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Relationships the Classroom Doesn't Teach You About

By: Cary Lynn Nabors

Throughout my public relations classes in college, I’ve constantly heard “PR is about building relationships.” However, one thing the classroom did not teach me is how many relationships there are in a PR firm and what goes into maintaining them. My internship at JDPR has revealed important relationships that I didn’t even know were necessary to keep a PR firm going. How do we go through classes not learning important things like these? I think it speaks to the value of supplementing instruction with internships so you can learn as much as you can.


Vendor Relationships: Sometimes, your client has needs that can’t be met inside the walls of your office, and you have to hire a vendor to assist in areas outside an agency’s core service offerings. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes, especially in a smaller firm, you need to hire artists or videographers to do the best job for your client. When this happens, a PR pro has to take off the vendor hat and wear the client hat, which is a transition I thought PR firms never had to do. Your mentality has to change, the way you talk and how you do your job change because it’s a different relationship. Once you observe these transitions and practice them yourself they make sense, but practice makes perfect and that’s what an internship gives you that the classroom doesn’t.


Nontraditional Media: Who would’ve thought we would be at a point where bloggers can have more of an influence than a media outlet? Blogging has become a huge deal and, at times, PR firms are targeting them as often as news outlets. We briefly mentioned bloggers in my classes, but we never talked about how you have to pitch and approach them differently than traditional media. They do not necessarily view things like a journalist, and you need to pitch them like you would a friend. Once you build those relationships, you can be very candid with them. Should you exclusively pitch nontraditional media? No, but you should not leave them out because they can have a strong influence.


Potential Clients: We never talked in my classes about how PR firms reach new clients. Searching for potential clients is not a one-time deal; it’s an ongoing process that never stops. Interestingly, agencies look for new business without pulling resources away from their existing clients. Hunting for new business is an exciting part of the agency world. There is never a guarantee that you’ll get every client you pitch, but regardless it’s a great way to show the agency’s chops and expand.


Although I learned about these in the workforce and not the classroom, I don’t feel that the classroom isn’t doing a good job. I learned so much in college to help me be a better intern, but the classroom couldn’t teach me everything and I’m thankful for my experience at JDPR to help me grow.