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Response Time Between Students and PR Pros

February 18, 2009

I was asked recently what makes me want to help some graduates over others. I tend to be quite outspoken in my opinions on proper etiquette, especially when I take time out of my busy schedule to help someone. And that’s what it is – PR pros are extremely busy people, but they are always willing to help those who put themselves out there, and show a dedication to learning and responding in kind. You aren’t doing us a favor, and really, we aren’t doing you one either. We are already in the field, and we are dedicated to furthering the profession. That is the main reason we help some over others. So, how can best utilize relationships with seasoned pros?

If you don’t already, join Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Make sure that the same contacts are on all platforms across the board. This opens up communication, so that if you can’t respond to that email right away, you can at least jot a 140 character response on Twitter saying “Hey, I got your email, will respond soon. Thank you again for the help.” This shows not only appreciation for help that you are receiving, but shows that you are dedicated and eager to network at any possible time. This will also help to continue to build a relationship, and will let you change your tone from more professional to a professional friendly one.

So here is the main question – what type of response time do you instill when responding to PR pros? Here’s my thinking: 24 hours should be your guideline for responding to emails. I was extremely involved in school – 2 internships, community service, PRSSA president and I took 17 hours each semester. A day gives you enough time to get through your priorities, but also keep a respectful eye and consideration out for the PR pro who you are networking with. With that load, I was still able to respond to any email I had received. By responding in the 24 hour time frame, it also shows how much you can multi-task, as well as your interest in this field. If you do not respond in this timeframe, a level of disinterest comes across and that first impression is tarnished. With how small PR communities are, you can’t afford to do that. 24 hours is generous in times of PDAs and constant Internet access. For things such as Twitter and Facebook, I know that most college students check this throughout the day. If questions are asked of you, respond in a timely manner. If it’s asked a second time, you better make sure that you respond quickly.

So what type of tone is best? Honestly, it’ best to assess the situation and make a judgement call. Business formal is a good idea to start, until you can feel out the PR pro. Once that is done, you can start building a relationship and find some really great mentors. If you are talking to a PR pro that works in non-profit/association, it might not be the best approach to come across as overly ambitious and state that you only want to work for large firms. You might want to ask how they use social media, what type of projects do they do, etc. If you are talking to those large agencies, it can still come across as boastful – that you know you are a fit because you are THAT awesome. It’s always best to tread cautiously until you know the person and their personality. It is very easy to take offense to something that might seem small, such as responding to an email slowly or not being flippant with your tone to a pro. 

These ideas are to serve as a foundation, and for you to build on. What would you add?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2009 12:18 am

    Lauren,

    Great post and I agree with pretty much everything you said. It’s very easy to put things off when you’re involved in a lot of things in college. It’s very important though that when you make a contact with professionals, you make sure they know that responding to them is a priority for you. If you don’t, you’ll find that you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities or worst, turn those opportunities into a bad reputation.

    Dave

  2. February 18, 2009 12:20 am

    Great point about the priority aspect – we all love feeling important! If this is the field that you want to go into, that should be a number one thought process.

    More students should take note from you, David. 🙂

  3. February 18, 2009 12:23 am

    I agree… and I would also add that students need to be specific in what they are asking for. You’re more likely to get a response if you ask a PR pro, “I’d like to speak with you for 20 minutes about your career path and how you ended up in your current role,” rather than, “I’m looking for some advice.” It also shows that you’re focused and that you’ve already taken the time to think about what you’d like to get out of the conversation.

    • February 18, 2009 12:26 am

      Amy – Great addition and thoughts. A goal-oriented mindset can go a long way, and shows a driven nature can only be an asset to the field. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Heidi permalink
    February 18, 2009 1:30 am

    When I was still a student reaching out to PR pros, I always made sure to reiterate that tone. I’m a student who can learn a lot from you. It’s that eagerness to learn more and recognizing that a lot can be learned from a simple conversation with a seasoned pro. Be respectful of their time, and appreciate the advice they give you–it’s valuable!

  5. conversationstarter permalink
    February 18, 2009 1:41 am

    Lauren, I loved this post! As someone who is trying to enter the PR field, I have e-mailed a few PR pros, and I make it a point to tell them who I am and what I want in the first two sentences. I know that they are busy, busy people and I don’t want to waste any of their time.
    I also agree with Amy, I think that the more specific you are in your request, the easier it will be for the PR professional to respond.
    Question, what do you do when you don’t get an e-mail response? Do you connect you via Twitter or other platforms? My biggest concern is being *annoying*

  6. February 18, 2009 1:55 am

    Heidi – Exactly. That is the main point I was trying to get across in this post – that respect and willingness to learn goes such a long way. Thanks for reading!

  7. February 18, 2009 1:56 am

    When I don’t receive an email response, I usually either a.) think they are not interested in connecting or b.) I will reach out to them on other platforms to ensure they received the message. Technology isn’t always 100%, and email can mess up. It’s not being annoying if you are polite and not overly exuberant.

  8. Maggie Kierl permalink
    February 18, 2009 2:17 am

    Great post Lauren! What do you think about following up with people after meeting them in person? I feel like that is sometimes harder than following up with someone who I’ve networked with via the Internet.

    Also, I think one of the biggest reasons I get nervous writing e-mails back so quickly is because I want to make sure everything is in AP style. Do all e-mails to PR Pro’s need to be in AP style?

    Thanks Lauren!

    • February 18, 2009 2:28 am

      Hey Maggie!

      Absolutely follow up with those that you meet in person – and instead of emailing, why not try a handwritten thank you note? That will truly go a long way. AP style is definitely a must, but know that we won’t have our books out checking it, so as long as you have the common stuff in there, I think you will be ok. Hope this helps!

  9. February 18, 2009 3:45 am

    Nice post Lauren!

    I echo one thing in this post emphatically…we PR pros are out there and willing to help! For whatever reason, too few students truly get this and take full advantage. For example, when I bring my business cards to somewhere I speak, I hope and expect that students will take them and call me later with questions, etc. I even tell them to do so, and that I’m willing to help. But it never fails that less than five percent of students actually stop by and grab a card. The way it turns out, the students who do end up distinguishing themselves to me. Personally, I remember the faces and get the names of those who do reach out to me. And those are the people that I talk to when I know of an open job, because even if I’m not sure they would be interested I know they have the initiative and desire to succeed. Bonus points too if those students follow up in a timely fashion and keep in touch afterward.

    I personally don’t really have a clock on response time, but if I help someone and they follow up with a sincere note, and then keep in touch and stay interested, I’m always more than happy to reciprocate. To me, it all comes down to showing a genuine interest in PR – we all definitely want to foster that in the up-and-coming professionals, so we hope to see it in today’s students. Besides, it sure is nice to know that the time I spent with them (usually at the expense of valuable time with my wife and child) was appreciated.

  10. February 18, 2009 4:46 am

    Great & timely post, Laurena! I’ve always made an effort to “pay it forward” when it comes to working with PR students. In fact, sometimes I wonder how much mentoring can be done by someone:).

    To many of your points, I often find that although students are eager to reach out to those of us in the field, they are often slow to implement or follow-up on simple “game changing” suggestions that we make.

    Lack of 24-hour responses are my biggest pet peeve! I don’t want to hear about how active or busy you are with school activities. Consider any interaction with a PR pro in the field to be an honor as their insights are likely more on target then most of your professors & advisors (no offense to any of them of course).

    Personally, I fall into a not-so-business formal role with most that I’m mentoring as business formal just isn’t my thing. As a result, I think students typically take our interactions less seriously…so this was a nice reminder for me.

    Again, thanks for starting this conversation!

  11. February 18, 2009 4:06 pm

    I definitely agree with responding promptly, and also not riding the people you’re networking with. I used to work in film and the sheer volume of calls we received from people who just wanted to talk was staggering. Some staff members who were very senior received 5 – 10 networking calls a day.

    My biggest tip is research, demonstrate knowledge about the industry and the company, be respectful and arrange a face to face meeting do so. It will go one hundred times farther than a well thought out e-mail if you’re dealing with someone local.

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  1. PR Students: Research before reaching out | The PR Practitioner

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