by Dr. Bonnie Riechert – Special to CLASS Scholars blog.
“Changing the World, One Organization at a Time,” is one way to explain what public relations is, and does, according to students and faculty members describing careers in this field.
“When we work as public relations professionals, we help our organizations do a better job of listening, as well as connecting with people and serving them,” said Dr. Bonnie Riechert, associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Relations at Belmont University. Dr. Riechert moderated a panel of three public relations majors and graduates at a recent CLASS Scholars Seminar.
“All companies need skilled communicators to help them manage and improve their communications,” she said. Public relations graduates can work in any industry – entertainment, music business, health care, education, corporate, nonprofit, government, etc.
Many people don’t know what public relations is when they’re in high school, said Belmont University senior Aliyah Sheffield, of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, a public relations major and political science minor. She shared her personal definition: “Public relations takes strategic initiative on challenging issues to create platforms for two-way communications.”
Currently serving in her second internship in the Office of the Governor, Sheffield said sometimes her work involves answering telephone calls and listening to complaints, she said. “People want to be heard.”
Lydia Bailey, a rising junior public relations major at Belmont University, discussed her leadership involvement with the Public Relations Student Society of America (www.prssa.org ). With more than 300 chapters and 10,000 members around the country, PRSSA “advances the profession and the future profession,” and provides professional development at the local, regional and national level. Bailey works as a communications specialist for Belmont Wesley Fellowship (a campus ministry associated with the United Methodist Church) and also works for the Belmont’s Office of Development & Industry Relations as well as the Curb College of entertainment and Music Business. She is from Knoxville and is minoring in marketing.
Alex Murphy, a 2016 public relations graduate of Belmont University from Salt Lake City, Utah, minored in music business. He interned at Kaleidoscope Media and All Eyes Media, and was hired full time at All Eyes Media when he graduated. “I’m doing what I love, working in the music industry,” he said. “Our company is starting to look for summer interns now.”
Sheffield and Murphy both served as president of Belmont University PRSSA and recommended involvement in the organization for students majoring in public relations and planning careers in this field. The panelists emphasized the importance of skills in writing, research and problem solving.
The panelists addressed several questions:
· What is public relations? Why should you be interested in it?
· What do public relations professionals do?
· What skills will help you succeed in this industry?
The presentation also included watching and discuss a video, “That’s real PR,” produced by a team of public relations students at Belmont. The video is accessible on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUMMDQJJ-J4