It is the season of giving; it is the time for gifts, camaraderie and service. According to USA Today, approximately 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and of that number, 18 percent is done in just December.
As human beings, we can relate to this desire to give back and serve the less fortunate during the holidays – the swell of joy we experience as we share compassion and holiday cheer. But as public relations students and aspiring practitioners, service should be a driving force for all of our endeavors – at all times of the year.
Whether or not you end up working for a nonprofit organization or a major corporation, it is never a bad idea to support a cause or charity. Not only will it build a favorable reputation for the company, but it will fulfill that dual purpose of serving the public. There are hundreds of charities and nonprofits, from the Salvation Army, to cancer research, to the promotion of international literacy. Public relations students and practitioners have the unique and special skills necessary to help these organizations gain donors and further their missions.
As students, we have an even greater opportunity to volunteer our time and skills to different organizations, pro bono. This is a chance for you to not only practice your skills before entering the field, but also use your talents for a greater good. When it comes to service, you do not necessarily have to pick up trash by a high way or build houses for the homeless – you can use your own training to help others. This is something not exclusive to public relations, but quite easily forgotten by many.
To build from this, not all service has to be a one-time gift or a “hand-out.” Public relations practitioners have the ability to help create a sustainable community through consistent and continued service. We can build mutually beneficial relationships between community members and organization leaders, fostering trust and understanding. Maintaining these relationships will inevitably result in an environment where people can work together, businesses can thrive, and those in need can be lifted out of their suffering. When we, as practitioners, are familiar with the theory and practice for inciting goodwill and creating favorable reputations, it is a tremendous waste to not use our knowledge to help make the world a better place.
It is easy to picture public relations as simply serving an organization, or the media. But in reality, public relations should serve the public. As truthful sources of information, we, as practitioners, should aim to help our target audiences learn. This is especially true over the holidays, when we are especially sensitive to the amount of pain and sorrow present across the globe. We are each blessed with a skill that can allow us to ease that anguish, and we should always attempt to use it, even once January has arrived.
Teghan Simonton is a sophomore with a dual major in public relations and journalism. She serves as the publicity chair for Waynesburg PRSSA and as managing editor for the award-winning Yellow Jacket student newspaper. She is an active member of Red Brick Communications and the Society of Professional Journalists. In her free time, Teghan is a member of the cross country and track teams.