Spring semester is when most COM students are hunting for their summer internship, trying to secure their place at an advertising agency, local newspaper, or PR firm. It can be scary not knowing what to expect. For some, this is their first real job in communications. To help relieve some of the tension, COM alumnus Andy Slaughter, who is a public relations specialist at Burson-Marsteller, has three insider notes about working in corporate PR.
“I love PR because you can’t really put a value on crisis management, and there is no cap to your potential as a professional.” – Andy Slaughter
1. Keep all deadlines. Public relations is fast paced. You’re going to be working long hours, and you’ll have to juggle multiple tight deadlines. “Your internal teams are going to be relying on you to keep all your deadlines,” Slaughter said. “Usually, their work hinges on yours, and projects can’t progress without your input. You’re also going to have clients who demand your attention, and since they pay the bills, you need to keep them happy. Clients always have their own deadlines, protocols, and way of doing things. Work for their schedule.”
2. Always have a plan. A crisis can happen at any moment, and as a PR professional, prepared to tackle any situation. Slaughter said to scan the news throughout the day, as well as gauge public opinion and current trends through social media. He also points out that a crisis isn’t always a PR nightmare. It can be as simple as a reporter not giving the right angle on an article, or a client needing you to fix an internal dispute. “Companies have protocols for a crisis that you’ll need to follow,” Slaughter said. “Planning requires an in-depth knowledge of your company’s audience, and knowing the internal players you’ll need to meet with. It’s also important you know which company representative talks to what outlet. Crisis management is about timing. Your job is to time everything perfectly.”
3. Be accountable. It’s important to be accountable, reliable, and honest when you’re doing work and how much work you’re doing. “I create spreadsheets to log my times,” Slaughter said. “I write down my day starting at 8 to 8:15 a.m. Every 15 minutes, I take a second to see how much work I’ve gotten done, and decide if this project will take up another chunk of my time. If it does, then I keep working through the break and record it when I’m finished. I think the best way to be accountable and efficient is to be organized.”
This hectic and meticulous lifestyle might seem daunting, but, for Slaughter, the work is well worth the effort. The first three years at an agency are filled with sleepless nights and long hours, Slaughter said, but he loved every second of it. “PR is exciting, challenging, and strategic,” Slaughter said. “Every day is a new problem, and working in that environment will keep you sharp and focused. The people I work with are amazing and inspire me to be my best. I love PR because you can’t really put a value on crisis management, and there is no cap to your potential as a professional.”
Christopher Lourie, Staff Writer
Christopher Lourie is a junior in COM studying advertising. His passions are competitive cheese sculpting and spork fishing. He has been a blacksmith for several years. His ultimate dream is to be the first man to step foot in the center of the earth.