Saturday, March 27, 2010
Your Career and You: Professional or Practitioner?
I just watched a video generously shared by Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, in which public relations pro Fraser Seitel discusses the attributes that are the mark of a true public relations professional.
The attributes that Fraser highlights are exactly what I emphasize to each and every one of my public relations students at Curry College each and every day of the week... ethical and honest actions, understanding of management's needs and expectations, and a broad knowledge of current events...don't all come naturally or easily.
If you are a Communication major at Curry College, you certainly will get an introduction to the public relations profession, especially if you choose to concentrate in that area (I get a good mix of other majors and concentrations in my courses as well!), but you need to take it one step further by continuing to learn as you move out into professional life.
All this came full circle this past week as I found myself involved up to my eyebrows in three back-to-back public relations programs, two on the Curry campus, and one in Boston for the PRSA Boston chapter.
The first program was the monthly meeting of the Curry College PR Student Association, a wonderful group of young future professionals who take advantage of every possible opportunity to learn from the experts. This week's program featured P.J. Foster, senior account executive at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, who discussed her work in crisis communications at Rasky...and the path she took to get where she is today. For the students, this was a mind-boggling glimpse into the future.
Then, the next night, I served as moderator for a PRSA Boston/PRSSA regional event, "Your Career in Public Relations: An Insider's Guide to Preparing for...and Finding...Your First Job." Nearly 50 public relations students from five Boston-area colleges and universities came to Curry for a panel discussion featuring five highly-respected PR pros followed by break-out sessions in which the students could meet one-on-one with someone from their area of interest for more questioning...and learning.
Finally, on the third night, I was moderator for a PRSA Boston chapter program entitled "PR+CSR=Respect: An Insider's Guide to Effective CSR Campaigns." The speakers represented some of Boston's most highly-respected companies and consulting firms involved in the Corporate Social Responsibility space. Attendees represented healthcare, consulting, publishing, technology, investor relations, financial services...a wide range of industry areas.
The point of all this is, simply, as Fraser says so eloquently in the video, if you want to win a seat at the management table, you must build a solid knowledge base through college studies, by taking courses to increase your expertise in a particular area, by interacting with and learning from subject-matter experts in your organization's specialty...by participating regularly and diligently in opportunities that will increase your understanding of and ability to represent your client's or employer's business.
So what is the difference between a "professional" and a "practitioner," you ask? Well, I would argue simply that the professional can be found participating in all or many of the activities I describe above...enhancing his or her knowledge base.
The professional is that individual on whom senior management relies to guide the company through difficult times and to maintain ongoing, supportive relationships with key stakeholders.
The practitioner writes the newsletters, crafts the media releases, and organizes the events.
Which are you???