What Universities Need to Start Teaching Students

By Eric Yule

After my eight months at Snackbox, I now know more about the PR world than I could ever imagine. With these eight months of experience, my eyes have been opened up to an alarming number of facts about what universities aren’t teaching students to prepare them for the real world. Although schools do a great job about hammering in what a press release is and how to write one, they fail to expand on this element and how other press materials play into the overall day-to-day functions of the PR world. After experiencing the real world, I’ve compiled a list of things that universities need to start teaching their students right now!

Media Database

CisionPoint (and other software providers like it) is PR software database that helps us find reporters to pitch relevant stories to in order to secure placements for clients. It is the most useful software a PR specialist will ever use in their career and it is the most utilized tool in PR. Cision allows you to tap into a media database that contains more than 1.6 million contacts and outlets for pitching. Coming into my first internship, I had no idea what Cision even was or how to use it. Luckily I have been fortunate enough to familiarize myself with the application for eight months now, but this is a crucial element that universities are completely ignoring to teach students. Without Cision, the PR world would be blindly searching for reporter contacts and painstakingly pitching to a smaller audience of reporters with less significant results for clients. Every student with a degree in public relations needs to know what CisionPoint is and how to use it.

Media Lists

Using Cision is one crucial component to the PR world, but learning how to compile and condense a media list you pull from Cision is a whole different ballgame. This is another element that universities are failing to teach their students. Many PR firms ‘shotgun’, or mass send, pitches to reporters. This is a careless and dangerous tactic for a PR firm’s reputation due to the fact that they pitch the wrong reporters and anger them in the process. Learning how to correctly compile a media list is crucial to be successful in the PR industry and universities should be zeroing in on this aspect.

Pitching to Reporters

Although universities teach students how to write pitches, they don’t teach students how to pitch to actual reporters. At some points, PR specialists will be pitching to more than 1,000 reporters in a day. There should be a class to teach students how to pitch to reporters and how to follow up with reporters in order to obtain the maximum number of placements possible. A class like this would sharpen skills that would be useful to PR firms on day one of an internship or job, rather than training interns or employees how to do this for the first couple of months they start in their position. Reporters bite back in the real world if you pitch them off topic and students need to learn how to avoid these horrible experiences by learning smart pitching habits in the classroom.


Unless students have had a social media internship, Hootsuite is probably unfamiliar to them. For social media, Hootsuite is a wonderful application for posting content to social media platforms. Universities should have students go through a Hootsuite tutorial in order to be certified and well-versed in the application to further strengthen strong PR skills and make students more competitive in the job interview process.

I wish I had known at least the very basics of these skills before going into my first internship. Luckily, Snackbox was able to help me and train me in becoming proficient with these skills over my internship period. However, students need to know what these things are and how to utilize them when going into interviews. They will make students more competitive in both the job and internship process while also giving them valuable skills they can use for their entire PR career. Universities need to realize these are necessary skills to teach and they need to start teaching them sooner rather than later.