A Commencement Speech of Sorts, June 2015

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It’s the second week of June.

And, for another year, I was not asked to provide words of wisdom to inspire those seated in the audience in cap and gown.

Understood, and I take no offense.

GraduationBut, I do have some thoughts to share with today’s graduates, be they planning to enter college, the public relations industry or another career field.

Here are five.

1. Make Technology Work For, Not Against You. Do smart — not stupid — things with that smart phone, that tablet, that laptop. An inappropriate image, video or tweet can make life unnecessarily more challenging next month, next year, or a few years down the line.

2. Avoid Complacency. Know when it’s time to move on to something new, something better, something more rewarding. It’s easy to shift into the neutral gear of life and coast. When you’re not being challenged or fail to see new opportunities, leave your comfort zone behind and charge ahead in a different direction.

3. Get Serious About Doing Nothing. Stare out the window every once in a while and find something interesting. Walk aimlessly in a different direction. And, you guessed it, watch the sun take its time setting these long days of summer. NOTE: All of the above, and other similar behaviors, can and should be done without a handheld.

4. Be an Initiator. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in the past year.  (If you’re adverse to speaking on the phone, just send them a text.) Organize a reunion of friends or family. Dive headfirst into a cause or issue that you find stimulating.

5. Put Yourself in the Situation. Remember that words — and images and videos — can and often do hurt. Communicate regularly, but temper what you say and share with caution about the impact it may have on the recipient.

Perhaps someday I’ll be asked to deliver a real commencement speech that may rank within this “top 10 list” of commencement speeches.

Until then, the five ideas above will hopefully offer some inspiration. And, note to those who are planning commencement ceremonies for 2016: At this time my calendar is wide open.

* * *

And, yes. The PRDude has offered advice to recent graduates of public relations programs. This post from 2012 is an example.

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New Advice for PR Graduates This May

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

One of the most visited of the 167 posts published by The PRDude graced the blagosphere around this time last year.  In the post, I offered graduates of college public relations programs some advice on how to establish themselves in the profession.images advice

Offered were goals, strategies, objectives and tactics — thoughts structured within classic components of an effective public relations plan.

And, I even made this offer:  Reach out if you wanted any advice or direction.  (For the record, I’m still waiting; but the offer stands.)

A year later, I’m a little older and hopefully a lot wiser.  And, since I also am images dad advicesearching for that next great job in public relations, I’ve had time to think.  Here are a few other thoughts, wisdom I’m passing down to public relations colleagues-to-be.

  1. Learn the Definition of “Public Relations.” You’d be surprised at how many people out there in this great world — some who claim to be “public relations professionals” — still maintain that public relations is publicity.  Or, “just like marketing.”  After all, it’s easy to “get good PR.”  Right?  This profession keeps evolving, largely through continual new directions on the digital front.  But the fundamental purpose of public relations as a strategic means to communicate and build relationships has not changed.  Learn more from PRSA.
  2. Learn to Write (Beyond Tweets, Posts & Blogs).  It’s been a long images advice chairstime (hey, more than a long time) since I enrolled and completed a for-credit college course.  So, I’m not sure if students today are required to take a semester of English Composition 101 or some other fundamental writing course.  My 101 instructor was a guy named Professor Brosnahan, a very strict proponent of the written word.  He would scrawl a big red “F” on your composition for any error — spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, logic.   In this era of tweets, IMs and posts, the true public relations professional will have solid writing skills that transcend 140 characters.
  3. PR = Business Practice = Not Free.  As a public relations professional, you’ll be required to manage event budgets, approve vendor expenses, price out media distribution services and many other tasks that require money.  That’s part of business, and public relations is a business.  Furthermore, businesses are in business to make a profit; and, even non-profit associations with public relations departments run them like a business.  Learn the business side of the industry and how to manage a spreadsheet.

One more thing: As noted, I’ve had an open door policy for those who want direction on public relations careers and opportunities.  In the past year, I’ve fielded emails and a few calls.  Only one guy actually followed up on the offer to meet. There’s lots to be said about the desire to get out of the house.

Your thoughts?