It’s that time again…
In the next week or so, a lot of you will be going back to school, if you haven’t already. I keep getting questions about what to major in, what courses to take, etc if you want to pursue a career in PR, so this post is dedicated to those who asked.
If you are considering pursuing a career in PR, you don’t necessarily have to major in PR, but your schedule should consist of the following courses at some point (keep in mind they may be called something different at your school, but you’ll get the gist):
English – Let’s just start with the basics. I can’t express how important it is to use proper grammar and spelling. You would be surprised by how many people do not do so. So much of your correspondence as a publicist is done via e-mail, press releases, etc., so using proper English is essential. You can’t always rely on spell check…
PR 101 – You need to at least know the basics of public relations, like what a press release is vs. a media alert vs. a backgrounder vs. a fact sheet. What is a pitch? How do you craft one? All of these questions should be answered in this class. Then move on to take the next level as well.
Writing for Public Relations – All those things I mentioned above…you’ll learn how to write them.
Marketing 101 – Do you know the difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing? Do you know how to identify, satisfy and keep the customer? Of course you don’t! That is why you need to immerse yourself in courses that will teach you these things. Publicists are marketers, so you need to learn the basics in order to really understand the bigger picture and become an effective PR professional.
Media Relations – This course teaches you how different media work and who in the media decide what is news. Usually, guest journalists will come in and discuss how to pitch them, what they find newsworthy, etc., so you learn a ton from people who are in the industry. Bottom line is that if you don’t know how to work with the media, you will not be a good publicist.
Speech writing – I can promise you that you will have to draft a speech, presentation, or some type of communication for your client at some point in your PR career. Understanding the fundamentals of writing an impactful speech means understanding your audience, hooking them from the beginning, and delivering information that they find important and relevant. You will be given the tools to do all of the above and more in this course.
Speech – So now that you wrote the speech, you should know how to deliver it. In order to be a good publicist, you need to work on your communication skills, and part of doing so involves giving speeches. Although most publicists spend their time behind the scenes, I can guarantee that you will at least have to give a presentation at your agency or to your client. You may even be asked to be a spokesperson for the brand at times in front of the camera or a large audience, so developing these skills is imperative.
Social Media – Social media is crucial for today’s communicators and public relations practitioners to understand. This type of course will introduce you to a broad overview of social media platforms and how to best leverage them for brand value.
So those are courses that I personally think you have to take. You may also want to consider…
Advertising 101 – It is helpful to understand the other side of the business in order to do your job as a publicist most effectively, and so much of it is relevant to what we do anyway.
A Business course – It is always great to have an understanding of how businesses operate in general.
A Finance course – You will most likely create and/or manage budgets at some point in your career. To understand a P&L (Profits & Loss Statement) or how to create a financial spreadsheet is pretty important.
A Journalism course – I took a course in college on writing for TV and another course in Broadcast Journalism. I learned so many of the key terms used in the industry and how to use the equipment. I also learned how to write a treatment, a script, and a news broadcast, and how to edit for TV and radio. I have referenced all of this knowledge at some point in my career.
Digital Media Marketing – This will help you with your social media strategies in relation to how you can most effectively leverage certain platforms and key insights. They go hand in hand.
Crisis Communications – Effective crisis management is a competitive advantage and a critical attribute of PR leadership. An effective crisis response protects a company’s reputation as well as its financial condition, operations, relations with key stakeholders, and strategic focus. It never hurts to have this type of knowledge, as you will more than likely deal with a crisis at some point in your PR career.
So now that you have a full course load, you have just one more assignment… Don’t forget that you can share this blog with your professors, fellow PR majors, PRSA chapters, or just friends in general. Shameless plug, I know, but ultimately I just want to help as many of you as I can… Good luck this semester!
Share with me the courses you signed up for this semester that you are most excited about at @ThePRCloset or on Facebook.