Inspiring Young Talent to the PR Discipline: One (or More) at a Time

July  22,  2013 / By Bryan Harris

Three or four times a year, I speak to groups of college students or recent graduates about career opportunities in the public relations discipline. Most of the students I meet are considering a career in sports business or marketing, but very few have public relations in their consideration set. The reason is simple and, unfortunately, all too prevalent: they know little or nothing about PR and what they have been fed is largely off base, outdated, misconceived  — or all of the above.

So when I sit down, stand up, or begin pacing about the room before these curious (or frequently skeptical) young people, I declare, with full disclosure, my mission for the evening:  to motivate at least one individual in the room to consider a career path in public relations. If Taylor is the right fit for them, that’s great, but it’s not the end game.  I just want to ensure that there are more intelligent, motivated, talented young men and women who are informed about our industry and encouraged to pursue a lasting career in all that it offers. After three decades as a public relations professional, I consider it an obligation – one that I enjoy and embrace.

Recently, I spoke to a group of about two dozen students enrolled in the Manhattan Sports Business Academy summer internship program.  I began with my usual spiel about how and why I built my career in public relations, but I extended my opening diatribe a little longer than usual. Thirty years in the industry has provided me with a very valuable asset – perspective – and I wanted to share some of that with the group during our brief time together. Such perspective offers a window into the dynamic shift that I and so many others have experienced in our discipline over the past few decades. It was a perfect segue into my discourse about Taylor and how we have evolved so dramatically as an agency to better meet the challenges and demands of our client base — the world’s leading brand marketers.

From the questions and comments that ensued, I had clearly struck a chord with quite a few of the students. Afterward, the feedback was even more telling – and encouraging.  One young man, a rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill (we never used terms like “rising” when I was in school; today’s generation of college students certainly appears bolder and more assertive), approached me and began asking questions about the merits of exploring a career opportunity with the likes of a McKinsey vs. a public relations agency like Taylor (I modestly counseled him to get a few good years in at McKinsey and then come knocking on our door). Another student was wide-eyed about the opportunities in digital and social media that PR has to offer and talked my ear off about a social influencer program he is managing during his internship.

In the days that followed, I received a lot more feedback and inquiries from students, via email, LinkedIn,  and even a blog post. Two in particular, were especially thoughtful:

“This past Monday reinforced to me what MSBA is all about. It is a program that offers us a wide variety of exposure to all areas directly related to the field of sports. I now understand the true benefits of the 360-degree approach. Before today, I never would have considered a career in public relations. Now PR seems like something I might be very interested in. Having the opportunity to learn about all aspects of this industry will most definitely allow me to best hone in on where my passion truly lies.

“I truly did not begin to realize the scope of the marketing communications/PR business in terms of areas of specialty and number of firms before Monday night.  The ability to transform Taylor, in a rapidly changing industry, from a traditional sports PR firm into a firm with brand strategy expertise at its core is pretty cool. The concept of always being “irreplaceable”, as Taylor did with its transformation, is something that really struck me as a goal to strive for in every situation.”

Whether you’ve logged five years or five decades as a public relations professional, you have the power and the opportunity to elicit similar such responses from motivated young people just looking to be challenged and stimulated in a diverse and dynamic discipline. You may you find yourself in a one-to-one setting or before a group of individuals, be they college students or recent grads. Regardless, leverage your experience, your perspective, your enthusiasm and your vision to inform and inspire the next generation of talent in our industry. We’ll all gain from the sparks that you light.

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