As my last public relations course of my undergraduate career comes to a close, I want to share with you 10 things I have learned about PR this semester. PR is a fast-paced field, and I do not think students and professionals can ever know enough about it, but here is just a glimpse of the knowledge I gained this semester:
- It is important to study up on local, state and federal laws. PR practitioners must know how to protect themselves, as well as their clients.
- Research is an essential part of any PR strategy, especially when it comes to knowing one’s audience.
- PR professionals must listen: to their clients, to media outlets, and to what customers and others are saying on social media.
- PR is a diverse field, and students should use college as a time to determine whether they want to work in a firm or departmental setting post-graduation.
- Social media management is a requirement most PR practitioners must be able to fulfill within the workplace because of the integral role it plays within the field.
- Not only do PR professionals need to conduct research, but they also must have a system for measuring their success.
- Matching an audience with the appropriate media medium is key to communicating any message.
- Despite the common misconception that PR practitioners should hold press conferences with the media often, THINK Public Relations recommends that they should not.
- Many PR professionals are fighting for the field to implement a licensing requirement.
- Experience is crucial. PR students should take advantage of professional organizations, training programs and internships.
If you are a PR student, what have you learned this semester? If you are a PR professional, what are some of the key lessons you have learned throughout your career that you think PR students need to know?
I chose to major in public relations for a reason. I’m horrible at math, some science doesn’t make sense to me and law just doesn’t always click. But as I’ve taken more courses in public relations as I’m moving toward graduation day, I’ve learned that law has a special place in public relations and it’s too important to brush aside.
Even the public relations professionals who spend their days planning events or monitoring social media channels must stay up-to-date on the legal world to protect their clients and the content they create for them.
There are three aspects of the law in particular that I think are especially important for public relations practitioners to learn about and keep in mind as they create press kits, gain media coverage and more:
Image Credit: “89/365: Judgment” by SarahMcGowen
1. Defamation- includes libel (false published statements) and slander (false oral statements). These false statements are considered defamation when they cause public dislike, ridicule or damage to a reputation.
2. Copyright Infringement-copying protected work, even from a website or blog, without authorization to do so.
3. Invasion of Privacy- includes false light, commercial misappropriation, intrusion upon seclusion and publication of private facts.
If public relations professionals don’t keep these areas of law in mind, they may quickly and easily find themselves in a sticky situation. If they want to protect their clients and employer (and possibly themselves and their business if they are self-employed), it’s their responsibility to be knowledgeable and mindful of the above areas of law and more.
It’s no secret that America is known as a melting pot, composed of people of various religions, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. The culture of the United States has drastically changed as its demographics have varied throughout the decades.
Despite the cultural richness the melting pot has caused America to experience, it poses several challenges for public relations practitioners.
One of the first steps in creating a public relations strategy is to identify the target audience. More and more segmented audiences have developed, so it has become harder for public relations professionals to distinguish and include the right groups in their list of target audiences. Since it’s harder for public relations practitioners to identify those audiences, it’s even harder for them to determine how best to communicate their message to them. They must conduct research regarding what types of media their audiences use and how they’re using it.
Image Credit: “Boiling potatoes, steaming pot” by Jo Christian Oterhals
Once public relations professionals pinpoint their audiences and learn more about them, they may also face the challenge of recrafting their message in a way that makes sense to them based on their values, backgrounds, etc.
The best solution to both challenges is research: researching the country’s demographics, researching media usage, researching cultural backgrounds and values, and the list goes on and on.
There’s no doubt that public relations practitioners will continue to face these problems in the future as the demographics of the United States continually evolve. But on the bright side, there’s never a dull moment in public relations.
Image Credit: “Number 3” by Kyota
One of the many online resources for public relations students and professionals is Poynter’s NewsU. I recently took NewsU’s “Lousy Listeners” course. In this blog post, I’m going to use the three-pronged approach to talk about what I learned from this course.
One thing I learned is to repeat back to a speaker what I think they said to me before giving my response. I also learned that listening helps build trust in a relationship. Another important piece of information I learned is that listening does not always translate to communicating.
There were several things that surprised me. One was that paying attention to a speaker’s unvoiced emotions and what their body language is saying is just as important as listening to the words they are saying.
- What do you want to know more about?
I want to learn more about the importance of listening in public relations. Many of the tips the “Lousy Listeners” course gave I can apply to more personal life, but there is a different type of listening required in the public relations field. One way I can learn more about this is following public relations professionals’ social media profiles and blogs.
I would recommend this course to anyone, regardless of their major, career goals or job. Other NewsU courses I would suggest are “Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More,” “Build and Engage Local Audiences Online” and “Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision.”
What are some tips you have for listening? What are some examples of how they have been effective for you? I’d love to hear about it.
Image Credit: “Checkout” by Nate Grigg
Now it’s time to get down to who makes all of these public relations elements of Target‘s strategy possible. There are a number of career opportunities within the company including:
The few months of public relations experience I’ve been able to gain as I’ve interned and worked in the field has quickly taught me both the positives and drawbacks to working with the media. I always love receiving a response from a journalist saying that he/she will happily cover whatever story I’ve pitched. At the same time, I’ve also experienced a journalist who decided to spin a story in a way that harmed more than helped the message I was trying to convey.
Target isn’t exempt from experiencing the downsides of pitching the media. For example, the company recently announced that it will be hiring 80,000-90,000 seasonal employees over the next few months, taking into account keeping current employees. The press release also stated that 30 percent of last year’s seasonal employees remained apart of the Target team as year-round employees.
Meanwhile, the St. Cloud Times took the angle that even though Target plans to hire 80,000-90,000 seasonal employees, that is 2,000-12,000 less than the number they hired last year due to the fact that 30 percent of seasonal workers were hired for permanent positions.
Whereas Target’s press release made this year’s seasonal hiring sound beneficial, the St. Cloud Times’ article may make readers view Target as the “bad guy” since it doesn’t plan to hire as many seasonal employees this year as last year.
What other companies’ messages have you seen twisted or misinterpreted by the media?
James Grunig and Todd Hunt’s model of public relations is an important piece of PR history that defines the basic ways practitioners communicate on behalf of their clients.
After evaluating several of Target‘s press releases, advertisements, social media profiles and videos, I’ve determined that its PR department uses the two-way symmetrical model. Many of the company’s press releases are largely informational, but they also contain quotes from executives who express how they desire to use the new developments the announcements are about to better Target customers’ shopping experience. For example, when Target announced its newly-founded partnership with GLENTEL, Target Canada‘s Senior Vice President of Merchandising John Morioka said in a press release the following:
“Our goal is to bring the true Target brand shopping experience to Canada and this includes partnering with accomplished Canadian companies like GLENTEL to offer our guests the highest quality merchandise and exceptional service.”
Target’s use of the two-way symmetrical model is also seen on its social media pages. The company is consistent in its interaction with customers, regardless of whether they post complaints or compliments. The following image is an example of a few ways Target has handled both good comments and constructive criticism:
I give props to Target for being on top of the PR game and genuinely caring about its customers. What are some examples of other companies you’ve noticed using the two-way symmetrical model and how do they use it?