What I've learnt as a PR tutor

Melinda Rogers Very Media

I don’t know how my prospective students were feeling, but I was a bundle of nerves on my first day as a university tutor.

Arriving at Queensland University of Technology’s School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, I had no idea what to expect.

I mean, I knew I had the professional skills and knowledge after working in various journalism, communications and public relations roles for the past 10 years. And I’ve faced some tough crowds before. Still, I was convinced my toughest assignment yet was the room full of undergraduate students I was about to meet.

I’m certainly not PR it-girl Roxy Jacenko with her following of 200,000-plus on Instagram, and I’m not the CEO of a multi-million dollar company.

So, what did I have to offer? How could I make an impact, even a small one, in the lives of these students?

Well, here’s what I’ve learnt in the past few months and I hope there’s more to come.

Misconceptions are real

The misconceptions about the PR industry are real. It’s difficult enough at the best of times to explain PR and why it's important to people. But I was facing a class of eager newcomers.

I started my first class by asking my students why they chose to study PR. It’s no surprise that the most common answers were:

-    “I love Roxy Jacenko. I’d love to live the life she does.”

-    “Samantha Jones from Sex and the City has the best job in the world.”

-    “I want to be a boss babe.”

-    “I just thought it might be interesting.”

A little worrying at first? Yes, there's more to PR than meet the eye, but at least there was some interest in the first place. 

The future is bright for the public relations industry

The great news is my students are a bright and friendly bunch. Most were really engaged and willing to learn. It meant that travelling up the dreaded M1 to Brisbane for a one-hour class wasn’t ever a chore; I looked forward to class.

As I settled into life as a tutor, it was easy to draw on my experiences to explain certain areas of the PR world.

The most important message I wanted to convey was this: despite the PR industry constantly changing, our writing and storytelling skills will always be the basis of everything we do as professionals.

It’s all about knowing how to adapt those skills to meet the needs of the varying roles a PR practitioner takes on. These roles include content creation, environmental scanning, people management, corporate social responsibility, stakeholder engagement, media relations and interpreting data and analytics.

However, the knowledge, skills and abilities of the brightest and best PR people will always evolve, which is why I’m confident the future is in good hands with the calibre of talented students now progressing through their degrees.

You do have an impact

It’s that notion of adaptability that I tried to instil in my students. That and a passion for the industry. After all, how can I inspire future PR practitioners to enter the industry if it’s one I don’t love myself?

I’m pleased to report that after 10 years of news writing, interviewing celebrities, shaping stories, media advising and adapting to the digital revolution, I’m still as dedicated as the first day I walked into a newsroom. I’m excited to wake up and start work.

My tutoring experience has shown me that being excited about what you do, and sharing what you’ve learnt along the way, can be invaluable in helping students choose their future career paths.

That’s what inspires me to inspire them. And as I teach, I find I am learning too. That shared connection is a great lesson.