When I was a student, I struggled to find a career path that was a fit for me. I thought I was going to study to be a veterinarian. Once I experienced my first long lab class, I was out of that major. Changing to English/Communication Arts wasn’t a huge leap for me, personally. But would it get me where I needed to go professionally?
I knew I was very creative, loved writing and had worked in photography. Fun fact: I had published numerous poems and essays in literary magazines and books by the time I was in college. Still, being a poet or photographer weren’t steady, plentiful jobs in the market. I became obsessed with my college’s Career Services department and spent lots of time with their staff trying to find jobs that could work for me.
Many students have heard of advertising and even more want to work in that industry. What I find is not as many are aware of public relations (PR) as a field. And they have no idea how much broader and welcoming it can be as a career path. As a researching student, I thought my path would be to become an advertising copywriter. What else could a poet/photographer/dreamer do?
My “Hail Mary” Pass into PR
I learned more about working in public relations, a relatively foreign field to me, in my senior capstone seminar class. One of the last classes I took before graduating with my bachelors! I had taken a PR 101 type class before, but the origin story of public relations didn’t resonate with me. Or that professor’s dry teaching style didn’t. Either way, I hadn’t understood what today’s PR pro did until my classmate described the field from her real-world internship experience. I had completed a marketing internship myself , but I wasn’t satisfied by promotions. How could I help others while using my creative skills but and what I was learning about marketing? Public relations sounded like a mashup of it all. Creative writing, marketing, promotions, events, photography and more. What struck me most was that in public relations, you often worked benefiting the public good. Sold!
What Do You Do in Public Relations?
I’ve invested about 16 years of my life working in PR. Spoiler alert – it’s much more than media relations.
Because I still get asked, “what is it you do?”. And because the top search in Answer the Public is “What is PR?”…let’s define it here.
According to Public Relations Society of America, Public Relations (PR) is defined as “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
It’s built on influencing, engaging and managing relationships with key stakeholders (people that matter to your organization) across lots of platforms in order to shape and frame the perception of the organization. Lots of dotted lines of relationships that are earned, not paid for.
Some of the disciplines in PR include:
Brand Journalism/Content Creation
Event Planning and Management
Governmental Relations/Public Affairs
Media Relations (expanding into Social Media Influencer Relations)
Social Media Strategy and Management
Speechwriting and Ghostwriting
PR pros may have to be:
Content creators or managers
And sooooooo much more
Keeping Us Honest and Interested
Any subject, business sector or even hobby you’re interested in can have a public relations job related to it.
It’s a field in which you can be a chameleon. A chance to tailor your communication style, content, dress, or expertise depending on who you’re working with and why. There’s a toolkit of disciplines and services to use to create and maintain the relationships your organization needs to reach its goals. It should be done following a code of ethics, which keeps integrity at the forefront and public good within reach.
If you have a heart for people, a special cause or just want to keep from getting bored in your career, check out public relations! While I am a communicator who can work across advertising, marketing and public relations…public relations is often the industry vantage point I start from. Being able to establish, keep and build relationships through a win-win, credible connection will always of value.