As a journalism major, I often get asked why I’m choosing public relations as my specialization. Why don’t I just major in advertising or communications or special events management or marketing? Am I selling out?
Absolutely not. I don’t want to major in any of those other things because I want to write first and do PR second. A classically trained journalist learns the ins and outs of AP style, politics, media and how to be aggressive to get a story. At least that’s what we do here at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Comm at ASU. I don’t want to sound clichéd, but isn’t there that saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? While I’m not calling journalists the enemies of PR professionals, I do think there’s something to be said about their tumultuous relationship. The only way I can think about being the best at my profession is if I learn how the other side works. Being submersed in a school full of journalists will open my eyes to their practices, their strategies and how we both can benefit in the future.
Not only am I learning to write, but I’m learning how to deal with people. First and foremost, PR is about relating to people. Relating to the media, relating to the public and finding a balance between the two. Journalists have refined the most expressive forms of communication. It’s not so vague that when I graduate I won’t have something reputable and specific to fall back on, but it leaves the door open enough that I’m not going to be stuck being a reporter for a floundering newspaper, or an anchor of the five o’clock news. Future employers will know that I know what I’m doing in a newsroom, so if they send me there to defend their company to the public, they’ll know I’ll be able to hold my own.
But why PR? PR is being an advocate without getting into politics. It allows me to take a stand and do public speaking, which I’ve always loved. It makes me spend time on Twitter and Facebook and blogs, which I do anyway. Plus I get to see both sides of the coin – the intriguing big business people and the familiar man on the street. Somebody needs to be a liaison between the two or else the world would be a pretty confusing place. I want to be that link that allows both to function. PR gives me the flexibility to work for basically anybody – whether it’s the federal government, a big box company, a hotel chain or even a local boutique firm. There’s agency PR, there’s corporate PR … the opportunities are endless. What I like changes daily, and with PR I don’t have to be locked into accounting, forensics, psychology, Spanish or hospitality. I can pick one or all of them, and still the options are wide open.
I’m looking forward to exploring these options, now while I’m still in college and after I graduate with hopefully a bunch of experience in my back pocket. And although I may not be ready to choose what I like just yet, at least I know I can always be a journalist.