by Erin Zaranec
Halfway through my public relations coursework, I have learned more about my field and myself than I would have thought possible. Taking courses in JMC is unlike taking courses for another other program – a lot of our courses are group-based, project-based and very interactive. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but by year two everything starts to fall into place. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Group work may be your enemy, but make your group your best friends.
As a public relations major, it is rare (almost impossible) to go a semester without a group project. Whether you’re in Audience, Analysis and Research, Case Studies, Campaigns or Bateman, JMC is a very group-focused program. While group projects may make you roll your eyes, one lesson I have learned through my various JMC groups is to make your group members your best friends. Entering PR Case Studies (a semester-long group project), I knew no one in my group and was dreading the endless hours working in a group setting, but now my group and I are still great friends. Take the time to get to know your group members outside of the academic pressure of your project – grab some coffee and spend your first meeting just getting to know each other. A happy group makes for a higher grade.
2. Public relations isn’t all about the glitz and glam.
Most public relations majors would be lying if they said it wouldn’t be at least a little fun to do Hollywood PR. You know the type. Think Bill Cosby’s rape accusations, Justin Bieber getting arrested or being a publicist for the Queen herself: Beyoncé Knowles. While this may be fast-paced, star-studded and glamorous, there’s a whole other world of PR out there that is worthy of attention as well. Public relations has a great need and influence in the world of politics, nonprofits and social issues. Remember seeing that red and pink ‘equal’ logo on your friends’ Facebook pages? That was a PR effort of the Human Rights Campaign to advocate for marriage equality. So, while even I have to admit working for Beyoncé would be amazing, don’t think that the public relations is meant to cover up celebrity scandals and promote concert tours. Public relations can (and has) change the world.
3. When your professors say to use them as a resource - they mean it.
Don’t be the student who is easy for professors to forget. Franklin Hall is filled with professors who are not only extremely intelligent but have great professional experiences as well. We have professors who have worked with government agencies, record labels, public relations agencies, mainstream media and more. When your professors say to use them a resource – they mean it. Even if that means sitting down with a professor whose career interests you, take the initiative to do so.
4. Write your way into your future career.
As a public relations major, there is no escaping the importance of writing. Press releases, public service announcements and full-length articles will become the backbone of your portfolio and skill set. Being able to write, and write well, is not only a desired trait – but a necessary one. I got my experience working for the Kent Stater and KSUBuzz, but there are plenty of other ways to add strong writing to your portfolio. Almost every professional who has spoken to PRSSA Kent has stressed the importance of being able to write a great piece. Pay attention in journalism-based courses and make sure your writing is the best it can be.
5. Enhance your personal brand - get involved on campus!
One of the best ways to network and create a great resume is to get involved on campus. Find organizations that spark your interests and stay active in those memberships. Don’t just add a line to your resume by being a ‘member’ – be able to describe your accomplishments and leadership roles in those organizations. Not only is this a great way to build your network, campus involvement can also spark great conversations during interviews. Make it a point to join at least one professional organization and one ‘fun’ organization during your time at Kent. Not only will you enhance your professional skills but spend downtime doing what you love.