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Great career opportunities in PR for college students

03 Jun, 2022 Careers

Many students think public relations is only about publicity and parties – glitz and glamor in media relations and event organizing. They tend to be influenced by shallow media coverage of ‘public relations’ and movie characters. However, a public relations career can be much more wide ranging – and satisfying – and important. There are great career opportunities in PR for college students. As an example, think of the sensational success of Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in leading his nation’s desperate fight against the Russian invasion in 2022. Through his public relations campaign, Zelenskyy captured sympathy and support for his nation from billions of people around the world.

Public relations is about communication and influence. A public relations career offers great potential for new graduates because there is always a strong need for people to communicate well professionally and to influence others in business life.

Literally everyone needs to communicate and influence the development of constructive relationships with others in order to survive and thrive. Individuals, groups, organizations and nations all need to communicate with the people who are important to them. They seek the goodwill of those people. Effective soft skills are essential for establishing goodwill and positive relationships. This 2022 Forbes article underlines the importance of soft skills for communicators: “16 soft skills every communicator must master.”

PR functions at several levels

The PR role can function at five levels:

  • Individual level—in interpersonal communication
  • Program or project level—in communication activities designed to reach targeted individuals and groups
  • Functional level—within and between organizational departments
  • Organizational level—within and between organizations
  • Societal level—within and between different parts of our globalized society.

Public relations works largely on behalf of organizations in many sectors of society such as in companies (public and private); government at federal, State and local level; non-profit organizations; education bodies like schools and universities; PR consultancies, and many others, including individuals such as prominent people like politicians, entertainers, social media influencers, and sports stars as well as for alliances like environmental and community groups.

Such bodies set their purpose (mission) and broad goals, and work to achieve their purpose. But they can’t do this alone; they need the cooperation of others, especially those who may have a major impact on their capacity to achieve their goals. Those people interact with the organization or group, and have a view about what they want in their relationship with its people.

For instance, employees want satisfying jobs, customers want useful products and services, investors want an adequate return on their investment, environmentalists want the organization to minimize its impact on the environment, government may want to see a safe workplace and compliance with laws and regulations, and suppliers may want to receive regular orders. Public relations helps make that happen.

An organization may not necessarily want to deal with some of those people it finds itself dealing with if they are likely to pressure the organization to get what they want. But if they are essential to the organization’s viability, it has no choice but to interact with them. Therefore, the interaction between an organization and its audiences or stakeholders is a continuing process of negotiation and collaboration. The best role of public relations is to act as a bridge or conduit between the groups. You can see from this that there a great PR career opportunities for college students.

Examples of PR role

Some examples of the valuable role public relations can play are:

  • Persuade the best employees to join and stay.
  • Communicate with employees whose jobs will be changed or cut by mergers and restructures.
  • Convince affected people to accept the need for new government regulations relating to product safety.
  • Inform people in the community about health risks and solutions.
  • Develop a positive relationship with people who want to contribute their ideas about a new community centre.
  • Deal with speculation by bloggers and on Twitter about the launch of a new product.
  • Organize a fundraising event for a charity as part of a corporate social responsibility initiative.

The key role of communication

Prof. Anne Gregory, former Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, says “Communication is complex, fluid and often misunderstood. It is a function, but it is also a [central] part of organizations and organizing in a way that other professions are not. It is perfectly possible for organizations to operate without buildings, money or products, but it is not possible for them to exist without communication.”

What’s more: recent research prompted high-profile social psychology and marketing professor Robert Cialdini to say in his 2016 book, Pre-suasion, that “…we should think of language as primarily a mechanism of influence. People are always persuading others: …the intent is not so much to explain our position to others as to persuade them to it.” [p. 100]. So, public relations performs an important role in society.

Courses that will help you get a job in PR

Different types of courses will help you get a job in public relations. You should choose the best college offering courses in PR. The course will help you get the right knowledge and skills for this field. Once you start your course, put more effort into learning the skills.

The main PR courses offered in colleges are public relations, communications, and media. Some students focus on a major in consumer psychology or project management. Others focus on journalism, communications, campaign planning, and even advertising. I would also suggest signing up for some business units as well because communication careers are largely based in private and public organizations in which employees need to understand business terms and operational matters.

Many career opportunities are available in the public relations/communication field. Professional communicators are knowledge workers, and Bryan Hancock, a Washington DC McKinsey talent expert, said in a 2022 podcast, “Knowledge workers with skills that are easily portable across employers and geographic locations have power.”

To get a job armed with your PR degree, you need to learn the core skills of writing. You must love finding out facts and reading widely, plus a keen interest in news and current affairs. A course in PR is demanding and extensive. If you need to develop your writing skills, the Edubirdie professional writers will help you tackle assignments.

Where can you work in PR?

The PR field is very wide. Consider the immensely wide scope of public relations. The range of the activities, below, are just some of the diverse roles you can find under the umbrella of public relations:

  • Media relations
  • Internal communication
  • Digital media
  • Social media engagement and marketing
  • Community engagement
  • Stakeholder relations
  • Marketing communication
  • Copywriting
  • Sponsorship manager, coordinator
  • Event management
  • Issue management
  • Crisis communication
  • Government relations and lobbying, and staffers/advisers
  • International communication
  • Website development
  • Financial relations
  • Content strategist.

Nearly every employer in the world which is larger than a small business requires a public relations/communication specialist to help them create a positive relationship and therefore positive outcomes between them and the people who are important to them. The best role of public relations is to act as a bridge or conduit between parties. This means that there are great PR career opportunities for college students who want to make a difference.

PR professionals can also represent small groups and individuals. Individual politicians hire PR pros to engage in communication on their behalf. Many NGOs hire PR professionals too. The biggest portion of PR workers is found in the private sector, in the business world. After graduation, one of the options to gain experience is to join a PR consultancy and learn about how clients operate in many varying fields. PR opportunities abound in companies in the motor vehicle industry, technology companies, and public companies registered on the stock exchange. Other places where you can work are the retail market, marketing field, fashion industry, and many more.

What PR job positions can you work in?

The PR professional role can be identified in any of these job titles:

  • Public relations manager, officer
  • Public/corporate affairs director, manager, officer
  • Corporate communication manager, officer, strategist
  • Media and communication manager
  • Manager, digital and social media
  • Social media specialist
  • Program coordinator
  • Relationship manager
  • Event manager
  • PR consultant, communication consultant

Aim to gain experience

The PR job field is competitive, with a lot of students seeking to start their career in it. One of the reasons the field is competitive is because it has a bright future. Being able to communicate well will always be a strong benefit to a career in a professional field. It is a universal benefit for job prospects and a career in PR. The practical part that you learn in college is not enough. Take advantage of available internship programs. If possible, volunteer to work for a certain company for free. You can work for three or six months. This can help you get on the path to a strong future because there are great PR career opportunities for college students.

Conclusion

The public relations field is highly competitive. To get a job in this field, you need to have the right education. Register for a PR course and major in any key PR major. You can register for public relations, journalism, or communication. The places to get a job differ depending on what you expect. You can work both in the public and private sectors. If you have some form of experience, you will be in a better position to get a job. As the world around us keeps changing, it is important to continue to gain more skills – or your career will crash. So, make sure you strengthen your career prospects by becoming a lifelong learner.

The long-term outlook is bright for employment in the public relations field. This view is supported by trend information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which in 2022 estimated the job outlook for “Public Relations Specialists” as being set to rise at an average rate of 11% per year through to 2030.

Top photo: freepik.

Bottom photo: freepik 2.

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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