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 Shelby Bueneman
Podcasts have become increasingly popular. You can listen to them on Spotify, on the app itself and on Apple music. With such a wide variety of podcasts it can be difficult to find the right one that will benefit you. For public relations professionals there are five basic podcasts to listen to that will help them grow their skills and their business. Listening to these podcasts will help them stay on top of trends, revamp their creativity, find ways to be a better leader, keep up with the actual PR industry and benefit from writing tips.
Stay on Top of Trends
Public relations professionals need to keep up to date on what is trending within their business area, nationwide, and globally. Keeping up with different trends allows PR professionals to see how their target audiences are affected and how they react to the trends. They can use this to their advantage to reach their publics more efficiently. For news podcasts I ,recommend NPR News Now by NPR and Global News Podcast by BBC. Both of these podcasts are updated daily and are fact based with some occasional humor.
Having a creative mind is important for PR professionals. It’s how campaigns and other communication strategies are created. PR professionals should keep their mind flowing with these different podcasts. The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry is a great podcast that showcases different speakers, artists and thought leaders. In this podcast Henry points out different ways to be happy, healthy, and creative, not only at work but in life.
Find Ways to be a Better Leader
I previously attended a conference where it was noted that leadership does not only come from those with higher up positions. Leaders are found throughout the whole company. This sentiment is shared through different podcasts such as Leadership and Loyalty by Dov Baron and This Is Your Life by Michael Hyatt. Baron talks about leadership by using honesty and emotional intelligence. This provides a more insightful way to connect with those you oversee or those with whom you work closely. Hyatt’s podcast is more about helping those with fast-paced lives lead with confidence.
Keeping up with the PR industry
While it is important to stay on top of current trends, it is also important to stay on top of what is currently happening in the PR world. With so many new ways to keep track of everything it is helpful to have much of you need to know wrapped up in an episode. You can follow The Spin Sucks Podcast by Gini Dietrich and Inside PR podcasts to keep up with the PR world. Both of these podcasts follow the inner workings of the PR world and talk about current trends within it.
PR professionals are constantly writing and there is always room for improvement. While professionals usually use AP style, these podcasts can provide a bit more of a fresh narrative. Check out Writing Tips by Brian M. Taylor and Copy that Pops by Laura Peterson, M.A.E.D. for inspiration. Both of these podcasts has some humor to them so you won’t snooze on your way to the office.
With the PR world always changing, listening to podcasts is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch. They are great to listen to on your commute to work or even when you are unwinding from a long day in the office. Happy listening!
By: Myah Duncan
“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” -Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Actively branding yourself via social media can go a lot further than a resume and cover letter when it comes to getting a first internship or job. It can also keep you from getting that internship or job. Employers never hesitate to do a quick Google search to see how a potential employee represents him/herself online, in fact, according to CareerBuilder, more than 70% of employers check a candidate’s social media content BEFORE deciding to hire. So ask yourself, do you want what you are posting to be seen by a potential employer? Do you think you’d get that internship you want so badly? As a college student, this is the best time to clean up your social media and build your online personal brand in a way that benefits you.
It is easy to get caught up in the moment and post every picture that you take to your social media accounts. But do you really want your future employer to see the wild time you had when drinking last Thursday night on Pine Street? You don’t want them to see it just as much as they don’t want to see it. They want to make sure you know how to act professionally when in public. So, the first lesson is, don’t post that picture. But if you have, this is the perfect time to start going through all those photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that may not shine that professional light. Delete them from your social channels, but you can keep them if you save them on your laptop, make a scrapbook, or do whatever feels right. But do not leave them on there for the world to see. Oh, and don’t forget to ask friends to delete questionable images of you from their own feeds. It’s time to draw that line between personal and professional life. You can still post fun experiences, but you have to make sure it’s strategically fun content.
The content that you put out on your social media accounts does not necessarily have to be all about business and links to different articles. It is still important to be yourself via your own channels; it’s like a portfolio of who you are. First, focus on your grammar and spelling. This is an easy way to represent your writing ability. It’s a huge red flag if all of your posts have many errors in them. Take time to read through your posts and delete or edit those posts that do have errors. Second, carefully evaluate the images you want to post. Ask, what do they say to others about my professionalism? My choices? My values?
Leaving the lasting impression
Just like after meeting a professional in person, those who engage with you via social media want to remember who you are and have a solid impression of the type of person you are. You want your social media to leave a positive lasting impression on a professional who views it. Actively cleaning and crafting now will help you leave a good impression.
By putting the time and effort into your social media you are giving professionals or anyone who views your page a well-rounded peek into your life. Don’t let inappropriate social media end your chances of landing the job.
Salm, L. (n.d.). 70% of employers are snooping candidates’ social media profiles. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/social-media-survey-2017.
Tips for Building Your Personal Brand. (2019, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/tips-for-building-your-personal-brand/.
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: Samuel Jordison
For the past year, I had the opportunity to work as a human resources intern for a manufacturing plant in Kansas City. When comparing PR and HR on the surface it looks like two completely different fields, but there is a lot they have in common. I’ve found that certain commonalities extend not just between PR and HR, but PR and almost every field in business. One of those things is that you have to know your audience.
One of the first things we learn in Intro to Public Relations is that you need to understand who your “public” is if you want to relate to them. That advice is universal across the world. If we want to communicate something to someone, first we need to make sure they are interested in what we are communicating. If we want them to respond, we need to communicate in a way that is clear to them. If we want them to have a positive reaction to what we say, then we need to say it in a way that encourages them in a positive way. All of these things hinge on knowing who your audience is and understanding what is important to them.
This is not exclusive to those in the PR world. In the workforce, managers need to know that their employees have an interest in their work to be good employees. Parents want their children to understand them, and will try and communicate in ways their children will understand. Even friendships are built with recurring positive interaction.
Knowing your audience, whether it’s employees, co-workers, friends, or family members, is important in any setting. As an HR Intern, my primary audience was the employees inside the company. I strived to gain an understanding of how they think and the best way to communicate with them. Otherwise, the programs or events we would roll out would be ineffective.
When we take time to figure out how those around us will best receive our message, we are strengthening a relationship. Whether that relationship is with consumers, employees, family or friends, it’s extremely beneficial.
By: Emma Honn
We have all heard it before: to be a public relations professional, you have to be a creative storyteller, think outside of the box and be quick on your feet. There’s still not much talk about being analytical. As technology develops and our means of communication becomes more sophisticated, PR professionals must begin to think about how data can provide value to their work.
People have a hard time believing what companies say about themselves. Facts can substantiate a claim, but using data alone does not build a personality for your brand. Creative storytelling can be amplified by incorporating facts along the way, and bringing credibility to a message will help audiences believe and trust in your brand. Research and data can also help in measuring attitudes before and after a PR effort. It’s a win-win situation on both sides. Remember, being a creative storyteller is one thing, but incorporating analytical thinking into storytelling is another.
Connecting with your audience
Often times, we believe that being creative and having great ideas will lead to success. While that may be true, there has to be a way to measure how well the great idea actually performed. By using big data, we can understand how audiences have reacted to a certain idea or campaign, or if they behaved in a certain way because of PR strategies. The element of measurement that big data offers allows PR professionals to be strategic in decision making. Instead of guessing what target audiences want or how they think, big data offers improved insights about what our audiences did, what they want and what they expect.
A seat at the table
We can also use big data to conduct attitudinal and behavioral research. This is essential to the success of a campaign or initiatives that PR professionals develop. By conducting attitudinal and behavioral research before and after a campaign, we can see how well our campaign actually performed.
It seems like, nowadays, PR professionals are standing in the corner instead of sitting at the table. Professionals are having a hard time proving what PR is worth to an organization, but having cold hard data to show the C-suite will prove the worth of any PR team, and show that we are a vital and valuable part of every company.
When students get into PR, they think, “No more math! I get to be creative all the time!” This may have been true 30 years ago, but with the developments in technology and communication, a background in data is more important than ever. If PR is going to have a seat at the table, build stronger relationships with their audiences and amplify communications, data must be in the conversation.
By Megan Myers
Whether it’s your freshman or senior year of college, you may still be unsure about which public relations career path you should follow. You might be fortunate and have a passion for one field over another, which will make finding your PR field of choice much easier. However, for most PR students, all they know is that they have a passion for PR and need a little extra help determining which direction to go. Just like how your personalities must complement each other in a personal relationship, you have to fit and mesh your personality to work well within a company and career.
You may have taken personality quizzes before such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to gain insight about yourself. Some careers or company cultures may be better suited for different personalities. Knowing who you are and how you work can help you determine which PR fields may be a good fit for you.
In case you haven’t taken a personality test before, 16Personalities offers a quick and easy way to gain insight about some of your traits. The test will sort you into one of four personality archetypes, which include diplomats, analysts, sentinels or explorers. If you don’t already know your archetype, you can take the test and use these suggestions to consider your fit with potential PR careers.
Being a diplomat, you are considered adaptable and manageable because you work well in a group setting. Your features include compassion, recognition, and artistic abilities. Diplomats would fit better in the PR fields of agencies, non-profits and corporate organizations with a creative/fun cultures, such as Google, Nike, or Netflix. Diplomats’ cooperative and imaginative nature means they will be an asset to any team and have creative ideas and solutions.
As an analyst, you are firm and self-reliant. You take it upon yourself to do a job with little to no questions. You rely on your research and are there to get the job done. Analysts would fit better in corporate and academic PR fields, such as writing for a company like Cerner or for a college or university. Their strategic mindset makes it easy to be the strategist for a campaign or foresee the long-term effects that may occur in campaign implementation.
Being a sentinel, you need order and organization in your life. You love a good challenge, but like to stick to the rules when it comes to creativity. People in this category are considered to be achievers. Sentinels would fit better in governmental, medical, and financial PR fields. This could include working with county government organizations, lobbying or working for a major corporation such as State Farm Insurance. Their meticulous nature means that they would fit well in a managerial position in any field, focusing on achieving goals and objectives makes them great at moving up the ladder.
Explorers have the most exciting and outgoing personalities. These types of people are sharp-witted; they are the go-to person during a crisis situation. Explorers would fit better in the PR fields of event planning, crisis management or consulting firms, such as O’Neill Marketing & Event Management Company or Edelman. Their ability to connect with their surroundings and ability to think on their feet makes them perfect for situations that are high pressure with lots of moving parts.
Now that you understand which category you fit into, you are better equipped to choose the path you should take in your PR career.
By Haley Gleason
After reading the title of this post, I’m sure you’re thinking, “I can communicate just fine with people.” However, you may not be as effective as you think. The world is constantly changing around us, and the same goes for the ways in which we communicate. As future business professionals, we must take the necessary steps to stand out from the crowd, and being exceptional communicators is a great way to do it. With that in mind, here are a few tips to improve your communication skills.
1. (Actually) Listen to others
Hearing what people have to say is something we do on a daily basis. However, are we truly listening? Many of us take listening for granted, believing we are good listeners simply because we hear others. Yet many people they feel as if they are not receiving the full attention of those they converse with. According to Chip Rose, a professional mediator, “We all use language to communicate, to express ourselves, to get our ideas across, and to connect with the person to whom we are speaking. When a relationship is working, the act of communicating seems to flow relatively effortlessly. When a relationship is deteriorating, the act of communicating can be as frustrating as climbing a hill of sand.” Personal and professional relationships alike require both parties to listen effectively. Therefore, it is important to take steps to avoid disruptions, such as our phones, background noise or even our own thoughts.
Bearing this in mind, consider making these personal adjustments as necessary to be a more effective listener:
- Face the speaker and use eye contact.
- Use body language and gestures.
- Keep an open mind.
- Don’t interrupt. Listen to everything others have to say before you provide feedback.
- Ask questions to ensure you understand what others are saying.
2. Provide valuable feedback
Providing valuable feedback goes hand-in-hand with listening. You can only truly provide valuable feedback if you listen to what a person has to say. It is not always easy, but it is obtainable with conscious effort. One aspect to consider that is very important in providing feedback is patience.The point of providing feedback is to improve and/or satisfy the person you are talking to, which is best accomplished by exercising patience and conveying your support. Being honest is another important part of good feedback, but note that you are often not going to get your point across by being critical or harsh, as this behavior often causes people to become guarded or hostile. Again, exercise patience and provide feedback in a positive, supportive manner.
Feedback also requires constant attention and timeliness. This is especially true since methods of communication have changed. Feedback is more relevant when provided as soon as possible, and modern technology enables near instantaneous responses. Make an effort to utilize your resources and provide feedback in a timely matter when it is needed the most.
3. Break down boundaries
Sometimes, poor communication skills may make you feel as if you’re on a deserted island, attempting to send a message in a bottle which no one ever receives. In a way, you may have unknowingly placed yourself on that deserted island by not breaking down boundaries with whom you are trying to communicate with.
The first step to break down these boundaries is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Try to understand where their opinions and ideas are coming from. This does not mean you have to always agree, but gaining an understanding of their stance can help you move forward to communicating effectively.
The next step is to be fearless. Don’t be afraid to talk to others and ask questions. Talk to people you normally wouldn’t, like people in other departments and different seniority levels. If you are an entry level employee, break the norm and go engage with a manager or executive. That is your opportunity to learn from them and grow in the company.
As described in an article on Fortune.com, breaking down these boundaries can help you secure nigh unlimited potential in the workplace. This potential will not only help you grow as an individual, but also as an unstoppable business professional.
4. Embrace change
Change can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially because we often become comfortable in our abilities and current situation. However, it is important to remember that change is an important part of stimulating personal growth. To help embrace change, get rid of the negativity in your life, such as the self-doubt that takes over in uncomfortable situations. Develop the confidence to break down boundaries. Have the strength to actually listen to people. Be patient, honest and timely in providing feedback. With the help of these tips, you can set yourself on the path to becoming a great communicator.