By: Emma Honn
As a senior in the public relations program at the University of Central Missouri, I am often asked “What is public relations?” I get the question at family functions, social gatherings and different events around campus. Sometimes, I get tired of the question and think to myself “How do they not understand?” I have realized that people do not know what public relations is because PR professionals have been doing PR for their clients, and not for the profession itself.
Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” To a public relations professional, this makes sense. However, to someone who knows nothing about the industry, it may not. Here are a few things you need to know about public relations.
We are strategic storytellers. We use narrative to build our brand and relationships with our intended audiences. It can be through social media, brand specific communications or the media. We tend to try and humanize a brand, meaning we add a human element to a story or brand to help our audiences relate. For example, instead of saying “buy this product,” we say, “this is important because…” We do this to build trust between our company and our audiences.
We work with the media. Read that correctly: we are not the media, we work with the media. The goal here is to earn media placements. We build a story with a human element, and earn media coverage on the subject. This gets our brand in front of our audiences for something that may not necessarily be our products. Although there is no guarantee of media placement, when we do earn a spot, there is a third party validation of our brand, our products and our story.
We write press releases and speeches, and plan and execute events. A press release is typically written by a public relations professional with the goal of it being picked up by a media outlet. These, however, are written with much thought, newsworthiness and human element. If you are ever listening to a speech, chances are, the script was written by a public relations professional. The basis of speech writing is solid writing skills. PR professionals have an eye for detail and design, two things that are essential to a great speech. Public Relations departments typically handle the planning and execution of events meant for public outreach and media relations. If you are ever at a large event, it was probably handled by someone who works in PR.
We manage social media and handle crises whenever they arise. Social media is a tricky subject. Since it is a relatively new thing in public relations, we have had to learn how to adapt and work with ever-changing platforms. We handle crises that may come up for organizations. For example, think of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Every statement given by VW, press conference held, you name it, was planned and handled by a PR team. Crises can range in severity, but whatever the crisis may be, a solid PR professional can handle it.
We are strategic storytellers, work with the media, write press releases and speeches, plan and execute events manage social media and handle crises. These topics are all under the public relations umbrella, but this just scratches the surface. Now, the next time someone says “I work in public relations,” or “I am a public relations major,” you will know a little bit about what they do.
By Meredith Trapper
As graduation quickly approaches, I cannot help but reflect on my time here at UCM and the defining moments that brought me to where I am today. Everyone has a reason for why they picked the degree they did, but for me, there were many reasons and many people.
I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I came to UCM in 2015. However, I quickly realized I had absolutely no clue. I somehow found myself sitting in class thinking about the things that I enjoy the most in life: interacting with people, writing, giving presentations, problem solving, and having not one day be alike. I love always being on the move and challenging myself in every opportunity. Knowing that, I wound up sitting in Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn’s office trying to understand what on Earth this degree called Public Relations was all about. Little did I know, that Public Relations is all of those things I loved and so much more.
Thank you, Dr. Hansen-Horn, for always taking time to talk through things with me. I will forever be grateful for the life advice you give and for challenging me to do things I never thought myself capable.
From that conversation on, I was sold. Not only do I love everything about the degree I am pursuing, but I love the people within the program. I have never related better to a group of people than I do with those in my program. Prior to starting the program, all my friends were in my sorority, and I never really tried to make friends within my classes. However, that quickly changed as I became more involved in Public Relations.
Thank you Kylee Julian for being the friend I never knew I needed and for pushing me out of my comfort zone to opportunities like Innovative Public Relations (IPR) and studying abroad in Australia with the PR program. You are a true life-long friend that I know will continue to push me out of my comfort zone for many years to come.
Innovative Public Relations has been one of my favorite memories while in college. Not only did I receive real-life experience, but I made friends and memories along the way that I will hold with me forever. My teams and I have accomplished work I can be proud to show off and did so in a fun and exciting way.
Thank you Blake Hedberg for turning me into that nerd who is truly excited to go to a class. You have been a great mentor and someone I respect immensely.
Lastly, thank you to Dr. Horn, Dr. Hansen-Horn, Professor Heapes, and Professor Mullins for not only pushing me to be the best version of myself, but for going above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you for always making time to help with classes, internships, jobs, and so much more. I am so fortunate to have professors that not only want you to succeed in their class, but want to set you up for success in the future. You all make me proud to be graduating from UCM’s PR program, and I know many others in my shoes feel the same way.
By Maddison Armbruster
If you’re anything like me, I felt incredibly lost freshman year. I had no idea what I wanted to major in or what I wanted to do with my life. After some time, I selected public relations as my major and began to find a path post-graduation. However, there are a few more things I’ve learned during my time at UCM I couldn’t resist sharing. Follow these tips and you too can benefit!
Attend class and ask questions and actively listen to lecture and discussion. Attend events that are going on around campus. It’s a part of putting yourself out there and meeting new people. There are plenty of opportunities to learn something new outside of the classroom or participate in a new, fun experience.
It is so beneficial to take the time to introduce yourself to your fellow classmates and professors. It allows you to make connections and practice your networking skills. It’s also the start of creating and building relationships with those around you in your major. This is crucial when the time comes to search for your first job after graduation. These individuals can help guide you to the right location. It cannot hurt to connect to future colleagues early.
Take advantage of the resources that are available to you. There are so many different offices on campus that you can benefit from. Become a better writer through the Writing Center or take a break at The Mule Post in between classes. Everything from meeting with your advisor to heading over to the Career Services Center to make sure you are interview ready, this campus can help prepare you for life after college.
Remember college is not all about school. It’s also a great time to try out different clubs and organizations on campus, regardless if they pertain to your major or not. This is a great way to give yourself a mental break and remind yourself to have fun on campus. You can expand your network, meet new friends, and gain invaluable experience!
Opportunities are everywhere and can benefit you in a number of ways. Make the most of your time on campus by getting involved and stepping out of your comfort zone!
By Amanda Walls
From someone who is weeks away from college graduation and hunting for a full-time job, trust me, finding a position you are happy with is difficult! Landing that position is even more challenging. Here are some tips on how to create a resume that stands above the rest.
Short, but sweet.
A general rule for college graduates, keep the resume one page only! Sure you have work experience, but it is unlikely that the person who is hiring for the entry-level position in which you are applying wants to read a book about your work experience. In fact, the average time a recruiter spends looking at a resume to decide if it is relevant is 10 seconds. Keep it brief, but keep it relevant. A lengthy, wordy resume is much more likely to get tossed aside than a resume that is well organized and to the point.
Cater to each position.
No two resumes that you send out for job applications should be the same. Your resume should be edited so that your work experience directly relates to the job you are seeking. Better yet, use some key terms that the job description uses, the person reading your resume will notice! It is also important to put the most relevant job experience first. If a professional glances at your resume, the first things they should see are your name, and your most relevant experience. That way, they immediately know this applicant has the experience they are looking for.
Add some personality!
Reading the same document over and over is tedious. That is basically how hiring committees feel when they are exposed to several generic resumes. It is important to include some personality, without overdoing it. Add a pop of color, a unique layout or an attention grabbing introduction to set your resume apart from the others. Make certain your resume is still clean and professional, but show the employer how you stand out! This will help the employer have some sort of memorable takeaway from your resume.
Go beyond the resume.
If you are in any industry where you create some type of content, it is obvious that just simply writing about it isn’t enough. Visuals are important, so consider creating an online portfolio. Your portfolio should follow the general theme of your resume, while showing off all of your created content. Dropping a link to your portfolio on your resume is an easy way to show the employer that you are organized and mean business!
Ready to make a show-stopping resume? Follow this link for some great guidelines and ideas to get you started https://zety.com/blog/public-relations-resume-example
By Hannah Treat
Working on campus is a typical job opportunity for most college students, whatever university they might be at, but you don’t always get to work in an area that is dedicated to your major. Personally, I have worked in housing and the music department. Although they are both great job opportunities, they are not public relations focused. Entering my senior year, I started a new job position at the Elliott Student Union at the information desk and their promotions team. Finally a job that caters to my major!
Typically when I tell people I work in two different areas for the Elliott Student Union (ESU) they look at me like I’m crazy, and they may be right. But I’ve also found that they pair together really well. Working on the promotions team is where I perform the most public relations work. I get to help take and create social media content, whether that be a photo, flyer or a graphic. One of my favorite projects was getting to create all the physical and digital content for a new project about coffee that the Union implemented to engage their target audience and students to increase awareness for on campus coffee shops. Was I terrified having so much free reign, absolutely! However, the experience was such a fun way to get more insight to something I could actually be doing in the real world.
The best part about working on the promotions team is how much it benefits my other ESU position at the information desk. My responsibilities at the desk aren’t as exciting as my work in the office. I answer questions that any guest in the Union might have, as well as run the print stop. The tasks for this job aren’t what is challenging, engaging with students and other visitors is the harder part. We are the face of the ESU. When people come up to the information desk, they expect me to have all the answers. I honestly think working at both positions has helped me truly understand ESU, what type of events they host and what resources they have or house.
Sometimes I feel like I’m juggling too much, and working at an on campus job is too much, but then I remember the benefits. The obvious is having a schedule that is built around my classes. I KNOW that isn’t the same for off campus jobs. Then there are other perks. As a PR professional, it is important to look at your key audience, for the ESU that is primarily students, and know how to message to them. Being a student myself I have a bit of insight, but getting to work face-to-face with our audience on a daily basis at the information desk, I get insight to what students want and expect when they enter the Student Union.
An opportunity I didn’t see walking into this job is perfectly illustrated in the article ‘The Benefits of On Campus Jobs During College’ that says, “Many students who seek on campus employment are able to grow their networks this way, leaving them with more career opportunities after graduation.” Every PR student knows it’s all about networking. Through my job at ESU, I have built relationships with Grad Assistants and staff members, who have connections throughout Warrensburg and other local areas. Knowing that they have seen my work ethic at not only one job, but two, makes me confident that when I graduate, I can turn to those professionals for potential recommendations or jobs.
I never thought I would find a job on campus that would truly help me prepare for post-graduation life, but working at the Elliott Student Union has given me that opportunity.
The Benefits of On Campus Jobs During College. (2015, April 15). Retrieved from https://gentwenty.com/on-campus-jobs/
By Emily Thole
It is officially March, one of the most exciting months of the year. This month brings forth multiple things to look forward to. March is a time to celebrate Women’s History, St. Patrick’s Day, spring break, and one of the most exciting and authentic events in college athletics: March Madness.
March Madness is a historic event that involves 68 of the best college basketball teams in the nation, matching up for a chance to compete for the NCAA Men’s Division I National Championship. There will be excitement. There will be upsets. There will “edge-of-your-seat” moments. And behind it all, there will be moments where public relations plays a powerful role in the game of basketball.
When you look at March Madness, there are a few things you can take away from the game that also apply to the public relations profession.
- Teamwork makes the dream work.
Most teams don’t rely on just one player to win a game. Each individual plays a specific role to help achieve an end goal. That may be defense, shooting threes, or cheering from the bench.
Public relations works the same way. Each person in an organization must keep the end goal in mind by understanding client needs, publics, objectives, strategies and more. Team members must know their role to keep the project on task and consistent. If someone doesn’t complete their tasks, they may hinder the end result.
- Believe in comebacks.
In basketball, anything is possible. Your team may be down by 20 points, but with heart and persistence, they can still win the game. In PR, sometimes it may seem like your organization can never come back from a crisis. No matter how hard you push ahead, something keeps pushing back
Understand that although your organization may fall, you can stand up and keep pushing until the buzzer sounds. Your game plan may need to change and adjust as the crisis occurs, but maintain a winning attitude and strategy, and you can come out on top.
- Practice makes perfect.
Each team wants to win a national title, but unlike other teams, UCLA is used to the applause. The school has won 11 national championships over the years, but they still keep pushing to get be better. They could settle with their glory, or practice to achieve more.
As a PR professional, you must polish your skills in order to stay on top of the game. Industry trends, media, networking and more are changing daily. Practicing and polishing your skills can only make you a better PR professional for the future.
Each of these points proves that the game of basketball and the business of public relations have a lot in common. Just as in March Madness, making it far in the PR industry is not guaranteed, but with the right preparation and mindset, your organization can create their own Cinderella story.
By Amanda Ferrin
Although you may not be considering working abroad, intercultural awareness is essential for anyone in the PR industry. Whether you’re interested in working in the corporate sector or a nonprofit, understanding the global market can greatly enhance your career.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to do my internship for a tourist company in Costa Rica. It was a terrifying experience that forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Here are some of the things I took away from it:
1. Knowing English is vital, but learning a second language is important
Considered to be the language of business and technology, English is the most spoken language of the 21st century. There are over 1.5 billion global speakers around the world! However, recent data from the United States Census Office suggests that the nation will have an estimated 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, which would make it the largest Spanish-speaking nation.
Because our world is getting smaller and more diverse, many employers are looking for bilingual people to work in their PR/communication departments. Although you may not be able to travel abroad or take language classes, there are many free apps and websites, like Duolingo, available for practicing your language skills.
2. Successful communication isn’t always with words
Although I was translating marketing materials from Spanish, my actual Spanish-speaking abilities are limited. There were many instances where I had to use hand gestures to convey what I was trying to say. Smiling and showing confidence is key in those situations. Whether there is a language barrier or just a communication gap, stay aware of your non-verbals, which are vital in making a positive connection. This is especially important when you’re interviewing or meeting with clients.
3. Learn to look outside of your own cultural lens
When you are living in a certain location for a while, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is exposed to the same things as you. Your organization may be targeting a large demographic of people who have diverse interests. It’s vital to consider how things will be perceived by your audience.
Although we are taught everything in PR is deadline-driven, I found that to be less true in Costa Rica. Living by the phrase, “Pura Vida”, Costa Rican culture is laid back. The World Cup was going on during my internship and my co-workers actually stopped working to watch the game. If you ever partner with an international company, you may find yourself adjusting to different cultural norms.
4. Research, research, research
We are told to do this all the time as students, but it’s so important! I don’t know many people who use WhatsApp in the U.S., but it’s actually the most popular messaging solution in the world. Nearly 1 billion people are using it and everyone was using it in Costa Rica. Don’t assume that what’s popular at home is popular somewhere else. Do your research! You may have to utilize social media platforms you’ve never used or sell a product that’s not well-known in the U.S.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned during my internship. Whether you choose to stay in Missouri or move to the other side of the world, having intercultural awareness can give you the capacity to develop meaningful relationships with new, diverse audiences.
By Jessica Gough
The Span of Social Media
It is no secret that social media is taking over the internet. In fact, over 77 percent of the U.S. population uses a social media profile regularly. That is 2.34 billion sets of eyes just waiting to be captivated. As a company, those eyes are extremely valuable to your success. So how do you attract them to your content?
What is a SMM Plan?
A social media marketing (SMM) plan allows an organization to detail what they would like to accomplish within the realm of social media. Along with these broad goals, a SMM plan also outlines what actions the organization will take in order to achieve these goals. A variety of benefits come from a social media marketing plan, so it is important to ensure your organization is taking advantage of this opportunity.
The SMM Planning Cycle
It is important to understand that, like social media itself, SMM plans should continuously evolve. In order to maintain a successful plan, it is crucial that your SMM plan evolves with society. These nine steps will help guide you through creating your SMM plan.
What is your brand’s current social media presence?
- Setting Goals
Analyze your organization using SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. What realistic goals does your brand want to accomplish?
- Defining Strategies
Use the “8 C’s of Strategy Development”. What strategies will help your brand reach its goals?
- Identifying the target audience
What are the needs of your target audience?
- Selecting Tools
What tools will work best for your strategies?
(hashtags, SEO, link shortening, images)
- Selecting Platforms and Channels
What platforms will reach your target audience best?
Put your plan into action!
Track you progress, and COLLECT DATA.
This is a constant and continuous process.
Creating and monitoring a strong SMM plan will allow you to connect with various audiences in a familiar way. This connection can lead to numerous advantages for your organization.
By Jasmine Scott
Here’s a painfully honest peek into the life of a full-time college student, who also works remotely as a part time PR Professional for a non-profit organization.
7:15 a.m.: My alarm clock goes off.
I’d love to tell you that I hop out of bed with an abundance of energy and joy, but I said this would be honest. So, I hit snooze on my alarm clock…two more times.
7:30 a.m.: I roll out of bed and check my email.
I am subscribed to several news reporters, so this is my version of reading the newspaper. It’s very important to keep up with news in the PR world. PR is a quick moving industry and it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in your community as well as the world.
After I’m up to date, I brush my teeth and throw on a coat (it’s winter now). I make sure everything is in my backpack, grab a bottle of water out of my fridge, and make my way to my 8 am class.
7:55 a.m.: I sit down and pull out my notebook. I check my email until the professor starts his lecture and make a mental note of what I have to do this day. Spoiler alert: I have a lot to do.
8:50 a.m.: My only class of the day ends, and I make my way back to my apartment to get the second part of my day started: work.
9:00 a.m.: I clock in and check my email. I usually only have about 10 unread emails in my inbox, some of which are just funny memes to put everyone in a good mood. I read through everything and update myself on any information I miss working remotely. I respond to the funniest memes first. After that, I email my boss and update him on my projects.
10 a.m.: I make a to-do list of everything I need to accomplish before I clock out. The list usually goes something like this:
- Review recent Facebook posts
- Schedule Facebook posts
- Check email again
- Scour through thousands of photos and stories sent to the company I work for
- Check email again
- Start blog draft
- Plan out LinkedIn posts for the week
- Check email again
- Eat lunch at some point?
10:30 a.m.: It’s prime content creation time. I work for a non-profit company, so our posts are created to be ‘donor-centered’, which means that donors and investors are our target market.
I start creating new content by reviewing our Facebook posts. I see what posts our donors are interacting with and what posts are doing well or poor. Next, I look through our photobank for and start planning out posts in my head. After some creative thinking, I start creating posts. Finally, I schedule it and repeat the process.
1 p.m.: Did you hear that noise? Yeah, it was my stomach growling.
It’s time for lunch. So, I quickly make a sandwich (turkey and cheese with mustard, obviously) and continue working.
1:05 p.m.: I notice I have 4 unread emails since I last checked my inbox. I read through those and continue on with my day.
1:30 p.m.: Coffee.
After I eat my lunch, I tend to lose my focus. This is when I hit my mid-day slump and need to change my focus. I make a cup of coffee and switch my focus to the blog.
The first step of writing a good blog post is having a strong and compelling story to tell. Luckily, we keep track of the stories sent to us by our donors and partners. I read through the stories, sip my coffee, read through a couple more stories, and sip my coffee. I repeat this until one story particularly catches my eye. After picking a story, I start the first paragraph of the blog. I write it, pause, read it, erase the whole paragraph, and start again. Yes, this exactly how it goes almost every time. But I preserve and finish my draft. I email it to the writer I work with and wait for her edits.
4:30 p.m.: My boss randomly Facetimes me.
5:00 p.m.: I should clock-out, but I can’t. My to-do list isn’t complete.
The last thing I need to do for the day is plan out my LinkedIn posts for the week. This really depends on what’s going on for the week. Some weeks there is a huge event coming up, so I center my posts around that. Other weeks, I make posts based off what else is going on or even any amazing stories we have. I write down the posts I want to make this week and plan them out.
5:30 p.m.: After checking my email one last time, I clock out for the day.
5:31 p.m.: I open my fridge and make a snack. Probably a Hot-pocket.
6:15 – 8:30 p.m.: This is usually when I have meetings for different organizations.
9:00 p.m.: I’m tired, but my day isn’t over yet. In fact, it’s just beginning.
I open my agenda book and go over my schedule. I open my school email and see if my teachers have emailed me (they have). I respond. I open Blackboard to see if my teacher’s have put any grades in. I begin my homework.
I love being a PR major because my homework mostly consists of writing, creating content for mock clients, and preparing presentations. A PR Pro must be deadline driven, even in college. I don’t miss a deadline.
10:30 p.m.: Have I eaten today?
Yeah, I have. But I’m hungry again. I know you aren’t supposed to eat big meals before you go to bed but…it’s only 10:30 and I’m still doing homework. So, I usually eat. Most of the time it’s super healthy and definitely not a bag of chips.
10:31 p.m.: I open a bag of chips. Hey, I’m just doing what I can to make it to graduation.
11:30 p.m.: If at all possible, I try to give myself at least 30 minutes of relaxation before I go to bed. Sometimes I’m being productive until 2 am, but I try not to be.
I love working remotely because it’s helping me get one step closer to my goal of being a PR professional after I graduate, but it definitely takes focus and balance to get everything done. Every day is different. But it’s worth it.
By Emily Jarboe
Graduating college and venturing out into adulthood can be a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s terrifying, intimidating and exciting all at the same time. As if leaving college wasn’t scary enough, then there’s the pressure to secure that first job after graduation. Say goodbye to student discounts and hello to a 401K.
Most people plan to apply for jobs once they get out of school, but I made it a personal goal to land a full-time job before graduation. From teachers and career centers to job fairs and internships, there are so many resources to take advantage of that will no longer be available once I leave. Since I was so proactive in the job search process, I was able to land a job before graduation. Here’s how you can too:
Perfect Your Resume
Your resume is your big chance to catch a potential employer’s attention. This is where you can brag about your incredible work experience or highlight your summer internship. It’s a place to showcase your skills and all the hard work you put in during your time in college. I would recommend a clean, easy-to-read design that is tailored to fit your major. Be consistent with the spacing and choose an appropriate font. It’s also important to have several different people look at your resume to get a variety of feedback. Visit your college or university’s Career Services Center where they can assist you in creating a resume that stands out from the crowd. Most importantly, keep updating your resume and continue to tailor it to every application.
Internships Are Key
An internship, whether during college or after, is a great way to gain real-world experience in your career field. It also can help you establish important relationships and connections with company professionals that can be very beneficial for your future career. The right internship can lead you to a full-time position, so choose wisely when searching for one. Personally, I believe that my internship gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and pushed me to step out of my comfort zone. Plus, employers are much more likely to hire someone who has completed an internship rather than someone lacking real-work experience.
The Value in a Career Fair
There are so many benefits to taking the time to attend a career fair. One of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to network with potential employers. Many students believe it’s easier to find jobs online. While that might be true for some, I believe you have a better chance of landing the first interview when there is an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a company representative. I attended three different career fairs during my time in school, and each time provided me with the chance to practice interviewing. Approaching a potential employer can be intimidating, but by the third or fourth time I became comfortable and was able to make some valuable connections. Dress in professional attire, bring 20 copies of your resume, and take advantage of this free networking opportunity.
Cultivate Relationships with Your Professors
I’ve always tried to keep good relationships with all of my teachers because you never know what kind of doors they can open for you. One of my professors helped me land a job interview that otherwise would not have been possible without her assistance. She recommended me for this position, which gave me a significant advantage over my competitors. I ended up receiving a job offer, and I wouldn’t be where I am in this process without the help of my teacher.
The most important takeaway from this post is to remember to trust the process and don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a response right away. Good things take time and it’s important to be patient during the job hunt. I applied for several positions in the beginning and didn’t hear back from anyone until a week later. Take your time and enjoy the process. Don’t be tempted to take the first job offer you receive. It’s okay to be picky and wait for the position that is the right fit for you. Lastly, don’t neglect your LinkedIn account. Keeping up with LinkedIn can help you get noticed by future employers and recruiters.
Endless opportunities are waiting for you, so go out there and get them. Good luck and happy job hunting!