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!
by Maria Schomer
“What do you do?” It’s usually the first question I get asked when I tell people I am a public relations major. My friends, who know little about PR, assume that I take the easiest classes and all I learn is the structure of a press release and how to manipulate the public. My family, however, believes public relations takes a lot of skill and that I know how to speak in front of a large crowd without getting nervous.
So what do public relations majors actually learn? Social media? Event planning? Sure, we cover that (among other things). But what people and other students don’t realize is the amount of time and hard work we dedicate to being a public relations major.
Thinking back to the simpler, less stressful days of my freshman year I realized how my understanding of different aspects of public relations has changed.
AP writing can consume you
When you think about public relations, do you think about writing? I didn’t. What about writing in a different way than standard English composition? I really didn’t consider that either. The Associated Press (AP) is a style of writing that is used by all public relations professionals. It’s not quite like learning another language but you do have to learn different ways to punctuate sentences, whether or not a word needs to be capitalized, correct use of titles and a whole lot more. Fortunately, we do have a reference book, or survival guide of sorts that we can use to help: the AP Style Guide.
How hard can social media be?
You use it everyday, sometimes multiple times. Social media is easy to understand, right? Take Facebook: you just log in and update people about what is happening in your life. How hard is that?
In reality, as public relations majors, it’s much more complex. You have to grasp the latest social media platforms and trends. You must have an understanding of where different publics generally traffic social media platforms and why. You may think that Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are what companies mostly use to share news with followers, and you’re not wrong. However, social media is much more than a weekly status update, it can help build relationships between a company and its publics. Creating a dialogue like this helps build costumer loyalty and provides valuable feedback.
To put the importance of social media into perceptive, Lucas Miller, a PR specialist at Fusion 360, believes you have to show the return-on-investment while working with social media for an industry. This is because, although social media continues to grow every day, companies are still skeptical about the effects social media can have on their publics.
It’s a networking world
Getting to know others in the public relations field can be a valuable learning experience. There is no better time to network with a professional than when you are in college. Professionals are often willing to help a college student out because they know what it’s like being a student with little to no experience. Additionally, most professionals are willing to be a contact if you ever have any questions or want them to look over your résumé.
But how do you network when you’re still in college? There are several options that a college student can use to network. They can join their campus chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Also, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is a national organization that hosts networking and workshop events for professionals and students alike. Students often don’t realize that networking can help further their career and the more they attend networking events the better their connections will be.
Is Public Relations the easiest major out there? No. But can it be the most rewarding? Absolutely.
By Jeremy Noble
Internships can give PR students more than just an opportunity to gain real world experience. They provide students with a chance to network with professionals. My personal experience with the Mid-Missouri Outlaws was valuable. The Mid-Missouri Outlaws are a Professional Indoor Football Organization that is committed to providing central Missouri with an outstanding venue for sports entertainment and an economic boost to the area. I managed all of the team’s social media, planned the Champions Professional Indoor Football League Kickoff, and generated sponsorships.
Mid-Missouri Outlaws helped me prepare for the real world. Working with the professional team is a really good learning experience for a college student who isn’t sure what area of the industry they’re best suited for. The Outlaws helped me realize what it is like to network with professional broadcasters. The broadcasters taught me how to communicate to sport broadcasters. I learned a lot about the marketing and business side of a sports organization. I was taught how to gain team sponsorships through different businesses and how to market a team’s brand to the community. This has made me more marketable to employers. Attending the national conferences and professional meetings helped me understand the power behind an organization.
Learning to Network
I feel more comfortable going up to professionals and trying to communicate with them at an event that is taking place. I learned to be the first person who makes that initial contact. It’s helped me become more professional because it did feel like a job, not like a standard class. You are able to learn a lot from the professionals with in a sports team. I was able to network and gain contacts in the process.
I would recommend an internship with a professional sports team to anyone, especially for anyone interested in the sports area of the public relations field. I have learned so much from this internship and it has provided me with a part time social media job with United States Football Network.
Through my internship with the Outlaws I was able to network with different team owners and I was able to get a job with USFBN updating social media and managing client accounts. Learning about sports marketing and social media in my internship is something that prepared me for my job with USFBN.
By Breann Roettering
Resources surround public relations students at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) everyday. I encourage the students to open their eyes and take advantage of these resources to help prepare them for their career in the future.
The PR Department has wonderful faculty who share their knowledge with the students every day inside and outside of the classroom. Get to know your professors here at UCM. Our faculty members are experienced in a wide range of Public Relations, ranging from nonprofit organizations to agency work and design.
Public Relations students have the opportunity to be involved in UCM’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. PRSSA conducts a number of events annually to benefit students, and to help them start making professional connections. If you haven’t checked out UCM PRSSA, I encourage you to do so. Each year the organization hosts PR Pro Day, an AP Style Workshop and a personal branding workshop that covers social media. PRSSA also gives you an opportunity to meet your peers and network at events in Kansas City such as The KC PR Summit, as well as social event in Warrensburg.
Get to know your classmates
I have already mentioned it briefly, but it is very important to get to know other students in the program. A great place to start making those connections is in the classroom. Your fellow classmates are also going to graduate and become professionals someday. Get to know them and build those connections now. They may become a great source for you in the future and will be people to collaborate with and get advice from when you start your career.
The final networking tool students have at UCM is Innovative Public Relations (IPR.) IPR is a student PR firm housed in University Relations. Every PR student is encouraged to apply for IPR. There is an application and interview process, but do not let that scare you away. Working for IPR will help you gain experience in an agency setting and also is a great place to start networking. You will get the opportunity to work alongside the University Relations staff and gain experience working for real-life clients.
At UCM, students can begin networking right away. It will benefit you to get to know your professors, fellow students and administrators. After you graduate you will already have experience working in a professional environment. Start networking on campus and build a name for yourself now. Those connections may open a door for you to that dream job you are seeking. It will also help you build your confidence as you enter the job market because you will already have experience in networking yourself.