Teaching the next generation of PR professionals

February 1, 2018 • 5 minute read

When deciding to declare a public relations major, I didn’t have a sense of where it would lead me. I just knew it presented a lot of exciting possibilities and I was determined to find a job at one of the best places to work in PR.

Would I work for a range of beauty lines at a PR firm? Would I represent a budding tech startup in-house? Would I delve into the entertainment industry?

In retrospect, working for some of the top law firms in the country wasn’t at the top of my list—at least not at the beginning. I didn’t even know such a job existed.

But that’s where professors responsible for teaching the next generation of aspiring public relations professionals come in. Introducing students to the wide array of sectors that the profession has to offer, while ensuring they are prepared to navigate the constantly shifting demands of the industry, is something that LoriBeth Greenan knows well. She is Professional Lecturer of Public Relations at Marist College, where I was fortunate enough to be taught by her.

Before beginning her career as a professional lecturer, Greenan served as  Senior Director at lifestyle firm Turner PR, where she led new business outreach, working with a team to nearly double the company’s revenue by expanding the client roster with large national brands. Prior to Turner, she served as Senior Account Supervisor at Ruder Finn, where she constructed successful national campaigns for such brands such as Eddie Bauer, K-Swiss, Airwalk, The North Face and Levi’s. She received a master’s degree from New York University in the public relations and corporate communication program and taught as a lecturer at NYU before coming to Marist in 2012.

I recently reconnected with Greenan to discuss advice she gives students who are preparing to enter the field.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for your students when translating what they learn in the classroom to a job in public relations?

In order to be a success in PR, it is vital that a publicist make valuable relationships with clients, the media and influencers. Although this can be discussed in the classroom — and carried out with clients in a class like Campaign Management at Marist, where students work with real brands to build campaigns — I do believe managing client relations can be a hurdle for some as they start out. Getting accustomed to building and cultivating those relationships from the start of their careers makes for earlier success.

What are the most important qualities that a student should possess when pursuing a career in PR?

Determination. A will to go beyond what is asked. Not in the sense of taking on too much and being overwhelmed, but in the sense of showing interest in the work and wanting to take a stab at things in order to grow.

How do you go about introducing students to the different types of jobs in public relations (B2B, consumer, professional services, etc.)?

I bring a lot of professionals into my classrooms. I believe that when a professional shares real experiences with students that the students connect with the work and sometimes can see where the lessons fit into the real-world aspects of the profession. With these guest lecturers and Skype sessions, students are able to connect with people in all different industries who tackle different aspects of public relations each day. I get great feedback from students and many times see internships and jobs come from those connections and those common bonds and interests.

What piece of advice would you give to students who are considering a niche area of public relations like the professional services sector?

Be confident. Find support from your peers.

Many times, a recent graduate will circle back to me after working in a position after a few months. They can feel inadequate because they are new to the job and others around them seem like veterans who know everything about everything. Although those veterans might be well-versed in their specialty, that was not always the case. At one point they were newcomers, too.

I have found that people are understanding and will want to help and will take the time to make a new employee feel comfortable in the job. Being confident in what you do well is important, and asking questions will only make you better.

When advising students on pursuing careers in PR, what are the most important aspects to look for in a company?

Cultural fit. That is always my answer when students ask me where they should apply. I tell them to do a lot of research on the firms: the accounts, the people, the work environment, the social media, etc. Find a company that makes sense to you and that fits with what you like. Although the first job may not be the forever job, I truly believe that feeling comfortable in your first job helps you grow. A good cultural fit helps foster that growth.

A number of your former students currently work at Infinite Global. Why do you think students have been successful with our company?

Leadership. I believe the leadership team at Infinite Global is top-notch and understands the importance of their commitment to their employees. They are also very smart and bring that knowledge to the Marist alum so they learn, grow and mature with the company. We have a strong PR curriculum at Marist and I believe that Infinite Global appreciates the foundation we provide to students and naturally brings them to the next steps in their career. I value the work Infinite Global does and am overjoyed that our students have found homes at such a reputable agency.

Interested in a career in PR? Infinite Global is one of PR News’ Top Places to Work in PR. Check out the job opening for a junior account executive in our San Francisco office.