What You Should Know About Majoring in Public Relations

If you're considering a Public Relations major, here's a quick rundown of what to expect. Not sure you want to major in? Use this to explore PR as an option!

Public Relations (PR) is all about maintaining relationships between a business or organization and the public. I chose to major in Public Relations because I liked the idea of getting to be creative and original in helping someone else grow their dream and passion into a positive and successful business. Public Relations is a newer major that not many people know much about. With program offerings growing at colleges and student interest increasing, there are a few things to know before choosing Public Relations as your major.

The elements of Public Relations

By studying Public Relations at college, you’ll learn how to manage social media, write a press release, create a competitive audit, strengthen your public speaking abilities, deal with crisis management, and pitch products and businesses to the media. Many of these elements require a creative mind that likes to think outside the box. You’ll also need to have a knowledge of grammar and editing tools along with styles from the Associated Press Stylebook, which explains how to use proper grammar and spelling when writing to the press. There’s a decent amount of writing involved in Public Relations, so you need to make sure everything you write is clear, concise, and correct.

Related: 5 Helpful Ways to Improve Your Writing in College

PR is not Marketing and Advertising

Whenever I tell someone I majored in Public Relations, they say, “So it’s basically Marketing or Advertising." Yes, they have similar elements, but there are major differences between Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations. 

The difference between Marketing and Public Relations

Public Relations is about building and maintaining relationships with the public and working to help positively increase your company’s reputation. Marketing focuses more on the analytics of how advertising campaigns and products positively affect a company's revenue. Having an effective marketing strategy is something that can help build a positive reputation for your business, especially in the eyes of stakeholders, and make it easier for someone in a PR role to build connections with others based on these successful campaigns.  

The difference between Advertising and Public Relations

Advertising is a paid strategy that builds the reputation of a company’s brand—think billboards, TV or YouTube commercials, and magazine ads.  While both build a company’s reputation, Public Relations does so through the media and organic campaigns and strategies using free resources like social media platforms and email. 

The best way to learn about PR: Internships!

With any major, you’ll hear your professors tell you over and over again to get an internship—get experience! But seriously, this is really the best way to learn about Public Relations. You can study the Associated Press Stylebook and research competitor companies every day (which is very important), but you won’t realize the work and creativity that goes into building a company’s brand until you experience it for yourself.  

Once you graduate college and have to look for a job, you’ll be asked if you have experience through internships or job shadowing. If you don’t, there will likely be someone else who did get internship experience as an undergrad—and they’ll probably get the job over you. Experience is a great résumé booster, and with it, your boss will know you’re equipped to handle the curveballs, crises, and changing environment of the job. So try to get an internship each year, if it’s at all possible. Whether it’s working at a PR agency, helping a nonprofit, or interning at a big company like Nike, look for opportunities that will give you a chance to see how an office works as a team and what will be expected of you after you graduate. Your school’s career services office is a great resource to help you look for internships all throughout college. 

A final note

There are some skills you‘ll want to focus on while studying Public Relations; these include:

  • Public speaking
  • Social media marketing
  • Creative writing
  • Strategic planning
  • Video editing
  • Press release writing
  • Blogging (Join our student writers for more practice!)
  • Microsoft Office
  • Interpersonal communications skills 

Related: 9 Tips for Developing Soft Skills Before Graduation

Public Relations is a fast-growing field that can lead you to a lot of success and a ton of enjoyment in your career—and the great thing is it doesn’t box you into working at only one type of company. Every type of company needs PR experts, and you could be the one that makes all the difference.

Find schools to reach your Public Relations degree dreams using our College Search tool!

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About Mackenzie Pierce

Mackenzie Pierce is the Assistant Director of Strategy & Project Management, working on the CollegeXpress team to manage our social media platforms, the student vlogger program, and various marketing campaigns. In her free time, you can find her competing in and watching sports, planning her next big trip, or training her dog, Bentley.

 

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