be applied to. Instead of being tasked to write a paper on influential figures in PR, I’ve been writing actual press releases and feature articles which help promote a business and its people. Instead of dreading waking up for morning lectures, I’ve been excited to come in at 9am and start doing actual work - work that genuinely affects people and their livelihoods.

And whilst I may seem fresh to PR in the advertising industry, I think there are three main practical things that have stood out to me about PR between creative companies in the advertising business:

• Whilst many companies are adept at communicating for their clients, they struggle to define their own voice in the market.

• There are no set rules - every company needs its own strategy and approach to PR communications.

• Several companies haven’t tried PR-ing themselves at all, which usually means that their overall presence and reputation is virtually non-existent within the industry. (If an Ad Airs and No One Knows You Worked on It, Does It Make A Sound?)

But the biggest thing I’ve realised about practical PR is that it isn’t about sticking to rigid guidelines and reciting theories; it’s about understanding people and their businesses and what they should be communicating to prospective clients and industry peers. It can be done without it costing a fortune or becoming overly complicated. As PR people in the industry, we gain the resources, the contacts, and the knowledge needed to shine a light on those cloudy things some companies struggle to understand. We are here to impart our knowledge and pursue ways of giving voices to the seemingly voiceless.

I’m very lucky to have attended university and received a solid education, but I consider myself even luckier to take actual experience with me through the beginning of my professional career. Maybe I’ll even help you or your organisation out one day. 


Mercedez McManus studies PR at Boston University and is a PR Intern at LBB Lab.

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LBB Lab, Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:48:56 GMT