It takes more to land a job in public relations than just having a high GPA and being part of many honors societies. Today, employers look for real word experience, like internships, to determine if a person is suited for PR positions in their agency or company. And while many students seek outside experience during the summers, some university PR programs also offer students other ways to gain experience throughout the school year.
Through Capstone Agency, an on-campus, student-run public relations firm at the University of Alabama, a group of students are working with the Alabama Public Libraries to promote an upcoming statewide Big Read. The Big Read is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which promotes literacy and encourages people to discuss a single book within communities. The students are also branding a new project, Alabama Reads. Alabama Reads hopes to bring together communities within the state by reading one book together and encourage people to visit their local libraries. The project started in July and will run through May 2010.
From the beginning, students have been working on researching previous Big Reads throughout the nation and Alabama. They have also designed a logo for Alabama Reads, developed external and internal strategies and tactics to serve both the public and librarians within the Alabama Public Library system, and pitched their ideas to the APL public relations committee and regional directors three times to date.
In class, students are taught the basics of running a campaign from start to finish. But working with a real life client brings a whole new set of challenges for students whose only knowledge comes from what they learned in their classes and internships. These students have had to overcome their initial fear of communicating with people they have never met, and they also have had to overcome any fears about public speaking to convince their client their way is the best way.
Alabama Reads: The Big Read is not the only on campus group gaining real world experience while in school. There are many other groups and programs doing the same thing, and I think it is very important to make sure these opportunities are continuously made available for students in the public relations field. Without real world experiences like these, students will not realize the full effect of their education before they head into the real world. What we learn throughout these experiences is just as valuable as the information we learn in the classrooms.
by Alysar Alameddin