Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why I want to work in public relations

One question I'm constantly asked on this crazy job search of mine is why I'm interested in working in public relations. So many people are confused that my degree is in journalism, yet I'm not looking for a job at a newspaper or television station.

The simple answer to this question is that Ole Miss does not offer a public relations major. You can specialize in it through journalism (like I did) or through marketing. When I changed my major to journalism the end of freshmen year I did it because I wanted the public relations specialization and journalism just seemed the better route to go. All the extra classes needed to gain this specialization were listed through the journalism school, not a single one through the business school. This fact combined with my irrational fear of taking business calculus and the brand new macs in the J-School labs led me to changing my major from elementary education to journalism.

But that's not the only reason I want to pursue public relations instead of traditional journalism. The main reason is that public relations helps people and journalism really doesn't. Sure journalists let people know what's going on in their communities, but that's it. As a journalist your job is to tell people the public officials they elected are taking bribes, the roads they drive on are unsafe, or their favorite sports team is going to have a terrible season; and that's where it ends. A good journalist leaves you with this information and then forces you to decided what to do with it. They dump all these facts on you and then leave you alone. That's exactly what a public relations specialist does not do. A public relations specialist helps you discover your problem and then works with you to create a solution. They stay with you until your problem is solved. I love helping people and can think of no better motivator than seeing the results of your hard work for other people. That's the type of work I want to do. I've never been a glass half full or half empty person. I'm a "what do we need to do to get this glass to the volume you want."

So do I wish my degree was in public relations instead of journalism? I use to think so, but now I'm so thankful that it isn't. The most important skill in public relations is the ability to communicate, and I can't think of a better preparation for that than through journalism. Obviously I have a strong writing background, but I learned so much more than simply how to write. Journalism taught me how to think like a journalist, a vital skill when media pitching. It also taught me to think like the average person. What's important to them? What questions and concerns will they have? Because of journalism I have no problems calling up (or emailing) someone I've never met and talking to them like we're old friends. The one thing they stressed more than anything else in every one of my journalism classes (and my time writing for the campus paper) was the importance of deadlines. I think journalists are the most adapt at working on deadline, especially tight deadlines. Most importantly journalism taught me the importance of being persistent. If I had a dollar for every time I had to contact a source for a story more than once I could probably afford to move to New York and take an unpaid internship for the Fall. I feel like these experiences and lessons learned from journalism will make me a very successful public relations specialist.  

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