What is PR? Some people confuse it with advertising because of its similarities, but in actuality it has a very different purpose.
Public relations practitioners seek relationships with people, building a bridge between clients and their audience. Advertising is just one car crossing that bridge to help spread the word about a product or event.
With that said, many students (including myself) enter the PR field, not knowing what it is really about. When I was a sophomore, I remember asking different educators in the Communications College, “What is the difference in an Advertising and Public Relations degree?” The answers I got weren’t necessarily clear to me. It took a while before I started actually understanding PR.
AP style, press releases, memos, logos, surveys, evaluations, feature stories, video news releases– these are just a few things a PR student learns. While these are important aspects, it still does not give you a definition of exactly what you will be doing when you get out in “the real world.”
So there is the question: What will I be doing when I get into “the real world”? It is always a good idea to start with something you are passionate about. If you don’t find PR a very exciting profession, you can make it exciting by fitting it into your life. Don’t think about what jobs are out there. Think more along the lines of “What do I care about and how can I connect that with my PR skills?”
Exploring this question will help you define your career, instead of the career that defines you. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to search for jobs. But perhaps exploring the question will help you to know what jobs to look for and also which people to contact.
Meeting people—one of the key PR tools. Contact people involved in public relations and build relationships. You can learn a lot by just talking with others and listening to their experiences they have had in the PR field. Then, that person may give you another contact, and another and so on, until you have loads of knowledge that can gear you towards that next step.
I have found that you must be passionate about what you are doing. Since there are many students striving toward a degree in PR (e.g., 584 in UA’s 2008 undergraduate PR program), you have to find ways to be creative and different than others in your field. Start with something you are passionate about and the ideas will begin to flow.