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PR Students: What Are You Qualified For? Success!

Posted At: January 1, 2008 10:26 AM
by Dustin Fowler

Ever since you were little, you have probably dreamed about what you want to be when you grow up. For some it was a nurse or a firefighter, and for others it was a politician or a professional athlete.

No matter what profession you once dreamed of, at some point, you decided on the major of public relations in your college journey. Now, for many of you, your college years are rapidly coming to an end, which means it’s time to begin looking for a job where you can put your public relations skills to use.

In order to put these skills to use, you need to find a job in a PR agency or a nonprofit organization, right? Yes, these jobs are great for PR majors, but they are not the only jobs out there that will allow you to make use of the public relations skills you obtained in college. Fortunately, there are numerous professions in the working world in which the skills of a PR major can effectively be applied.

For example, upon graduation, you might take a job in pharmaceutical sales, start your own business, or even practice law, which are exactly what three public relations graduates have done: Chris Barnes, a senior executive sales representative for Johnson & Johnson; Jack Dietrich, the founder and president of Strategic Market Alliance; and Michael Wiggins, a partner in the law firm of Cabaniss, Smith, Toole & Wiggins, PL.

How have these men applied the skills they obtained in public relations to help them become successful in their current professions?

Chris Barnes says he cannot go a single day on the job without putting his PR skills to use. His job as a pharmaceutical sales representative revolves around his ability to effectively communicate.

“The most integral part of my job is how I communicate,” Barnes said. “Whether it’s internally with my boss or externally with my clients, I must communicate in a way in which my message can be clearly understood.”

Barnes’ means of communication come in many forms—from planning and organization, to writing and making presentations, to the implementation of sales tactics.

“I have to know exactly who my clients are and be able to identify their needs,” Barnes said. “Then it is up to me to put my company in a positive light and sell them on our products.”

In order to accomplish these goals, Barnes has to concisely write up proposals, sales reports, action plans and sales forecasting reports. He communicates these reports and plans in one-on-one presentations with his clients.

As seen in his daily tasks and requirements, the training and skills Chris Barnes obtained as a public relations major in college have played a vital role in his ability to successfully do his job.

Like Barnes, Jack Dietrich relies heavily on his public relations skills on a daily basis. As the founder and president of Strategic Market Alliance, which is a “distributor-owned cooperative comprised of North America’s leading independent janitorial, sanitation, food service and industrial packaging distributors” (, Dietrich has had to build his company upon effective communication.

From the service it provides customers, to its letterhead and Web site, Strategic Market Alliance strives to relay a sense of reliability, trust and professionalism. In order to convey this message, Dietrich’s company must efficiently use communication.

Throughout the evolution of his company, Dietrich has seen the immense value of communication, calling it “the single biggest differentiator when it comes to success.”

With the advancement of his company so deeply rooted in communication, Dietrich largely attributes his development and professional success to his public relations background in college.

“The grounding I received in writing laid the foundation for all of the success I’ve had because it ingrained in me the necessity to think systematically and to communicate effectively,” Dietrich said.

Much like Jack Dietrich and Chris Barnes, Michael Wiggins has seen his public relations background play a significant role in his work as a trial lawyer. With every case, Wiggins uses his ability to write, to present and to identify his client’s needs in order to strategically defend his client.

According to Wiggins, two of the most beneficial skills he acquired while studying public relations in college were the ability to organize a message and the ability to focus on the needs of a particular public.

“In my cases, I must be able to understand what message the client wants me to convey to the person or persons bringing suit against the company, and to the jury,” Wiggins said.

Due to the large amount of interaction between him, his client and the jury, Wiggins must also be able to communicate his message in a clear and concise manner. His ability to effectively communicate plays a pivotal role in the success of his defense of his client.

These effective communication skills, along with the other skills Michael Wiggins developed as a PR major, provided the foundation for his career in law.

Upon looking at the careers of Chris Barnes, Jack Dietrich and Michael Wiggins, it’s obvious that the skills you’re developing as a PR major can be applied in more than the typical PR jobs. In fact, a degree in public relations can open so many career doors for you.

The choice is yours. Will you take advantage of your limitless future?

E-mail: Chris Barnes
E-mail: Michael Wiggins

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