“My major in English definitely helped my career. I was hired in to write articles for our trade magazine. Today, I serve as copy editor for all outgoing publications."
Casei Castner Phillips '01
By Emily Lockhart '04; Revised by Chantel Robinson '09; Revised by Aaron Stewart '09
Have you ever watched an interview with football players and noticed that they seemed really modest? Have you thought, “Wow, they didn’t look so humble strutting around the field after scoring a touchdown?” There’s a reason—someone was hired to help them look good to the public. That is just what a person involved in Public Relations needs to do: help others gain a good reputation. Public Relations workers (or “PR” for short) are not reserved for the elite, however. Many companies have a need for PR personnel also in order to build a strong reputation and cause people to buy what they’re selling. Due to this, those interested in becoming a PR major need to have good verbal and writing skills. If you’re one of those people that nearly faint when they’re forced to give a presentation in front of a class, I would suggest you take a lot of speech classes—PR employees are expected to “get the word out,” so you would not be very useful if you could not talk in front of others. A good degree to gain for a PR track would be either English or Communications, both of which are offered here at Heidelberg University.
Michael Farr and Laurence Shatkin sum up the role of a PR professional very well—their job is to “plan and direct public relations programs designed to create and maintain a favorable public image for employer or client; or if engaged in fundraising, plan and direct activities to solicit and maintain funds for special projects and nonprofit organizations” (382). This fits with what I mentioned before, which was that you need to get comfortable talking to others—this is not a job for shy, reserved people. Not only do you have to act as the “go-between” for corporations, you also need to do the same between departments within the corporation you work for. PR personnel are the glue that holds companies together. There are two types of communications that PR specialists practice within companies: In-house communications (newspapers, memos, workshops, &c.) and Out-of-house communications (conventions, advertising, publicity, &c.) (Camenson 93). Since a good bit of the job includes fundraisers and publicity, it wouldn’t hurt to get some experience within sales, marketing and business as well as English and Communications.
Qualifications and Training
Again, Farr and Shatkin give a good summary of areas it would be good for PR specialists to train in (382). Sales and marketing have already been covered, but it’s also important to know about economics and accounting in order to help your company financially. Education and training experience is also great, since you will probably be training employees within the company how to become more efficient. Law and government knowledge is helpful in almost any job, since there may come a point where you will need to help your client through legal problems. Customer and personal service experience is invaluable, as you’re going to be spending most of your time trying to please the customers and helping your clients learn to do the same. Finally, knowledge of a foreign language is extremely helpful, especially if you end up working for a major corporation that deals with foreign clients on a regular basis.
Public Relations at Heidelberg
A major in English can greatly help with your goal at becoming a PR specialist. At Heidelberg, we offer many classes that can help with your writing skills, including Creative, Technical and Fiction writing courses. It might also help to get involved in a Communications major. We have many speech classes that can help you become confident preparing and delivering speeches in front of others. In fact, both majors are so important to the overall experience of a PR specialist that you may want to double major in both, or at least minor in one of them while majoring in the other. Outside of classes, there are other activities a PR major could get involved with. Becoming a part of WHEI (the campus radio station) is extremely recommended, as it will help with your speech skills. We also have a very successful debate team. Some writing activities to think about are also the school newspaper The Kilikilik, the literary magazine Morpheus (although that is usually reserved for English Writing majors), as well as the yearbook Aurora.
- Camenson, Blythe. Great Jobs for Liberal Arts Majors. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, 2008.
- Farr, Michael and Laurence Shatkin, PhD. 250 Best Paying Jobs. Indianapolis: JIST Publishing, Inc, 2007.
Online Journals and Websites:
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) http://www.prsa.org/
MSN Money Central PRNewswire http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/provider.aspx?feed=PR
Career Overview Career and Job Search Resources http://www.careeroverview.com/public-relations-careers.html
Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) http://www.prssa.org/
Helpful Books available at Amazon.com:
The Public Relations Writer's Handbook: The Digital Age by Merry Aronson, Don Spetner, and Carol Ames (Hardcover - Mar 30, 2007)
Public Relations: The Complete Guide by Joe Marconi (Hardcover - May 26, 2004)
Public Relations: The Practice and the Profession (NAI, text alone) by Dan L Lattimore, Otis W Baskin, Suzette T. Heiman, and Elizabeth L. Toth (Paperback - Oct 2003)
The Public Relations Handbook for Nonprofits: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide by Art Feinglass (Hardcover - May 20, 2005)