Last weekend, a group of PR students from the OU PRSSA chapter had the opportunity to visit agencies and in-house communication teams in one of the nation's fastest-growing industry hubs and the self-proclaimed 'New York City of the South': Dallas. After decades of oil and cotton, the city's hottest commodity today seems to be innovative communication agencies and a pool of talented PR graduates coming from the most esteemed colleges across the countries. Below I listed a couple of the things we learned from talking to CCOs, recruiters and interns.
Everywhere we went, influencer marketing was the word of the hour. From the big players to small-size integrated agencies, nobody wanted to live without the endorsement of celebrities, bloggers or community influencers. Especially micro-influencers, 'normal' people with a social media following of about 4 to 10k, are the new darlings of the PR industry. Or as the communication manager of an international convenience store chain puts it, "Customers want real recommendations from real people." For current PR students and recent grads, acquiring tangible skills like pitching and social media monitoring will definitely come in handy as brand activation and influencer marketing are here to stay.
Listening to recruiters and employees, a deciding factor that seems to have moved into the center of every hiring conversation is company culture. Whereas in the past companies and employers have tried to bait talent with good pay and the prospects of a corner office, today it is all about flat hierarchies and quirky office perks. But don't be quick to assume that all millennials care about is free snacks and bean bags. Employees tend to value the more practical perks, like the access to gyms, nursing rooms, and napping stations, more than fancy break rooms with ball pits and ping pong tables. In the end, it's all about enabling people to do their best work and make sure they don't mind putting in extra hours. Not sure how to inquire about an agency's culture? Ask people what makes them excited about coming to work every day. Usually, you'll get the most honest answers when not asking directly.
Agency vs. In-House
Ah, the eternal struggle. What's the right choice for me? Talking to people in both fields, it's not an either/or question, instead recruiters today expect graduates to have experience in both fields. Right out of college, it is okay to start out in a place or industry that's comfortable to you, but by the time that first big job rolls around, you want to make sure you have both agency and in-house under your belt. Some recruiters even go so far to require candidates to have basic journalistic experience. But don't stress. Whether you see yourself in an agency working on multiple projects at once or need that full in-house emersion into one brand or company, it is okay to decide against one or the other at some point in your career. Listen to your gut.
Internships and Resumes
Some of the most asked questions during the trip circled around the 'perfect' intern or resume. While our hosts had differing views on resumes, almost all shared the same vision for their interns. "We look for people that are proactive and don't shy away from asking questions," says one agency recruiter. "I want to be able to hand you a project and not have to think about it again until the deadline. But if you have questions, don't sit at your desk and quietly drown. The people on your team usually don't mind helping you out."
Most places we visited are open to welcoming unconventional majors, like economics and English literature, so it is becoming more and more important for traditional PR and communication majors to set themselves apart. Just don't jump to the conclusion that a flashy, over-the-top resume is the way to go. The majority of recruiters we talked to preferred simpler versions with easy-to-read fonts and less color. However, that preference might vary if you're applying for more creative jobs, like graphic design. The key takeaway is to be confident in your design choice and make it work for you. "If you want to do it all hot pink because Elle Woods is your role model, then, by all means, go for it," says one recruiter. "Just don't be wishy-washy, you'll get lost in the middle."