Although I am only a sophomore at Grand Valley State University, I can confidently say that public relations, as an industry and as a major, has helped me grow in a personal and professional manner.
Public relations can be a tricky path to navigate. It’s all about creating and maintaining personal relationship between a client and their publics, you and a client, or any other friend within your network. However, there is still a level of professionalism that one must have when working in PR. It is important to present yourself as a person who has it together. When you look disheveled or disorganized in the way you dress or act then it may lead someone to believe that this reflects your work. It will be hard to find someone who will hire you and it will be hard for clients to trust you. It is also necessary for you to act with professionalism when engaging with those you work with.
Through PRSSA and GrandPR, I have learned how to act as a professional when interacting with clients and others within the firm. Having a relationship with the people you work with is important because it creates the sense of comradery as well as making communication simpler. However, it can be just a simple for one to fall prey to a relaxed environment. Sure, it’s great to be friends with the people you work with, but this makes it just as easy to turn to your friend and say, “Hey, sorry I haven’t sent you that press release yet, I was a little busy on the weekend,” then everyone shares a laugh and the deadline is pushed back. This subsequently causes things to get backed up. Maintaining professionalism within the working environment will create a sense of urgency for deadlines.
One of the things that I have learned the most about throughout my experiences with PR is communication, both written and verbal. Although we spend a lot of time communicating through technological means, the spoken word will never die, at least not any time soon. Interpersonal communication is something that PR professionals need to be good at to build the relationships with their stakeholders and others within their network. Being able to maintain an engaging conversation to build rapport is something that working with public relations has helped me develop. However, I still need to develop this a little bit further.
Speaking of speaking, you will be expected to present in front of and to others as a public relations practitioner. I used to be terrified of public speaking, but after having to present for PR classes or in front of group members, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and begun to grow more comfortable with this. With written communication,on the other hand, if you waltz into the PR world not knowing how to write everyone will mourn for you and look at you with pity. Time and time again I have heard from professors that one of the most important skills to have when working in PR would be solid writing skills. This not only means knowing how to punctuate and spell, but also how to portray your message. Perhaps you’re emailing a media contact with whom you have worked closely in the past. You wouldn’t have to write as though this they are a total stranger. You can make the tone of your writing a little more light-hearted and informal. However, if you are writing a report that will be shared with a client or another professional, then the way you word your writing will obviously be different. Wording is also important when it comes to asking questions or requesting information with urgency. Your format and the language you use will help whoever is reading conceptualize the way it may be said in person. All capital letters are shouting, right?
As I work more for GrandPR, I realize how important this really is when it comes to client communication. I have learned from experiences where it takes time for me to get the information I need because I’m not clearly communicating with someone else. Being a part of the PR community has definitely helped me develop this skill.
The public relations community has a lot to offer. Ever since I chose public relations as a major, the opportunities have been endless. The GVSU chapter of PRSSA hosts agency tours to public relations firms and corporate offices that give students a firsthand look at the world of public relations. From Chicago to Detroit and some places in between, the chapter has traveled to visit with numerous PR practitioners. One of my favorite offices to visit was Next Creative Co. in Holland, Michigan. It made me realize how much I might enjoy a smaller firm environment while still doing big things. One of my greatest experiences as someone who is working towards becoming a PR professional was the chance to go to Boston for the PRSSA National Conference. It was this event that solidified in my mind that I had made the right choice choosing public relations a my major. Another opportunity, the one where I have learned the most, was the chance to become a staff member for GrandPR. Hands-on experience with real clients and working with a team of people who all help each other get real work done teaches you things that you cannot learn in a class.
PR has given me the opportunity to become a more hardworking person who can be proud of their work. I look forward to continuing to blossom as I explore the field further.
Evan Clark is a Sophomore at Grand Valley State University. While majoring in Advertising and Public Relations, Evan is also a member of PRSSA, account executive at GrandPR, and a member of APR Alumni Relations. He looks forward to gaining more experience within the field and networking with peers and professionals. In his free time Evan is an avid Netflix viewer, his favorite show is House of Cards, and enjoys spending time with friends.