What I learned Wednesday – what the textbook didn’t teach me

After three-and-a-half years of study and what feels like a lifetime of mental preparation, I finally made my debut into the intoxicating world of public relations last June. And to say it’s been a learning curve is quite the understatement.

As I ditched the textbooks I so heavily relied upon in university and embraced the all-encompassing, deep-dive introduction into all things media, I quickly realised its true what they say about theory versus practice.

My self-imposed title of ‘fast learner’ was put to the test as I became part of the account team that works with Coles, getting the chance to explore and unearth some of the organisation’s fantastic local stories and state-wide achievements in Queensland.

Over the last eight months, this is just a taste of what I’ve learned:

  1. First and foremost, Excel is your friend. Being a words person will often trigger a habitual loathing of the seemingly unmanageable sheet of cells — but I’ll now hand-on-heart pledge my undying allegiance to the methodical, spreadsheet pitching process.
  2. Positive media stories do exist, and they’re abundant in the Coles network in Queensland. They say you never truly understand the power of community until you’re surrounded by it, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and hearing some truly heart-warming tales of teams collaborating to make great things happen.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. This kind of attitude is incredibly important when trying to reach busy journalists, and it’s also surprisingly appreciated when a great local story is finally brought to their attention.
  4. Excitement brews the best interviews. I’ve always believed passion evokes passion, and so it’s only natural that getting on the level of the person you’re interviewing is the best approach to break down any walls and get to the heart of a story.
  5. When in doubt, whip your smartphone out. These days you can capture footage and images on your phone camera that rivals even those captured on a professional camera. And being able to produce quality shots in a pinch will win points with time-poor journalists any day of the week.
  6. Socks are a necessity you must always keep in your drawer, for fear of having to borrow someone else’s on an unexpected media call requiring PPE. Trust me when I say, small investment; huge return.

But perhaps the lesson bearing the most weight is what I’ve learned about myself during the process of cutting my professional teeth. I have a greater appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes, and have learned there’s nothing more satisfying than unearthing a story worthy of being shared.

And while I have a plethora of professional milestones I’m yet to achieve, I know with certainty I’ll be able to reach quite of few of them by continuing to kick goals for Coles.