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Passionate about PR – for those of you who are not sure about “the real world”

What is PR? Some people confuse it with advertising because of its similarities, but in actuality it has a very different purpose.

Public relations practitioners seek relationships with people, building a bridge between clients and their audience. Advertising is just one car crossing that bridge to help spread the word about a product or event.

With that said, many students (including myself) enter the PR field, not knowing what it is really about. When I was a sophomore, I remember asking different educators in the Communications College, “What is the difference in an Advertising and Public Relations degree?” The answers I got weren’t necessarily clear to me. It took a while before I started actually understanding PR.

AP style, press releases, memos, logos, surveys, evaluations, feature stories, video news releases– these are just a few things a PR student learns. While these are important aspects, it still does not give you a definition of exactly what you will be doing when you get out in “the real world.”

So there is the question: What will I be doing when I get into “the real world”? It is always a good idea to start with something you are passionate about. If you don’t find PR a very exciting profession, you can make it exciting by fitting it into your life. Don’t think about what jobs are out there. Think more along the lines of “What do I care about and how can I connect that with my PR skills?”

Exploring this question will help you define your career, instead of the career that defines you. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to search for jobs. But perhaps exploring the question will help you to know what jobs to look for and also which people to contact.

Meeting people—one of the key PR tools. Contact people involved in public relations and build relationships. You can learn a lot by just talking with others and listening to their experiences they have had in the PR field. Then, that person may give you another contact, and another and so on, until you have loads of knowledge that can gear you towards that next step.

I have found that you must be passionate about what you are doing. Since there are many students striving toward a degree in PR (e.g., 584 in UA’s 2008 undergraduate PR program), you have to find ways to be creative and different than others in your field. Start with something you are passionate about and the ideas will begin to flow.


  1. Post comment

    I thought this was very well written, and you’re right – too many people don’t have an active understanding of what PR is… and as the previous commentator pointed out – part of that is even more difficult, as things are constantly changing due to new media and new outlets.

    However, PR will always be about the relationships.

  2. Post comment

    Sorry to confuse you even more, Ssummer, but in the online space there are even more places where advertising and traditional PR mash-up.

    In my opinion, the biggest differences between the two practices have more to do with “voice” and goals than specific tactics. PR and advertising use many of the same channels and tactics, but they do it with different intent. PR more closely aligns with the intent of brand advertising, as far as raising awareness, but typically embraces a wider range of measurable (or not measurable) attitudinal impacts. For example, PR has a place for Corporate Social Responsibility, which may ultimately impact brand awareness and attitude. Advertising often pushes the promotional messaging first, corporate social responsibility second (a small logo for “Organic” or what have you). They may both use similar channels (internet social media, television) but will be having a different dialogue with different people (talking to media vs. consumer, unless it’s a direct-to-consumer PR campaign).

    I expect that as advertising people start to do more PR-type activities in social media and other online places of influence, that it’s going to get even fuzzier! Most of the bigger PR firms actually have an internal media-buying group which helps them place ad media to support PR messaging goals. And, I’m seeing more marketing directors and ad agencies now being responsible for writing press releases and doing PR outreach!

    Suffice to say, you’re jumping into PR in probably the most interesting point in recent history. All worlds are converging and there are many exciting possibilities coming out of it.

    Good luck with your emerging career!

    Dana Todd, CMO
    Newsforce, Inc.


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