Six Things MacEwan’s PR Program Taught Me About the Real World

by Scott Cunningham on May 14 2015


“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself.” - Joseph Conrad

After a seemingly never ending ten months of group projects, midterms, and finals as part of MacEwan University's Public Relations program, I finally get a taste of the real world. No more sitting in a classroom and learning theory; instead, I get to finish my diploma with a two-month practicum at Social Lite Communications. The firm is a young company with eight and a half members (a 6-month-old Havanese puppy named Goldie provides the occasional morale boost) excluding myself, but is set to expand in the months to come.

But not everything from the classroom translates to the work world. While the diploma was a fantastic experience, some lessons were more vital than others. Below are the six most important takeaways I’ve been able to use from the last ten months of learning.

Writing is hard work:

In On Writing, Stephen King tells a story about an accident that changed his life. After taking a writing hiatus for a few weeks to let his body heal, King sat down in his usual spot. What he found out was that, though he tried his hardest, he couldn’t come up with the right words.


Some days, I feel as if I cannot stop writing. Words are flowing endlessly like a broken fire hydrant; when I step back, I’m rewarded with pages of text to sift through and refine.


But it isn’t always that easy.


Sometimes I find myself feeling like “an armless and legless with a crayon in my mouth” as Vonegut once said. I have a general plan in my head that sounds like a home run, but once it’s on paper it suddenly shape shifts into a disjointed mess that could pass for regurgitated alphabet soup.


Writing, like anything else, is a routine. Writing about subjects you know nothing about requires considerable research. It’s no easy task; it forces you to develop a world-class education in a short amount of time. While the process is difficult now, writing will eventually get easier through deliberate practice.


Consider Multiple Angles:

Put yourself in the shoes of your client. What’s best for their business and their audience?


Remove your own needs from the equation. In order to be successful in this industry, you need to be able to see things from a large scale and at a microscopic level. What might appeal to one business may not be a good fit for another. You also need to be able to understand the target audience(s). What are their needs, wants, goals and desires? Find out what's troubling them and you'll be that much closer to solving the problems of the business.


Start with “Why”:

I was fortunate enough to sit in on a strategy session with a promising fitness company. In the meeting, we were able to dissect their vision for the brand and what they want to achieve in the near future.

When you’re locked into your business, it’s difficult to take two steps back and think about the big picture. If you're always married to your ideas, you run the risk of being too focused on pleasing others instead of solving the task at hand.



Be Malleable:

The first rule of improv comedy is the philosophy of "Yes, and..." This means you need to contribute to whatever is thrown your way and put your own spin on it.

Being able to juggle multiple projects and accounts at once is on par for the course. MacEwan’s Public Relations program was a great start, but this is the real world—clients expect results. Whether it’s a blog post, a social media update, or a strategy session with a client, you have to be able to adapt to whatever is thrown your way and give things your own touch, whether it's a strategic direction based on your expertise or an uncommon consideration.


Play Your Part:

According to Peter Drucker, "a person can perform only from strengths. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone something one cannot do at all."

Some of us are writers and some of us are creatives. Some of us are better off bring in leads and some of us work best as the glue that holds everyone together.

Find out what 1-2 skills you can get mastery, autonomy, and purpose from and build them up. That's not to say you can't pursue many skills; in the beginning, it's most effective to focus on the development of practical skills. Once you become proficient, use what you've learned as leverage to venture into unknown territories.

Environment is Everything:

Going “lone wolf” only works for so long. Working alone may allow for short, creative bursts from time to time, but it’s difficult to argue against a team dynamic. If you have a creative block, you can bounce your ideas with any one of the Social Lite members without ridicule (well, maybe the odd joke, but it's nothing personal.) The idea of the whole being greater than the sum of all its parts could not be more accurate in this situation.

The first five days have been fantastic; I cannot wait to see how the next seven weeks will play out with this fine bunch of people here at Social to attract and convert website leads

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