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.