What does Public Relations Involve?
There are many functions of people working in PR. One of the principal duties is:
Researching, conducting, and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary for the success of an organization’s aims. The responsibilities extend to marketing, finance, fundraising, as well as employee, community or government relations. PR people work for an individual, a company, or political party/candidate. The essence of the role is communication.
To become adept in this field, there are degree choices in communications, mass communication, public relations, media relations, journalism, advertising, marketing, and more. Whatever major you choose, you need to understand how and when to pitch to media a message that garners the public’s attention. It takes a combination of analysis and strategy to get your client’s message and name in the public eye. With the proliferation of technology, increase in social media, and the sophistication of digital tools, communications initiatives are measurable as they apply to business outcomes.
We will look at primarily Bachelor’s degree programs and provide examples of typical classes you may expect.
With the emphasis on communication in this major, there will be courses in:
- Effective Writing for Strategic Public Relations
- Multimedia Writing
- Writing for Public Relations
- Media Relations and Writing
- Communication Research Methods
Some college programs place an emphasis on the principles of free speech and press. They examine how PR professionals shape communications and how the diversity of peoples and cultures affects communications. The class work in this type of program may include:
- Social, Legal, and Ethical Foundations of Public Relations
- Business and Economic Foundations of Public Relations
- Strategic Public Relations Research, Analysis, and Insights
Some programs are more media-oriented with classes in:
- Nonprofit Communication Management
- Technological and Digital Communication Management
- Sport and Entertainment Communication Management
- Media Writing in the Information Age
Advertising and Public Relations
There are undergraduate degree options combining PR with advertising theories and practices. You will learn to consider advertising and public relations processes, products, and effects from multiple perspectives. In addition, you will develop critical thinking skills and the ability to speak and write effectively. Graduates will understand the strategic differences between and the varying tactics employed by public relations and advertising. As well as having the ability to apply them within a comprehensive public relations or advertising plan.
This type of degree offers the choice of taking courses that concentrate on either public relations or advertising. Public relations focus on maintaining and promoting the image of a company. Advertising focuses on persuading an audience to purchase a product. If you are interested in both fields, you have the option to take courses in both subject areas.
Journalism and Mass Communication
A degree of this nature will provide the necessary skills to research, write, and edit information. This allows the distribution of information in print, online media, or even broadcast live. The program will focus on journalism. Examples of classes are:
- Visual Journalism
- Advanced Editorial & Feature Writing
- Mass Communication
- Journalism & Politics
- Strategic Communication Campaigns
- Advanced Public Relations Writing
The B.A. in media communications enables students to become familiar with several areas within the communications curriculum. Students will take a core that will ground them in media theory, writing, and production. The required courses may include:
- Introduction to Media Production
- Introduction to Mass Communications
- Media Literacy
- International Communications
Graduates will possess the knowledge for a career in advertising, copywriting, marketing, publicity, social media consulting, public relations, and telecasting.
What is the best Degree?
By perusing job postings, there does not appear to be a ‘BEST’ degree for the profession. For example, a global communications enterprise seeks a Public Relations Manager. The ideal candidate needs a Bachelor’s degree in PR or Communications (plus experience). Another example is a university requires a Director of Relations to ensure the quality and consistency of and adherence to the university’s brand and strategic plan when developing and overseeing marketing and public relations initiatives. The preferred degree is a bachelor’s in public relations, communication, marketing, or related field.
Most PR careers start with positions such as “communications specialist” or “public relations specialist.” More experienced professionals advance to PR Director, manager, or vice-president. Many work for PR agencies whose job it is to promote companies or individuals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2017 that the projected job growth is 9% through 2016. This represents a change in 22,900 jobs over ten years. The median income was $59, 300 with a Bachelor’s degree (May 2017).