By Stephanie Smith
I’ve got a secret worth sharing: It’s possible to survive Public Relations Case Studies. As bold as that statement may be, I’ll make even bolder declarations: It’s possible to get something out of it and even remember it fondly.
OK. I may be writing this after one too many Coke Zeros, but hear me out, please. I didn’t say it was easy to get through PR Case Studies, I didn’t say it was like a day at Disney World and I didn’t say you might not scream, cry, yawn (a lot), curse the moon, throw darts at my photo and throw the Ron Smith textbook (and your communication plan) across the room a couple of times.
But you can survive. And I’m here to tell you how. At least, I’m here to tell you how students have survived my section of PR Case Studies (and I challenge my colleagues to offer their thoughts, too). I offer six survival tips. Do these six things – and add a whole lot of coffee, ice cream, TV breaks and an occasional adult beverage – and it will all work out. I promise.
Survival Tip 1: Read
I know, It’s unfair. But yes, you have to read. Specifically, you have to read the assigned portions of Planning for Public Relations (our textbook). You have to read all the case studies (spoiler alert: That’s how this class got its name) and yes, you have to read about current events (ouch, right?). Oh, and while you’re on this reading kick, throw in the syllabus and the case study project outline, too.
Survival Tip 2: Show Up.
Super unfair, I know. I really wish it counted if you were with us in spirit, but I actually need your physical presence, not just your aura or avatar. Next: Show up prepared – prepared to discuss what you’ve read (see tip 1), prepared to think critically, prepared to debate ideas, prepared to take a stand. You can’t hide in my class: I will find you and require you to participate. Public Relations isn’t a spectator sport.
Survival Tip 3: Team is Life.
If you insist on getting a tattoo, here’s a good one: “Team = Life.” As soon as I assign you to a team, I require you to sit with your team. You will work with your team, breathe with your team, dream, plan and scheme with your team. If you are like other PR Case Studies students, you might cry with your team, fall in and out of love with your team, and plot my demise with your team. You will also evaluate each member of your team—and they will evaluate you. Here’s the bottom line: 45 percent of your grade depends on teamwork. And here’s the bigger point: Success in professional life very often depends on being a good, ethical team player. So play well with each other (and don’t run with scissors).
Survival Tip 4: Do the Work.
Yep. You knew this part was coming, right? You are going to write three essays all by your lonesome self. You are going to research and write three phases of a communication plan with your team. You are going to earn lots of easy points by taking eight online quizzes. There is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves, showing off that new “Team=Life” tattoo and doing the work. If you don’t hold up your end of the work on your team, well…see tip 3 (the part about peer evaluation).
Survival Tip 5: Learn to write well.
I know: You already write well. Your goal is to write better. You will get lots of practice. Because practice makes you a better writer (it makes me a better writer, too). You must proofread your work; I deduct points for grammar, usage and punctuation errors. I go crazy when you make spelling errors. Always submit your best draft, not your first draft.
Survival Tip 6: Fall in love with your client.
Hey, you’ve got room for another tattoo, and “I (heart) My Client” is a good choice. Yes, in my section, I assign clients (always from Kent State). And students don’t always love the client I give them. But if you will immerse yourself in your client’s challenges and aspirations, you will actually begin to care about what happens to your client. You begin to want to do really good work for your client. The best PR Case Studies students learn how to advocate for their clients. They talk incessantly to their roommates, bar-mates, parents and significant others about their clients. And when students really fall in love with their clients, they start arguing with me about what is best for their client. I love that, because over the course of 15 weeks together, I fall in love with your clients, too.
Oh, and one more thing: Over the course of our 15 weeks together, I fall in love with you. It really does matter to me and to every single member of this faculty that you do well, that you learn the basics of a PR campaign and that you walk away really proud of the work you’ve done.
Stephanie Smith is an assistant professor at Kent State University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.