Lessons learned in PR

Posted by on Nov 23, 2011 in General, Lessons | 0 comments

My first quarter teaching is coming to a close this week at DePaul. I decided to ask on the final exam what was the most important thing the 38 students learned from our “Principles of PR” class. I imagined an incentive was needed to get the answers. So I offered an extra credit point.

Twice a week for 12 weeks I’d seen them for 90 minutes. If I did not ask now, and they walked out of this room for the final time, I wouldn’t know the answers. Had I conveyed the most important concepts? Did those concepts ‘stick’?  This course was now a part of their past on their quest to find a job. Yikes. If the student has not learned the professor has not taught. My worst fear was months later at a party or a Blue Demon baseball game that one of my students would be asked a foundational PR question that they wouldn’t know the answer to or that they would fumble.

The extra point worked. And it turns out they did learn a thing or two. They talked about the legalities of copyright and ‘fair use;’ how to approach crisis communications; to determine all prospective stakeholders to strengthen a client or organization’s story; and that there is a methodology for applying PR skills to get great results.

What struck me most was the honesty of the majority. One student said he learned he did not want to be a PR major. Good for him. Between their choices of advertising, journalism, marketing and organizational communication, PR was its own animal. Why? Nothing is guaranteed in PR. It’s credible because someone else is speaking on your behalf. PR is all about building and maintaining relationships. It’s about managing issues from the point of advocacy to the point of accommodation. 

I was moved by the other 25+ who said that this class confirmed PR was the field for them. It made them think on their feet and in real time. It would gave them the chance to counsel upper management one day. It taught them to be real and to say that they did not have an answer for a reporter at that moment if they did not have one. They would find the answer.

Last week one of my students was approached by a friend already doing a PR internship. The friend was ‘stuck’ and needed advice. My first-year PR student gave this friend a few good answers. The lightbulb went off. She recognized how much she’d learned about managing PR in the real world.

After practicing for 20 years I am not taking for granted the little stories and finer anecdotes that help those entering the field realize that it is the right one for them.

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