As public relations students with crowded schedules and busy lives, we often forget the basic essentials that compose the field of study and art that are our majors and our futures. As we progress into upper-level public relations courses and become more involved in our majors and careers, sometimes it is best to reflect on the core components that make public relations the successful and important career that it is. Here are five of the most important essentials of public relations that students must know to improve their skills and to become successful in this highly competitive field.
There is nothing more essential to public relations than writing; without it, the field would not exist. Good writing is the key to many aspects of the public relations field. Whether they are news releases, articles, posters, radio spots, brochures, fliers or any other important public relations media channel, they all have one important thing in common: writing skills. The best advice I can give public relations students is to always keep improving your writing skills. Write in your free time and whenever you can–any kind of writing will sharpen your skill. This will be a very valuable skill that can apply to almost every aspect of your public relations career and your life.
An excellent piece of public relations writing will never matter if it is not put in the right place. The placement of your message is absolutely essential to get your desired results. If you fail to send your message through the right medium, your target audience will not see the message and therefore, will not respond. To achieve the proper placement of your public relations piece, match your message to your audience and then choose the medium you believe will be the audience’s best fit.
Research is a vital part of any successful public relations piece. Public relations practitioners must research all aspects of their audience, their message, their media and their organization before they even think about beginning their actual piece. A public relations student must know how to conduct research in order to make any piece a success. Online data bases, organizational records and in-person interviews are great places to gather information.
Some people might think that public relations and advertising are two completely separate fields of study with very little overlap. However, public relations and advertising actually go hand-in-hand. Both rely on the same foundations of marketing communication, writing skills and reaching a targeted audience. The biggest distinction between the two is that while public relations is quite commonly a free form of media coverage, advertising is completely paid for by a distinct sponsor. Advertising is also more sales- and business-oriented, while public relations is more focused on appealing to the public’s image. Regardless, a good public relations practitioner needs to understand how advertising works and how to use advertising techniques in order to make their pieces stand out.
In the era of spellcheck, auto-correct and other software that reminds its users of their mistakes, it is even more important that public relations students learn how to properly edit. The millennial generation must not solely rely on the common technology that we grew up with to catch our errors; we must learn to do it ourselves. Nothing can turn off a reader or a potential employer more than seeing a misspelled word in a news release or flier. The smallest typo or error can cause the worst of outcomes. A simple re-reading of a writing piece can save you plenty of future headaches.
Learning these public relations essentials can benefit every public relations student. These essentials can improve your skills, help you land that internship or even a job. So keep excelling in this world of public relations and remember the essentials that shape you and this field into what they are today.
Michelle Frye is a sophomore public relations and advertising double major with minors in marketing and theatre. She is a general body member of WUPRSSA and is also part of Red Brick Communications. Her future goals are to become an advertiser or public relations practitioner for the major theme park industry.