Current students and recent grads discuss how new media has impacted their entry into PR.
Less than half of recently graduated and current students looking to go into PR keep a blog, but nearly 75% of them are confident they understand the PR opportunities in social media, according to a July 2008 PRWeek survey conducted through the PRSSA's Facebook Group.
Only 36 (46%) of the 78 students surveyed maintain a blog or multiple blogs, but 74% say they know how to use social media applications in a PR deployment.
"I'm not worried about the new-media [aspects of the job]; it's easy to pick it up," says Rachel Esterline, who is entering her junior year at Central Michigan University and maintains two PR-related blogs. "Blogging helps me learn more about the industry."
Students tell PRWeek that they've grown up with social media and are active users of many tools like Facebook, blogs, and YouTube.
"Our generation has more of a natural ability as far as social networks go," says Joann Ceasar, a 2008 graduate of Alabama State University. "A lot of us are interested in what's happening next [online]. As soon as something popular comes up, we adapt to it quickly."
Esterline adds that her use of blogs in a career-oriented setting have put her in contact with PR pros.
"I actually have had discussions with current working professionals," she reports. "I read people's blogs about PR. [One] guy commented on what I had written [on my blog]. It's nice to be in that conversation. They don't have to know that I'm only 20."
"Students may feel that we're expected to know more about social media," says Cecilia Hughes, a Porter Novelli intern entering her senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University. "Not everyone does, but, for the most part, our generation is technologically savvy."
Hughes expects that future employers and their young staffers would teach each other in a give-and-take manner. "They will teach me how to become a better professional," she notes. "I may teach them about building a Web site or launching a blog."
Despite the pressure on students to understand the new media environment, only 41% have taken a new media-focused class at school. Of respondents, 61% have had an internship, with 59% of those saying they were asked to assist with new media work.
When asked what their biggest career concern was, 27% said they worried they would be expected to know more about new media than they do. More respondents worried about more traditional matters.
"One of my biggest concerns is [fostering] relationship with reporters," Esterline admits. "They can have an influence on my workload and can make it hard for me if they want to."
For a virtual roundtable of PR students discussing industry matters, visit prweekus.com/careerguide.