Sunday, February 5, 2012

Relationships, relationships...and relationships

In my understanding, practicing public relations can be summarized with one word: relationships. As a public relations (PR) practitioner, it will be our responsibility to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between our client and the public. PR revolves around placing a great image of your client into the public to form trusting bonds that will ensure mutual success for both parties. By building strong relationships, a PR practitioner must possess the ability to understand both the client and the public’s needs and be able to successfully address these needs. To successfully address these needs, PR involves, in many cases, working in a fast-paced environment where strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are mandatory to complete press releases, and handle media relations. Public relations practitioner’s can work in industries ranging from non-profit to government agencies. Regardless of the type of industry, PR practitioners must always be ready to handle crisis situations by working as mediators between the public and the company or client. With many skills demanded by PR practitioners, it is very important that as current students, we focus on not only learning but also retaining the information we are being taught to use in the future. Another excellent way to retain important PR skills is to apply them in real job situations. This is exactly the reason why undergraduate internships are so valuable. Through personal experience in my current internship, I am gaining priceless job skills in the PR field by developing press releases and media alerts. Internships also allow for the building of relationships, which is the base of the public relations field.  

As I stated before, learning and retaining the skills we are taught in school is a very important tool to future success in public relations. That is why visits by professionals like Professor Houser are so valuable to students. Learning from individuals like Professor Houser who have worked in the industry and who are using their experience to teach us new skills is irreplaceable. Not only will the journalism tips that Professor Houser gave us be beneficial in the future, but they will also benefit myself and my other group members with our Builders Project.  Listening to Professor Houser describe the process of writing a feature story allowed me to gain a better understanding of how to conduct an interview, gather quotations, and put them into a compelling piece that tells a story about a person. I especially found it very beneficial to learn how to ask questions that provide open-ended answers. In school, there are very few chances to break- away from academic writing and touch on more personal subjects which is why I enjoyed hearing about Professor Houser’s process.

With entering the beginning phases of any group project, problems arise. With our group, we have had an unstable start because of group members dropping the class. With these transient classmates, our group has not been able to focus as much on the content of the project, but instead about trying to organize group dynamics, such as not being able to e-mail other group members and being assigned a new group member after class has ended. This has also affected the organizing of the interview schedule. Despite these challenges, our “founding” group members have been communicating very effectively through e-mail, such as being able to decide on a group name and logo all outside of class. We are also using the cost benefit analysis to assign group members assignments that will bring out the strengths of each of us, such as using group member Patrick’s skill in design to create our logo while I developed the team name.

I am a firm believer that the learning process does not end after we graduate. This is why I am always striving to learn more, especially about the PR field. By focusing intensely on my academic courses, my knowledge of public relations has grown immensely since I first declared my concentration. I believe that I have grown the most as PR practitioner through my current academic internship. I have been given the opportunity to develop press releases and media alerts, as well as learn new technologies that I do not get to use in school, such as contacting print media sources through Constant Contact e-mail blasts. In my particular internship, at the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, networking and business development is the purpose of the organization. This is why whether through my academics or internship opportunities, I am learning that the key to the field of public relations will always be: relationships.  

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