I recently sat down with Jasmine Roberts, a strategic communication lecturer from The Ohio State University, to talk about her experience working in public relations. Roberts graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies at the University of Michigan and received her master’s degree in communication at the University of Illinois.
Before working at OSU, Roberts previously worked in public relations in both the United States and Spain. In this interview, she discusses the importance of professionalism, social media and more.
Q: How do you maintain a work/life balance in PR?
A: I think that’s one of the major criticisms against the field because with PR we are expected to respond to situations and communicate them quickly to our various audiences. My recommendation is to prioritize in terms of what needs to be completed today and then move on to the next task. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed on a project.
Q: How do you maintain professionalism when you don’t get along with a co-worker or boss?
A: I think humility goes a long way. If you guys have to work together on a consistent basis, and you can sense that there’s tension, that’s going to show in your work and how effectively you guys collaborate. You’re just going to have to have that conversation and say you don’t want your differences to affect the quality of the project. Just be an adult about it.
Q: How has PR writing changed over the course of your career?
A: There’s a lot more web writing, content marketing, and a larger presence of social media influencers and trying to pitch to bloggers as opposed to traditional newspapers. We’re pitching to a variety of mediums now, not just newspapers or broadcast news stations. Now you’re seeing a pretty equal balance between the two.
Q: How has social media both benefited and challenged you as a PR professional?
A: I can communicate to more people in a shorter amount of time through social media if I create a post that’s engaging. I would say to answer the second part of your question, creating engaging content that really motivates your audience to do something is difficult because we are bombarded with so many messages every single day.
Q: What advice do you have for building and maintaining a positive relationship with journalists?
A: Always remember they’re human beings. Don’t reach out to them at 8 p.m. unless it’s breaking news. Be mindful of their schedule. Take them out to coffee and get to know them as a person. Incorporate that human touch to build the relationship.
Q: What is your advice for adopting the voice of the client you are writing for?
A: The key stakeholders should approve of the tone, the content, the style. It’s okay to ask questions and seek approval. It makes you look careful and cautious. Also, compare your tone to previous PR documents to make sure it’s consistent because you don’t want to throw people off.
If you’re a student interested in public relations, Roberts recommends knowing the basics of AP style and reading resources such as PRSA and PR News Daily to stay up-to-date on PR trends.
Shelby Stoddart is a third-year strategic communication major and professional writing minor. She hopes to pursue work in a public relations firm or advertising agency after graduation. She is currently an Account Executive on The PRactice for WELD and Columbus Birth & Parenting.