Public relations often gets confused with advertising. While both influence public opinion, there are vast differences between the two fields. Advertising is paid communication, as when a company or organization buys time on the radio or television, rents a billboard, or sponsors an event. PR, on the other hand, uses free channels such as newspaper articles, blogs and magazine articles to sway public opinion.
So, how does one break into the thrilling field of public relations? A degree such as a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies is a good start. This degree focuses on the proper protocols of public relations and how the public thinks.
Many consider public relations a defensive field, which is partially true. When something negative happens, PR professionals quickly initiate damage control. However, much of the job is also thinking ahead and making educated guesses how the public will perceive a particular event, comment or situation.
PR teams research and evaluate an organization’s reputation non-stop in order to be prepared. They work with employees in order to keep messaging consistent throughout the entire organization as well as with the public. PR teams write press releases and speeches, schedule events, and even use social media channels to influence how the public feels about the organization.
Relationships Are Key
Of course, PR jobs are more than their descriptions suggest. Since they deal with human relations, it is essential that people who work in public relations have good, solid and positive relationships with people in the media as well as their organization’s clients. Constant communication is necessary, as is rapport and mutual respect.
Clients must trust the PR team behind the organization’s public profile, otherwise there is no need for a relationship between the two. Good standing with reporters and journalists can also go a long way in getting stories published and contributing to positive spin.
How to Get Started
Public relations attracts people of all types, so applicants benefit from the right degree. Communication studies offers a solid foundation and helps people hone their communication and people skills. However, not everyone has time to devote four years in school to earn a bachelor’s degree.
An online communication degree can lift that roadblock. For those who want a degree but cannot fit the typical on-campus program into their professional and personal obligations, online programs from traditional schools provide the flexibility that these students need.
The world of public relations is more than writing press releases and throwing parties. It involves keeping a finger on the pulse of the public while predicting and even controlling what people think and feel.
PR jobs provide a challenge unmatched by other professional fields. Public relations is a highly social environment built on relationships, trust and effective communication. Those who enjoy challenging and fast-paced environments should explore the possibilities in public relations.
Learn more about A-State’s Online Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies.