I was asked to speak to the 2013 graduating class of RMIT's Bachelor of Communication (PR) recently. As a graduate of RMIT's PR degree back in 1995, I spoke about my career path to date and shared some of my learning gleaned over the years.
So for any PR hopeful, here's some advice:
Be a great writer; focus on your technical ability to analyse, understand, write, edit and proof. This skill is the core of your profession. It is hugely valuable and very necessary. From experience, it is also not easy to find.
Mediums are changing and PR people need to be good at long form writing for annual reports and strategic documents as well as understanding well-crafted, purposeful conversation on Twitter.
Be a questioner; clients might want to get media coverage but it's important to understand what they want to achieve. Being in the paper may not give the organisation the outcome they really need. If they need to grow their business, perhaps a more direct form of communication should be developed. If they know their audience, direct engagement is far more powerful than mass media. Show them that PR is about thinking and strategy.
Be focused on respectful long term relationships; you will be asked to do things that may not be for the good of community or long term reputation building. Think of your client's brand and important relationships for your career. Stand strong and understand the nature of public relations -- it's about relationships, stupid! Strong, long term relationships are based on trust and respect.
In all the work you do, keep in mind that we are the guardians and builders of good reputations including yours and the reputation of the public relations profession.