July 31, 2019
Social Hot, Resumes Not: A PR Prof on the Next Generation of Practitioners
College students angling for a job in PR can basically forget about their resumes – nobody cares about them anymore.
So says Ron Culp, professional director of DePaul University’s Graduate Public Relations and Advertising Program (PRAD). According to Culp, prospective employers are more likely to find his students through LinkedIn. “That’s why it’s crucial to update your profile and make sure you’ve got your 500-plus connections,” he says.
Culp dished this advice during a recent Q&A session about the evolving media landscape at Greentarget’s Chicago office. The veteran PR pro – Culp led media relations at Sara Lee Corporation and Sears, among other places – dropped by as part of our speaker series.
While piling up more than 500 LinkedIn connections might seem daunting, Culp says the significance they have for college students is indicative of the many ways the industry has changed in recent years.
Case in point, PRAD, which Culp joined early this decade, has moved from a traditional textbook-driven program to one that prioritizes real-world experience. About 80 percent of the PRAD faculty previously had full-time jobs in advertising or public relations and guest speakers appear regularly, so the students get first-hand insights into how the public relations world works outside of academia.
“For most of my classes, I take my students to corporations and agencies in person,” Culp says. “We’ll sit down and brainstorm with the agency – maybe they’ve got an idea they’d like to kick around that they’d like some good millennial perspective on.”
“For many of the students, it’s the first time they really see what their career progression might be. Invariably, someone will say, ‘That – I want that job.’”
As they shift away from textbooks, Culp instead asks students to find and share real-world examples that reflect particular lessons (which he provides in advance). He then has his students share those examples online and discuss them.
Culp also shared his observations about how students are consuming news. “They get everything from their mobile – and they’re very selective about what they read,” he says. He added that traditional media still resonates though and that knowing your audience has never been more important.
After content has been created and published, it becomes more important than ever to drive engagement – for news organizations and businesses alike. “If you have a client base that understands what you’re trying to do, you can maximize coverage by building an influencer program,” Culp says. “People used to think they didn’t have the resources, but now they’re realizing how easy it is to do.”
One thing that has remained constant: Culp says students are still primarily interested in working for an agency and less interested in working in-house. “Most students want to work at the big agencies in town,” he says. “But there are 465 agencies in Chicago, so I say, don’t necessarily feel like you have to work at one of the big 10.”
We ended the conversation by asking Culp what we at Greentarget could do, particularly in our internship program, to make sure we’re as welcoming to the next generation of PR practitioners as possible. Culp’s advice, which he directed to the industry as a whole: Prioritize inclusion and diversity.
“Forty percent of my students are diverse students – they are concerned that they’re being set up for failure because they’re not being managed well,” he says. “We need to create programs to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and can see themselves in an agency.”