Monday, December 14, 2020
From Classroom to Career: Navigating the Possibilities of Public Relations
By Hannah Berger '21
If Messiah University’s public relations students and alumni agree on one thing, it’s that the professionals and opportunities within the realm of public relations stand unrivaled. The skills that public relations students acquire in the classroom quickly make their way into real-life application through on-campus organizations, work study positions, internships and eventually long-term careers. By investing in experiences during their time at Messiah, students majoring in public relations create for themselves a vast array of post-graduation opportunities.
Classes and clubs
The classes necessary for a major in public relations include everything from learning to write creative copy and design graphics to communicating and collaborating with nonprofit organizations. Students begin with several intro-level courses that introduce specific concepts and an overall understanding of public relations. As students progress to upper-level courses, such as Public Relations Writing or Public Relations Senior Campaign, they encounter opportunities to directly apply learned concepts to real-world scenarios. Public Relations Writing, in particular, equips students with the ability to write and design specific communication pieces including infographics, social media releases, newsletters, press releases, brochures, etc. Public Relations Senior Campaign provides a platform for the class to work as a team to develop specific public relations content for a designated nonprofit organization. These students communicate and present to the organization directly to simulate real-world interaction.
Outside of classes, the communication department offers various ways for public relations students to get involved and hone their skills. Messiah has its own chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which presents a wonderful opportunity for students to enhance their education, gain hands-on experience and join a specific network of communicators. PRSSA meetings occur weekly on campus, in addition to off-campus campaigns and networking gatherings. In addition to PRSSA, Messiah’s communication department hosts department-wide events titled, “COMMunity.” These events serve as opportunities for students and faculty throughout the department to get to know one another, enjoy fun games and activities and eat lots of goodies!
Jacob Miaczynski, communications administrator for Appleton Alliance Church in Appleton, Wisconsin, says, “I was involved with PRSSA for my first two years at Messiah. In my sophomore year, I helped organize a networking trip to New York to visit a global communications firm. It was the highlight of being in the club!”
Internships and work-study positions
Students who seek to gain extra experience while building their resume have access to innumerable public relations internships. Public relations students typically experience numerous internships during their time at Messiah. For some students, an internship can lead to a job offer from that particular company. Other students, however, crave the idea of participating in as many internships as possible to gain a diverse array of skills and experience. Messiah offers several platforms including the Career and Professional Development Center and Handshake to assist students in finding internships that fit their interests and skill levels.
Some internships that Messiah alumni have completed during their time at Messiah include content development for the USA Field Hockey Team, e-commerce with WebstaurantStore, group sales at Hershey Entertainment, social media management at La Torre Communications, corporate communications at Fulton Bank, communications at Priority 1 Ministries, and marketing and communications with Sacunas Integrated Communications (now known as Merit Marketing).
Megan Bomba, social media coordinator at Strunk Media Group, says, “From each of my internships I took away important lessons about how to be a better teammate, advocate for myself and my work, and specific skills to help me be more employable.”
For the students looking to make a little extra money while they continue developing their public relations skills, Messiah offers various work study positions all across campus. For example, Messiah’s Career and Professional Development Center recently started hiring students as student career coaches. Also, various departments and organizations across campus seek to hire students willing to run social media and marketing tactics; one of these organizations is The Pulse—Messiah’s student media hub. A diverse array of possibilities exists on campus for students to apply their skills while earning money in the process.
Erin Zakin, communications director for the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, says, “Working and volunteering for The Pulse gave me practice in photography, design, web development, writing, public relations—pretty much everything you can think of!”
Opportunities beyond Messiah
The post-graduate life of a public relations student houses hundreds of job possibilities in line with their personal passions. Some of these positions include event planning, communication-related positions, social media management, media relations, fundraising and more. By combining their knowledge of public relations with their various passions, Messiah alumni have established successful careers for themselves. For example, public relations alumni have pursued careers in industries including art, film production, business, and marketing, just to name a few.
Tiffany Murphy, a Messiah alumna who works as a partnership sales manager at Sight & Sound Theatres, says, “As a partnership sales manager, I get to represent Sight & Sound Theatres to tour and travel operators from all over the country and encourage tourism to our theaters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Branson, Missouri. My goal is to strengthen our relationship with these businesses by checking in with them regularly either through phone call and email correspondence, visiting in person at their offices, or networking at tradeshows and events.”
The tasks involved in public relations careers branch across the board of communication. Zakin, mentioned previously, manages communication efforts via email, social media, through her company’s website and in print pieces. She also writes marketing and social media posts, along with script for all of her company’s events. Along with these responsibilities, Zakin handles traditional public relations efforts such as writing press releases and media releases, and she serves as the main point of contact for all of her company’s media relations.
Overall, public relations serves as both a present growth opportunity for students and a gateway to numerous creative careers. With a degree in public relations, students can combine their skills and knowledge with their passions and build exciting careers for themselves.