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Public Relations: the Next Generation?

Big public relations departments, small companies on tight budgets, and boutiques looking to keep costs down — these are just some of the places that young and inexperienced employees can thrive in the world of public relations. Keeping costs low is important; sometimes that means hiring rookies instead of veterans. But without proper training, a public relations department risks destroying important relationships and endangering opportunities for publicity. Here are some tips for budding public relations reps and the firms that employ them.

1. The Buddy System. Pair a new employee with a veteran and let osmosis takeover. As a journalist, I learned just by sitting near three veteran reporters. I watched them deal with sources, editors, public relations contacts, copy editors, and the Fed Ex guy. Make your newer employees take notes, and tell them not to be afraid to ask questions.

2. Don’t Throw Them to the Wolves. Do not give a new employee a call list and tell them to start pitching journalists. It doesn’t work, and it will demoralize them. Let new employees watch veterans pitch journalists, or even have newbies role play with older employees. Even someone with a year or two of experience in the public relations field can use a little time role playing. It doesn’t do you or your client any good to have a new employee waste a perfectly good call list just because you need to put someone to work.

3. Teach Them How to Write. Have new employees look at how companies like IBM, General Electric, Disney, and AOL Time Warner write press releases. These are big time outfits who won’t just put any piece of junk on news wires. If a public relations rep can’t write out the pitch, how are they going to verbalize it?

4. Spend A Little Money. Find a journalist who needs some cash and pay them to teach the trade to new employees and veterans alike. Any journalist who hasn’t won a Pulitzer is usually willing to spend an hour or two talking to your staff for a few hundred bucks. You’d be surprised how open journalists can be when they’re being paid in a private setting.

5. Weed Out the Garbage. Hiring qualified employees is a tiring and difficult process, but it’s obviously important. There are always a lot of solid public relations pros looking for work. Find them and get rid of your dead weight.

6. Teach Them How to Quantify. Public relations is a quantifiable expense and your employees should know that. New employees need to understand that every phone call they make is money spent. They need to see cause and effect, action and reaction. They need to be taught accountability and consequence. When you get paid to do a job, you’re expected to perform. Just because you can’t make a straight-line connection between public relations and revenue doesn’t mean that there isn’t a connection. Make them understand this.

In public relations, as with any field, there are also quality new employees and lazy veterans. But companies that hire younger employees and refuse to take the time to train them are throwing their money away. Think about this before you let that 22-year-old pick up the phone.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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