PRSA Sections Series: Counselors Academy Members Lead Agencies Throughout the U.S. and Canada

If you have ever wanted to know more about different types of public relations careers straight from professionals in each area, the PRSA Sections Series is here to help. The PRSA Sections Series highlights the 14 different PRSA public relations professional interest sections. Each month, two professionals will sound off on their specific sub-category of the industry in a question and answer session.

Our second post in the sections series was written by Abbie Fink (see bio below) and focuses on the Counselors Academy.

1. What kind of work do professionals in your section typically do?

Abbie Fink
Abbie Fink

Counselors Academy is a special interest section of the Public Relations Society of America. Boasting nearly 400 members, our members are true entrepreneurs, committed to preserving an open, thriving peer network that advances the caliber of counseling firms in North America. A few facts about us:

  • Approximately 85 percent of our members are senior executives (i.e., president, CEO or principal) at their public relations/marketing organizations with the remaining members largely at the vice president level. They are the key decision-makers at their firms.
  • Three-quarters of our members report having worked more than 20 years in the industry.
  • Member firms range from multiple offices to independent consultants, the majority of which are based in the United States or Canada.

Our members counsel clients on communications strategy and implementation that is designed to enhance their business.

2. What can students expect when pursuing an entry-level position in the industry?

Being involved in PRSSA is a great first step to advancing your career in public relations. There are many qualified students who graduate with a degree in communications, public relations, journalism, etc. but students that take the extra step and get involved with PRSSA have differentiated themselves among their peers.

Entry-level positions within the agency world are great opportunities to learn a variety of tactical skills across many different industries. One day you may be researching bloggers that cover the healthcare industry and the next you may be helping on-site at a client’s grand opening. A public relations practitioner at an agency should enjoy working on several different projects and being a part of a variety of teams.

3. What advice do you have for students looking to enter your sector of public relations?

Take the time to get to know the agencies in the markets where you are interested in living. Utilizing the agency websites, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. you can find out the types of clients, service offerings and who is on the leadership team. And just as the hiring manager is looking at your skills and involvement in the industry, you should do the same. Is the agency involved in PRSA? Are their team members involved in the community? What kind of office environment does the agency have?

4. What essential skills do students need to do well in the industry?

Assuming you graduate with a degree in the field and have done an internship or two, you are likely in a good position to get an entry-level job. You should know and understand AP Style and how to write a clear and concise news release. You should have knowledge of the media in your market,read the paper and watch the news.

But there is so much more to just knowing the basic skills. You need to show up every day ready to work, eager to learn and willing to do what it takes to get the job done. You need to ask questions and have a desire to succeed. You need to be creative, you need to be prepared and you need to demonstrate that selecting you was the best decision for the agency.

5. What has surprised you most throughout the course of your career?

I’m not so much surprised as grateful for the opportunities that have come along throughout my career. I have worked on some amazing projects for wonderful clients. I have many wonderful friendships with colleagues and peers throughout the world and everyday there is something new to learn about. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Does this post have you motivated to look for an internship or job that could help earn you a spot in the Counselors Academy one day? Be sure to check out the PRSSA Internship Center and the PRSA Job Center for postings.

Abbie S. Fink is vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations. Her background includes media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, community relations and issues management. She is a past president of Phoenix PRSA and is a member of Counselors Academy, currently serving as executive committee chair. Connect with her on Twitter @AbbieF, Linkedin, Facebook, email or her website.

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