The Blackboard – 5 lessons in PR not learned in the classroom

Not all learning happens in the classroom for public relations students.

Several internships, amazing mentors and some self-teaching prepared me for life after graduation. It was a lot of extra work but definitely worth it.

As a recent graduate here are a few lessons that I didn’t learn in the classroom.


The Role of Social Media – New technology unfortunately took the backseat in most of my PR classes at school. My internships showed me how to apply the more traditional skills learned to new media. There are opportunities to use social media press releases and pitch through Twitter.  Students are definitely missing out if they aren’t learning how to apply social media in their jobs. I hope that there is a shift first in professor attitude and secondly curriculum at universities.


You will Learn to Write in New Ways – I am thankful for the writing and journalism classes I took at Uni. I wrote for the school paper and all of those experiences were valuable. They taught me how to write better pitches and improved my writing overall. However, it was when I started working for other people I learned that I wouldn’t always be writing in that same structured format. I’ve learned that often you have to adopt the writing style to fit the culture of your company or client. Also, my writing has grown less formal in certain situations.


Value of Networking – Often it’s not what you know but who you know. Building my network and networking has given me so many opportunities as an undergraduate. Many students don’t realise this relationship building doesn’t start only in their final year of Uni. Relationships and contacts are fostered throughout the whole time you’re in school. One of the best books I’ve recently read is Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone.” I recommend it to any student, but especially a communications or business major.


How to Measure Results – I’m still learning this lesson. The importance of measuring results is huge and is applicable in several areas. How do you measure results online, how do you measure media coverage, how do you measure your success – the list goes on. I know that I’ll continue to face this theme through the rest of my career. The challenge of measuring results in social media is new challenge I face as a young professional. I realise now why I must show results to either my manager or client.


Importance Personal Branding (especially online) – I’m so thankful a mentor of mine told me to buy my own domain name before my senior year. I created an online portfolio with my writing samples and started blogging. Lessons in personal branding were definitely not taught in my PR classes but in a competitive job market they become important if you want to stand out. Final year students are required to create portfolios, why not encourage more students about ways to create an online version.

What valuable lessons did you take time to learn outside of the classroom as a student?


Hannah DeMilta is a recent graduate of Otterbein College, majoring in public relations. She currently works at the site manager and PR coordinator at Hannah is passionate about community service and learning about how we can use communications and technology for social good. Feel free to connect with her via LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @HannahDeMilta

4 Responses to “The Blackboard – 5 lessons in PR not learned in the classroom”
  1. What a great post – there’s some really good content here, I think another important lesson to add to this is manners.

    Saying thank-you to a colleague for proof-reading a press release, takes all of two seconds but can make a huge difference. As can bringing a treat for your team to share while brainstorming, anything from chips, candy, a round of coffees or even a bunch of flowers to brighten the office – it’s just little things like this within the workplace that can make a difference.

    As can sending a thank-you note to a journalist for running a story featuring your client or taking them out for a coffee – again it doesn’t cost much but the relationship value alone is worth millions.

    It’s elementary but unfortunately some people seem to neglect the basics far too often.

  2. Alison says:

    I totally agree with all 5 lessons here. I studied PR at Deakin University in Geelong and finished in 2007 – however networking was heavily pushed onto students (only in the last year though). I have to agree about social media, however it is such a fast moving technology – and new mediums come along so quickly – it would be hard to add to the ciriculum.

    The only thing covered in my degree about social media was facebook and Second Life (the avatar online world) – and here I am today using facebook, twitter, linkedIn, forums, galleries and more in my day-to-day duties.


  3. @pursuitcommunications – Great point. I think students sometimes forget to say ‘thank you’ to the people who help them because they think it’s just their professor or advisor’s job to help them (which is true) but saying thank you is still important. Good manners never go out of style!

    @Ali – I know what you mean about the difficulty of adding social media to the curriculum. I think my school is looking at the option of having a new class that can updated each year/changed quickly to accommodate new trends.

  4. Prue Robson says:

    Great post Hannah. As someone who’s doing some PR teaching this year, I’m definitely going to take these points on board and address them with my students.

    Social media is a hard one to teach because it moves so fast (and not all unis are up on encouraging students to use social media in the classroom because of privacy and potential legal issues), but I believe you can definitely encourage students to learn more about social media outside the classroom by reading blogs, watching campaigns and participating personally.

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