Pierpont Executive Council Terry Hemeyer recently spoke to a group of student leaders representing schools from multiple states at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Southwest District Conference.
At the Pierpont-sponsored event, hosted at Sam Houston State University – The Woodlands Center, Hemeyer talked to the aspiring public relations professionals about how the industry has changed, how to get a job in PR and some important skills that all industry professionals should possess.
There are more opportunities within the PR industry today, Hemeyer said, due to the amount of disruption and innovation. But with opportunity comes action, especially when it comes to crisis.
“Everything is warp speed,” Hemeyer said. “You don’t have time to go home and come back the next day and figure out what you’re going to do. Crises don’t happen between eight and five. They happen on Christmas day [and] they happen at two in the morning. There’s no timetable on those. We are now on call seven days a week.”
Despite major changes and new trends within the industry, Hemeyer said PR is still needed to do four things: help build brands, maintain brands, protect brands and, if necessary, rebuild a brand after facing a crisis.
“We are in charge of what to say, when to say it and ‘who’s our audience?’” Hemeyer said. “Those haven’t changed in years. It’s just different techniques and different technologies.”
Hemeyer also gave the students some tips on how to land a PR job across the numerous disciplines within the industry. He included the basics, like being proactive and doing research on prospective employers, and also talked about resumes, saying they should be customized for each job and limited to one page. Social networking sites like LinkedIn can also be important during the job search.
“Think of it as your business card,” Hemeyer said.
The remaining time of Hemeyer’s 40 minutes on stage focused on key skills that PR professionals need to be successful, emphasizing the importance of learning many of them before graduating college. Knowing how to write well, think critically, work in a team and network effectively are some of the crucial aspects of working in PR. Other highlights included:
- Be well-rounded. Get interdisciplinary in college by taking more than just PR classes (business classes can be especially helpful). When you join a firm, move around to different disciplines at the agency to learn as much as you can.
- Be well-read. It is important to understand all sides of an issue or current event. Understand what each side is saying and why they are saying it.
- Have “the hide of an elephant.” Being able to deal with rejection is important. You will have a lot of great ideas but not all of them will be used. Be the person that does not care who gets the credit because, in the end, you will be the person that gets promoted.
Ultimately, Hemeyer said it is important to do the simple things right when you first start a job, such as being on time, having a strong work ethic and doing more listening than talking.
The PR veteran emphasized that in crisis management, PR professionals need to be the calmest person in the room. However, Hemeyer gave his audience one warning before leaving the podium.
“If you can’t take stress, don’t get into PR,” he said.
Jack Holmes is an intern at Pierpont Communications, who provides PR and marketing solutions to clients in energy, healthcare, retail and more. Since joining the Pierpont team in January 2020, he has supported the firm and our clients with efforts in public relations, public affairs, marketing and social media, digital content creation, and crisis management.