Back to School: 5 Ways to Continue Your PR Education Outside the Classroom

October 1, 2014

As PR professionals, it’s safe to say that most of us are lifelong learners. Between researching the latest social media trends to implement for an upcoming campaign or diving headfirst into complex research for a client, we’re constantly putting on our “student hats” for the betterment of our work and ourselves.

Continuing your PR education is important, especially for recent grads and new professionals looking to make a difference at work and reach ambitious career goals. However, if the thought of going back to school for a higher degree or certificate sounds a bit daunting right now, then consider the many alternatives that will help keep you sharp and in-the-know.

Here are five easy ways to continue your PR education without stepping foot in a classroom.

1. Attend PRSA events and other relevant networking/educational events in your city. Attending in-person and online networking and educational events is one of the best ways to further your PR education.

Get out of your comfort zone and seek out groups to join in your area. While attending PR events is a great idea, don’t be afraid to try out groups that aren’t solely focused on public relations.
Consider all of the topics that surround a communications pro on a daily basis and learn more about fields like marketing, advertising, entrepreneurship, content marketing, SEO and more to become a more well-rounded professional.

2. Read industry books and blogs.

One of the best ways to continue your PR education is by reading about the profession through books, blogs and newsletters. These tools are among my favorite ways to stay in the know because I’m able to get caught up and read at the time and pace that best suit my schedule and personality.

Looking for a great PR read? Here are a few favorites to add to your bookshelf: “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations” by Ronn Torossian, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional” by Deirdre Breakenridge and “Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age” by Gini Dietrich.

3. Listen to industry-related podcasts.

Have a long commute or need something to listen to on your next workout at the gym? Podcasts are quickly emerging as one of the best ways to consume content while on the go. Listening to podcasts while driving keeps me engaged, entertained, thinking and learning, all while I get from point A to point B.

Subscribe to these podcasts and add them to your iTunes playlist: Inside PR, The Work Talk Show, Jason Mollica’s JourneyCast, Duct Tape Marketing.

4. Set up coffee meetings with professionals you admire.

PR pros should constantly strive to meet new and interesting people to grow your network and develop strong relationships. Continue learning about public relations by setting up coffee meetings with people inside and outside your organization.

Why set up meetings with those who work in your organization? Taking the time to meet someone for lunch or coffee allows you to learn more about their background and pick up some tips for succeeding within your company. You’ll not only develop an ally within the organization, but you’ll also learn from their experiences.

Why set up meetings with those who don’t work within your company? The answer is pretty obvious, but growing your network, engaging with new people and seeking advice or education from those who’ve had different experiences than you have had can only be beneficial to your career. Plus, you never know where those relationships might lead.

Remember: These meetings don’t necessarily have to be limited to those who live in the same area as you. Don’t let geography limit who you can learn from — Skype meetings or Google Hangouts also count.

5. Experiment. Learn by doing.

One of the best ways to develop new skills and put your education to the test is by experimenting with what you’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to try new things or test out a new idea through experimentation.
Perhaps you are planning to implement a new content strategy for a client through blogging. Consider creating your own blog first to get a feel for blog design, developing an editorial calendar and regularly writing compelling content.

Similarly, if you’re interested in trying out Instagram’s new Hyperlapse feature for your company, then practice on your own account first to get a feel for the tool and learn how best to use it before trying it out at work.


Love Reading Blogs?

To keep the blogs you read organized, try using a tool like Pocket to save articles that you see online and want to read later, or Feedly to store all of your favorite blogs and receive a notification when there are updates.

Consider some of my favorite PR-related blogs to add to your reading list:
Spin Sucks
Communication Conversations
Solo PR Pro
The Edge (PRSA New Pros section blog

Jessica Lawlor
Jessica Lawlor is a PR professional and freelance writer in the Philadelphia area. Her work has been published on Ragan’s PR Daily, Muck Rack, Spin Sucks, Brazen Careerist, Mediabistro, Business Insider and AOL Jobs. She is the founder of the Get Gutsy Blog/Community where she encourages others to step outside their comfort zone to reach their goals and live a life that makes them truly happy.


Kellye Crane says:

Ongoing education and professional development is simply a job requirement for those of us in PR. The bonus is, continuous learning is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our jobs! Great reminders and resources here, and thanks for including Solo PR Pro on your list of favorites!

Oct. 2, 2014

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