Why study public relations?

An assumption about public relations is that it tends to focus on one segment of the industry—PR agencies that distort or conduct damage control for the benefit of an organization and the expense of the public.

But good PR has a relationship with the public that is mutually beneficial, transparent and open. In fact, the official definition of the industry by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)—the largest non-profit trade association for PR professionals— is, “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

“Just like anywhere in the United States there’s not an organization that exists that does not have a need for communications, so the job opportunities are vast,” Metropolitan State University professor Rose McKinney said. And according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the increase in social media use will bolster the field’s job numbers, so employment outlook is promising.

It’s a tough field that requires a curious mind. “It’s pretty much impossible to succeed in public relations unless you are committed to lifelong learning,” McKinney said. “Things change so quickly—there’s new information all the time.”

Metropolitan State University has a vibrant public relations major. Some of the classes taken for a PR major are COM 381, COM 385 and COM 481. Of the required classes, COM 381: Principals of Public Relations is an introductory course that defines PR, the planning process behind it and the ability it has to solve problems and provide opportunities to organizations. Over the length of the class, students will work on a major project that requires students to present a completed plan at a conference near the end of the semester. Guest speakers frequent the class and offer students the opportunity to network and learn about the field.

COM 385: Media Relations
, underlines the importance of stories created by the media and how PR can contribute to it. Students are taught how to identify newsworthy items or make them. To accomplish this, students are given tools and shown standard practices. The course also teaches students the importance of building relationships in the organizations they work in. These relationships can help PR professionals find newsworthy items and quickly disseminate them to the media. Finally, students learn how openness, transparency and a mutually beneficial relationship with the public are staples of the field.

COM 481: Advanced Public Relations
studies the importance of research in PR—the backbone of the profession. The course covers persuasive theories and techniques used in creating a PR campaign. Students also learn about ethics in PR, its historical significance and its current application in the field.

“It’s not a matter of if you face a crisis, most organizations will face some kind of crisis whether it is cyber-terrorism, whether it’s a fire; it could be a disgruntled employee, or a smear campaign on social media, and you need to have a good basis in the principal of public relations,” McKinney said. In other words, everyone can benefit from public relations.

“Public relations comes back more to what is the overarching brand message and how we are building a reputation—what are the activities we are involved in and what is the status of the relationships,” McKinney said.

PR can even help you land a promotion, develop your ideas and reinforce success. So what are you waiting for? Ask your advisor how PR can benefit you.