Move across the country with an infant. Check.
Start school during the move. Check.
Be broke college students again. Check.
Life is good. Check.
It’s been busy. I’m hoping to not be a writing failure and get something up here at least once a week. Now that we have a little better handle on our schedules it looks like I can manage that. Hopefully. Until something new happens again.
Today we’re looking into the wonderful world of Public Relations.
When I was in college, the two things I knew about Public Relations were:
- Had something to do with the media
- The girls I knew that were in it wanted to be wedding planners
So basically, I knew nothing. My not-fully-developed-so-why-do-they-have-us-make-such-big-decisions brain thought, “Well, I don’t want to be a party-planner, so nope!”
Since then, I’ve met several people who studied PR and had pretty cool jobs. The number one trait I’ve noticed about people in PR? They always bring their A-game. Seriously, they are on top of things. All the time.
This could be a career that you’d love and excel in, but you’ll never know unless you learn more about it and what it’s like to be a student in the program. In case you have the same false idea of PR that I did, here is the definition as given by the Public Relations Society of America:
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
Publics include anyone that organizations need to communicate with: consumers, employees, media, government/regulatory bodies and communities. So in an overly simplified nutshell, PR helps organizations get their info and good vibes to their people and potential people. How they do it is much more detailed, but that working knowledge is much more helpful to me than what I understood previously.
In order to do their job, those in PR utilize a lot of technical skills. To prepare them, a PR graduate would have taken classes along the lines of Media Ethics, Social Media Management, Writing for News, Writing Branded Content, Speech Writing & Delivery, Digital Media Production, Media Advocacy, etc. and a capstone project where they likely had to create and execute an entire PR campaign for an organization.
I liked reading this article from 2012 to see what some of the PR superstars have done in their careers because it helped me to see what kinds of problems they solve. You’ll notice that it’s pretty varied.
Now that you have a better idea of what the field is, what is it like to study PR? I’m not the best at handling a fast-paced environment with a lot of firm deadlines. I can do it, but it makes me a big stresswad. With that in mind, would it be a good fit for me? More importantly, could it be a good fit for you? To help us get a better idea of what it’s like to be in a Public Relations degree program, I have my good friend Samantha to help us out. Remember when I said the people I know in PR bring their A-game? I was definitely thinking about her.
What did you enjoy about your PR education?
I always got the impression that the PR program was more hands-on than other majors/programs at my university. We learned some theory, but most of the classes were focused on training us for professional work and getting us the practice and real-world experience we needed to get a job in PR and progress in our careers after graduation. Not only did we earn our academic degrees, but we also learned a marketable trade.
What did you find particularly challenging about the program itself?
Group work can be challenging no matter what subject you’re studying. A lot of our classwork – including the final capstone project – consisted of group work. It did, however, help to prepare me for the working world and taught me how to handle different working styles and personalities. The capstone course (building an entire PR campaign from the ground up for a real-life organization) was difficult, but I look back on it as a significant accomplishment that also contributed to my resume.
What helped you to do well in your program?
My passion for mass media and communications drove me throughout the program. It’s an area that I saw (and still see) as significant in our modern world, worth the attention of all media users so that we can better understand the power and impact of mass media. I also found a passion for PR, a field that requires ambition and skills such as writing and speaking. Strong communication abilities are helpful, but can also be strengthened as you take the courses. The program takes hard work and can be really rewarding.
How stressful was it handling deadlines?
Some of the deadlines were stressful, but the professors were reasonable. I remember looking forward to the news reporting class, where we got to work for the school newspaper for a semester and experience the journalist’s perspective. The quick deadlines and specific requirements for each news story definitely brought some stress, but I grew and learned so much about the news process and gained confidence in my abilities. I still draw upon that experience when explaining my qualifications or reflecting upon my undergraduate program.
How do you feel the program did in helping you prepare for the work force?
The program prepared me well for the work force. I was fortunate to gain enough internship experience (the program required at least one official internship) and build a long enough portfolio (capstone PR campaign, writing a press kit for a nonprofit, working for the student-run PR firm on campus, doing freelance PR work for friends, etc.) during my college years that I was able to jump straight into an entry-level job at a PR agency in Silicon Valley. Anyone will tell you that you have to be on the job to truly learn your trade, but my college courses and professors did a great job of getting me as ready as I could be.
What would you say/any advice to other women considering pursuing a degree in PR?
Start networking with PR professionals as early as possible and keep up with your connections. Invest in your professional development from the start and get involved with professional organizations like PRSA. PR was traditionally known as one of the top careers for working mothers. Regardless of your plans for work/life balance, stay open to different possibilities and ready to adapt to the constantly changing media landscape. For example, social media didn’t explode until after I graduated, but I was ready and excited to expand my skill set and keep up with advancements in my field. My work and educational (both undergraduate and postgraduate) experiences have opened up some great opportunities for me, and I now work from home part-time while being a stay-at-home mom. I’m grateful I came across PR as a potential major when I was a college sophomore. It has brought me personal growth and success, not to mention a steady career that has enabled me to support myself and then to help support my family.
(P.S. I was going to insert a picture of Samantha and me, but can only find about 100 pictures of the 1000+ pictures I have from when we volunteered together and none of them have us together. Activate stresswad Katie.)
If you want more info on PR as a degree option, make sure to go to your school’s department that houses the Public Relations degree. I’ve seen it located in specific colleges for Communications, Arts & Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Studies. Do your research for your school and go talk to them! Come up with more questions and then meet with an advisor and hit up a club meeting so you can talk to some students in the program.