By: Senior, April Wood
As I approached and finally entered the last year of my undergraduate degree, one question became an uncomfortably looming presence – What do I want to do with my life (and my degree)?
The truth is – I’m still looking. But I’d love to share my thought process so far.
In figuring this out, I decided to approach it with the wisdom I have gained from the UCM PR Program and its professors. I formed a rough vision of my ideal life. I took note of the values and morals I held. I also focused on what made me happy.
I asked myself questions; What do I enjoy doing? Where do I enjoy being? Who do I want to spend my time with? What do I want my work life balance to be like? What job will challenge my knowledge and experience with all of my favorite skills?
The answer is: I’m only 22.
If my life is in the form of the ROPE process, I’m still in the research phase. I’m in the bulk of that work now, and in one of the busiest times of life.
I’m reaching the verge of the objectives phase.
Values that solidified during the research and analysis stage will be present throughout the entire rest of the process.
Below is just a little more insight into my journey specifically and how I applied my skills gained during my undergraduate years in planning my future.
I enjoy embracing a challenge, but I love embracing one of my own creation.
Having control over my schedule is also a must I flagged. I need the flexibility due for several reasons. I enjoy learning, planning, and analyzing.
More and more, It seemed like starting a small business could be a solid goal for me. I’ve decided to tentatively embrace the idea – pending A LOT of time and work.
I’ve begun researching flipping houses as one potential small business idea. It’s a business concept that has always fascinated me. I enjoy creating and designing, I’m not afraid to pick up a tool, and I have a wealth of business, finance, and strategic communications knowledge.
I have experts and mentors to support me, a network of connections I have spent my young adult life cultivating, and I will soon have a Public Relations and Strategic Communications degree with a minor in Finance. I have a solid foundation of knowledge of how a business runs, how to make financing decisions, how to communicate to an audience, and how to develop a brand.
This plan is obviously going to take years of learning and saving.
What am I doing now to progress towards my goal?
Right now, I’m working to further develop my skills and gain as much knowledge and experience I can. I believe in life-long learning, which makes me versatile and driven. After graduation, I’ll aim to find a job opportunity to continue learning while saving money.
Ultimately, I just want to have a happy and secure life. If I can do it by running my own business, great, if I fail – it’s not a waste. Part of being a lifelong learner is never failing to learn something from a success or mistake.
So, this is what I HOPE to do with my degree – at some point, and maybe not forever. I’m just eager to see what life has to offer.
By: Maxlyn Wilbanks
When you first think of public relations, what do you think of? When I began my degree, I thought of all the negative aspects of PR and wasn’t sure it was the right choice for me. However, as I am about to graduate from UCM, I have realized how much my perspective on PR has changed. I now see the profession in a much more positive light and see how perfect this major was for me.
Want to know the reason I love PR so much? Well, I’d love to tell you: PEOPLE! I have met some of the nicest, most genuine people through my experiences in my PR program. Let me tell you about some of my favorites-
I recently interviewed sisters who are 98-years-old and 103-years-old during my internship with Western Missouri Medical Center. The older sister remembers the Spanish flu epidemic and told me about some of her experiences during her prime in the 1930s and ‘40s. I got to take photographs of them while they received their COVID-19 vaccinations and each one took it like a champ! Click here to read the full story!
Helen (left) and Sammy (right) receiving the COVID-19 vaccine!
During my internship with the GenWhy Leaders Podcast, I had the opportunity to speak with several successful entrepreneurs. One of my favorites was a woman who decided to start a jewelry business after creating a pair of earrings to match an outfit. Now, her business is one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. Click here if you’d like to watch the full episode!
I have also enjoyed the people I’ve met while working for IPR. One of my clients created his own podcast and interviewed with the Director, Multicultural PR and Engagement at McDonald’s USA. I never thought I would have a connection with someone with such an impressive position at such a huge corporation. Click here to watch the full video on YouTube to hear about her great experiences.
I am also a member and was on the board of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). Through PRSSA, I met someone who worked as the Public Relations and Social Media Director at Hallmark. He now does freelance work and owns his own communications company.
Through all these great connections I have had the opportunity to apply to several jobs in preparation for graduation. I’ve been told, “resumes don’t get you jobs, connections do”. This is a statement I totally agree with and I’m lucky to have picked a degree that has allowed me to connect with so many great, successful people.
Meeting people is one of the greatest pleasures I have had while pursuing my degree. I am so glad to have been able to learn from so many great entrepreneurs and hard workers who taught me valuable skills and life lessons.
So if you are ever curious about what public relations truly is, it’s meeting amazing people and making great connections.
By: Hannah Staul
As I prepare for graduation, all I can think about is what the next step is. How do I know when I am even ready to apply for full-time jobs, when school is still in the forefront of my mind? I did the research for you, so follow along for a step-by-step guide, from the perspective of a busy college student. If I can do it, you can too!
Step 1: Accept Failure
You may have already accepted failure in some way, either failing a class or not getting into your dream college. Failure is something everyone faces, but knowing how to overcome it and learn from your failures will lead you to success. While applying for jobs or graduate programs know that not everyone will want you. You will be rejected. It sounds harsh but it is the truth, knowing how to manage it ahead of time will help you in the long run. The fear of rejection affects many people. Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof, provides a great example about his story of how he was able to accept “no” with confidence and turn them into a “yes”.
I have had to overcome failure many times, it is recurring. There is something new you can fail at everyday, so take each day with a grain of salt knowing that failure will happen. Below are some tips to prepare yourself for failure:
● Do not call it failure:
a. Thinking about the word “failure” it does not bring a good feeling. It brings back memories of past failures, a time where I was not able to accept it. Try using these words instead!
● Be Realistic
a. When applying for jobs do not go for the 100k salary position that requires 10 plus years of experience. Obviously, as a college graduate you would not have the skills or experience to accomplish that position. But don’t undershoot your skills, if you see an opportunity that you could potentially achieve, then go for it!
● Everyone Fails!
a. Michael Jordan’s story of success is one of the most influential examples of how he accepted his failure. Pretty much starting from the bottom as the draft three pick in 1984 he built himself up from there. Today he is a highly successful basketball player because he was able to accept failure. Be like Michael Jordan and accept that we all fail and find success after.
Step 2: Classes come first
You read that right, classes come first. College is full of fun, but try to keep in mind that you came here to learn. I am guilty of letting other activities come before classes, and let me tell you, there is no success from that. Yes, applying for jobs is important, but make sure you are doing well in classes and staying on top of your work. Below are some tricks I have implemented:
● Google Calendar: Keeps you organized with meetings and classes
● Reminders! My best friend, I use this app on my iPhone to remind me when work is due that day.
● Set goals: Accomplish the work you need to get done that day and then do the “other things.”
● Ask for help: Let your professors know when you are struggling.
These tips may seem redundant, or you might be a professional at getting your work done on time. Keep in mind that it can happen to the best students, especially when something new is added to your plate.
Step 3: Build your portfolio
Finally, some real steps for post graduation! Let’s review the type of portfolio needed for the public relations and related industries field. You will need to build an online portfolio, and some great websites to build from are Wix or GoDaddy. Digital portfolios can increase your chances of being seen by employers and represent your brand.
Your brand is the person you want to be seen by the professional world. Frame your portfolio around that person, the man or woman who is extremely professional and will benefit the company you are applying for. This is a professional website, so do not include going out photos or crazy stuff you did in college.
What should be included in your portfolio? Here are some of my recommendations: ● Resume
○ Downloadable version and a walkthrough of it
● Unique website design
○ Should include your brand personality: colors, fonts, professional logo ● Skill
○ Include soft and hard skills
● Works done by you
○ Press releases, designs, blog posts, etc.
● Short bio
● Professional photos
Think of your portfolio as an extension of yourself, and include the information you want people to see and know about you. Portfolios are great to share with potential employers, a place to keep your work organized and highlight what you have accomplished.
Put it all together!
As February comes to a close, start to think about what needs to be done before graduation. Do you need a resume or cover letter? Have you applied for jobs or graduate school? Make the list that is important for you and will lead you to success. The steps above are meant to help guide you through the next couple months and feel prepared to graduate from college.
By: Ashleigh Horn
Research is the key to all successful public relations strategy. It is the defining factor in how we choose to tell our client’s story and helps us identify how our target audiences will react—long before they are ever exposed to any messaging.
But why is research crucial? How can it single-handedly define the effectiveness of our PR efforts? Isn’t research a little bit…old school?
No! Before I continue any further, I would like to emphasize that research is not old school. Call me a nerd for thinking it’s cool, but you actually need it to be successful in this industry. Here is why:
Beyond identifying an objective, research is the first step in defining what steps should be taken to solve a problem. A need may be increasing brand awareness, avoiding a crisis, or launching a campaign. The list is endless. However, used strategically, research can be conducted to meet needs, elevate your client’s brand and create lasting mutually beneficial relationships.
On the other hand, failure to conduct research may lead to indecision, inaction or financial loss. It may also make identifying key publics and their needs difficult. In many cases, actions taken without sufficient knowledge about who or what they will impact can even lead to tarnishing your brand’s overall image.
One brand whose reputation was tarnished because of its failure to conduct any research was Digorno. In 2014, the frozen pizza brand received major backlash for inappropriately using a trending Twitter hashtag to advertise its product. The company’s Tweet, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” was ill-received by Twitter users who were disgusted that the company would poke fun at domestic violence to encourage pizza sales.
The company could have avoided the situation altogether by researching the nature of the hashtag before Tweeting. While research may frontload your efforts, it helps prevent mistakes later on. Doing so allows you to preserve your brand and may even save you money.
I will be the first to admit that research is not always sexy. In fact, anyone who has taken University of Central Missouri’s PR 3605: Survey of PR Research & Theory with Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn knows that research can be tedious and seemingly mundane at times. However, it can also be exciting and provide key insights that will make decision making easier down the road.
Research allows us to strategically gauge information about our key publics. It helps us identify possible reactions and outcomes of our efforts and avoid unnecessary costs. It also equips us with the tools to measure the impact of our efforts from the get-go. At the end of the day, it takes out the guesswork and lays a solid foundation from which you can build—without fear of total failure.
You may be thinking, “Gee, that sounds great. However, I have no experience conducting research. I would never know where to begin.”
But you do!
May I ask if you have ever had a friend tell you that they have begun to develop feelings for someone? If you are like me, this small piece of information often triggers Sherlock-Holmes mode. Within the next hour you have scoured up a list of their hobbies, identified their grandmother’s name, and searched through all of the accounts they follow on Instagram.
Does this activity sound familiar? Don’t lie, I know you have done it too.
Curiosity is in our nature and whether we recognize it or not, we conduct research every day. We care about our friend and use research to ensure that the one who has them so smitten is actually right for them.
But where should you start?
Certainly there are methods to help guide how we research. However, there is no set protocol for how it should be conducted, especially in PR as we deal with all things human. I advise formulating one single question and allowing your curiosity to fuel any questions and quests for answers that follow.
You may think research is boring. It’s not! It is a vital element in the daily life of a PR pro. Ask questions, find the answers, then ask more questions that lead you to solid strategy and valuable decision-making.
By : Emily Schaper
When it comes to opening new doors and opportunities, networking should be a top priority. It’s not just about trading information, but establishing long-term relationships with mutual benefits. Networking, however, may not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. People may find it time-consuming, awkward, or out of their comfort zone. This can be understandable if you already have a lot on your plate and the last thing you want to do is make small talk with strangers. Although, if you don’t take the time to prioritize networking throughout your career, you may miss out on some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Now, you may be wondering how to become an effective networker. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be expanding your professional network in no time!
Find Your Networking Style
Now, you may be wondering how to become an effective networker. First, you need to determine what style works best for you. If you are energized by being around people, for example, you could network at a large social gathering instead of just one-on-one. Be aware, however, Covid-19 may alter these plans. Organizations are utilizing Zoom, so if you happen to enjoy engaging with others online, this could potentially help a lot.
Network Outside the Box
Second, don’t be afraid to network outside the box. Think of events and organizations to attend that you otherwise wouldn’t consider. Sometimes, being able to volunteer around people of similar interests is enough to advance your career. It’ll show you really value helping others and have a passion to learn new skills/abilities.
Do Your Research
Don’t forget to do your research before you connect with someone. It’ll help the conversation flow better if there’s a base understanding of their interests, education, work history, and more. Plus, it’ll show you genuinely care and respect the other person. They’ll remember that about you later on.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Next, always follow up. The time you invest in speaking with someone won’t benefit your personal and professional development if you fail to follow up afterward. This can easily be done by utilizing social media platforms, such as LinkedIn. Just sending short, personalized messages helps differentiate you from other individuals. According to Deena Baikowitz, chief networking officer and co-founder of Fireball Network, “The worst networking mistake you can make is not trying at all.”
Pass It On
Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to pass it on. If you have the opportunity to help someone who has taken time to reach out to you, act upon it. Your referral has a lot of power and can help them land a job. You were once in their shoes and what goes around comes around.
Utilizing these tips will set you apart from others in the long run. Remember, if you’re not stepping out of your comfort zone, then you’re not growing. Now’s the time to reach out and stay connected.
By: Sydney Halas
In college, time seems to fly quickly. One moment you are moving into a dormitory room for the first time, and the next, you are a senior, hopefully, well-prepared to embark on your professional career. Like many students, I was lost as a freshman. I entered school with an undecided major and no specific direction. After taking a class where I had the opportunity to explore many majors, I found myself considering either a degree in public relations or speech pathology. In several hours of discussions with my academic advisor, we decided a career in public relations would be more fulfilling for me.
My first class in the public relations program was taught by Professor Tricia Hansen Horn, and she wasted no time emphasizing the importance of networking. Being a first year student, I didn’t understand the importance behind her message. I wasted more than two years doing absolutely nothing to connect with public relations professionals. I sat through presentations by guest speakers in classes and conferences hardly paying attention to the speakers’ names. My grades have always been incredibly important to me but taking the extra step to connect with professionals who could offer me future opportunities did not register with me.
Finally, a few months into my junior year, something clicked. I needed an internship. I knew I had a better chance at securing one if I made connections before applying. I began taking extra steps after listening to a guest speaker. I would go up to a speaker after he or she spoke and shake their hand and introduce myself. I would connect with them on LinkedIn, and in some cases, send them a message about what I learned or extra questions I thought about later. They often responded. Networking enabled me to get a summer internship at Worlds of Fun through an employee who reached out to me. Had I not learned about the value of networking, I may have failed to check LinkedIn, and I likely would have missed the opportunity.
Another incredible networking opportunity was presented to me earlier this year. I was discussing my plans as a future public relations professional with my best friend from back home, and she gave me the name of a young woman who might be of interest to me. I connected with her online, and we made plans to get coffee in Kansas City. As a gesture of good will, I offered to buy her coffee, just like Professor Hansen-Horn had always instructed us to do. And, as Professor Hansen-Horn predicted, she instead bought mine. I followed up the day after the meeting with a hand-written thank-you note. Now, she is personally helping me tailor my resume to apply for an internship with her public relations firm, which is one of the largest in the world. I would have never had this incredible opportunity if I was not brave enough to make the first move and capitalize on this valuable opportunity to meet a professional in my chosen field.
I hope that any college student who reads this learns from my mistakes. Networking is an incredibly valuable skill for any student and young professional, not just those who plan to work in public relations. You never know who might offer you your next internship, job or phenomenal career. Never let your laziness, or fear, or whatever it may be, stop you from reaching out to a professional in your field. Remember, the worst they can do is say “no.” What’s the best thing they can do? Well, you will never know until you reach out!
By: Sarah Arnett
When I entered college, I did not know what I wanted to major in. While I knew I wanted to make a difference, I continued to explore and research, eventually landing in Dr. Tricia Hansen-Horn’s office to discuss public relations. However, I was unsure how public relations made a difference in the world around me. As I begin my senior year, I have a set of tools in my back pocket, ready to utilize and make a difference.
Networking is crucial to public relations. To be a successful professional, it is important to make connections whenever the opportunity presents itself. Whether it be at a professional event or at the local Starbucks, never pass up the opportunity to make a connection with somebody. You never know, they may be your next partner on a groundbreaking campaign!
– Social Media
Gone are the days of reading the morning newspaper. Instead, you can catch people scrolling through Twitter and checking their email first thing in the morning. A strategic public relations professional knows that social media is a powerful tool to share messages and appeal to human interest.
– Team Work
As much as some hate group work, there is no denying that the best ideas come from the culmination of several ideas. When used effectively, group work sparks creativity and inspires great ideas. These ideas are the ones that motivate audience members to take action, making a lasting impact.
– Setting SMART Goals
If you want to change the world through public relations, big goals are to be expected. However, it is important to make those goals SMART. A goal must be strategic, with sound reasoning and research backing it up. It must also be measurable, to ensure that it is results driven and justifiable use of resources. A goal must also be attainable and realistic, as there is no point in setting a goal that has no chance of being accomplished. A goal must also be time-bound to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and team members are focused on providing results. By setting SMART goals, public relations professionals have a strong plan in place to change the world.
– Finding Your Passion
At the end of the day, the biggest results will come from efforts you are passionate about. There will be projects that you work on that don’t set your soul on fire, and that is okay. But the best ideas and results come from working on things that set your soul on fire. Whether that is grounding breaking technology or a new brand of coffee, the best results are those that you are proud of and feel that you made a difference with.
By combining these skills, as well as many others, public relations professionals are able to provide results that make an impact on the world one message at a time. I’m excited to put them to use in my future career as a public relations professional!