Public Relations

The specialization in public relations is designed to provide a broad understanding of the role of public relations in contemporary society, as well as knowledge and experience in developing public relations materials for use in corporate, governmental, and nonprofit organizational settings.

Areas of focus include public relations and society, writing for the media, public relations techniques, research methods, public relations strategy and campaigns. In combination with the student's major, the program will provide training for students seeking entry-level positions in the industry.

Some Career Options in PR

Crisis Management:
What should an organization say and do when a crisis occurs? The crisis may be a plane crash, an oil tanker running around, a product tampering, a fire or a student demonstration. When an event like this occurs, reporters want information, quotes, interviews and visuals. What do you say? What do you give them? Who gets in front of the camera? These are some of the questions crisis managers deal with. Excellent public speaking skills are a must.

Press Agentry:
How do you get publicity for your client? How do you make your client famous and, in the process, wealthy? These are some of the goals of a typical press agent. He or she knows how to create news, how to draw the attention of reporters and newscasters. Press agents may represent sports figures, entertainment celebrities, politicians, or other persons seeking the limelight. Background in marketing and promotion is essential.

Media Relations:
A media relation's specialist understands news and the news industry. He or she represents an organization to the media, frequently visits reporters and editors on media tours, generates story ideas and angles, and responds to media queries. A background in print or broadcast journalism is usually a must for this career track.

Consumer Relations:
Product recalls, consumer complaints, and questions about the corporation and its products--these are common issues in consumer relations. A consumer relations specialist often has pretty direct contact with customers and with corporate management. Coursework in business--management, finance and marketing--and psychology helps.

Financial Relations:
The securities Exchange Commission requires that organizations release in a timely fashion any information that might affect their stock prices. Financial relations experts disseminate this information through annual reports, quarterly reports, news releases to financial publications, and other means. An understanding of management and finance is essential.

Public Affairs:
Most public relations efforts having to do with government are often referred to as public affairs. the federal government, the largest employer of public relations practitioners in the United States, hires public affairs specialists to disseminate information from government agencies to the public. Lobbying firms hire public affairs specialists in efforts to influence legislation. Background in political science is important for this career track.

Public Information:
Many of the not-for-profit public relations efforts can be classified as public information. The American Cancer Society, Red Cross, and the National Cancer Institute engage in public information every time they warn the public of the dangers of smoking, the presence of lead in paint, or the hazards of local waste disposals. And health is just one of the sectors in which public information is practiced. Most school systems, museums, unions, trade associations, interest groups, and other organizations develop public information campaigns to educate the public about issues, problems and opportunities.

Many not-for-profits also need funds to continue in operation, and engage in development activities. Public broadcasting stations hold auctions; civic groups sponsor fundraisers; student groups provide car washes. All of these activities require organizing events and attempting to convince segments of the community to donate funds, time or other resources. Background in psychology, management and other aspects of business would be helpful for this career track.

Community Relations:
How do you mobilize a community to do something about pollution? How does a corporation squelch opposition in a community to one of its plants? How can a community get a new library? These are questions that community relations specialists might answer. Skills in coalition building, analyzing problems and management are most useful, as is background in sociology and psychology.

Special Events Coordination:
A hospital sponsors an open house and invites members of the community to get acquainted with the staff. A corporation holds an employee picnic for employees and their families in an effort to boost morale. A new store recruits the mayor to hold the scissors at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. These are the types of activities that special events coordinators plan and implement. Attention to detail, organization skills and creativity are essential.

General Tips for All Careers in PR

  1. Writing ability is the number one predictor of success.
  2. Read widely; most public relations professionals find it necessary to have a finger on the pulse of political, economic and social trends that might affect their organization's future welfare.
  3. Get more than one internship, preferably in different sectors (e.g., corporate, not-for-profit, governmental).
  4. Learn as much as you can about industry and one organization in particular. Write term papers about that organization or industry. When you are interviewing for a job, your in-depth knowledge may give you a competitive advantage.
  5. Join student organizations such as PRSSA and get involved in developing campaigns.

Fall Semester 2013 Application Deadline: Friday Nov. 1

Your application must be received by the deadline @ 5 p.m. in the Office of Academic & Student Affairs, Room 189 CAS.



Time Constraints:
By applying to this specialization, students are must be aware that it will take one to two years to complete all of the requirements. Students are essentially making a two year (4 semester) time commitment.

Preference will be given to students admitted to one of the following majors: Advertising, Communication, Retailing, Journalism, any major within James Madison College, and Environmental Studies and Agriscience (Comm option). If there is available space, students from other majors will be considered on an individual basis.

Grade-point average:
Students must have a cumulative GPA of a 3.0 or higher through the end of the semester before applying for this specialization. For example, if a student is applying during spring semester, their cumulative GPA after the previous Fall semester needs to be at or above a 3.0. Transfer students must complete one full semester at MSU before applying for the specialization.

Class Level:
To apply students must be at sophomore standing or higher. This means they must have earned at least 28 credits.

Course Prerequisites:
Students must successfully complete:
ADV 260 (3 credits) Principles of Public Relations

AND ONE of the following:

ADV 225 (3 credits) Writing for Public Relations
JRN 200 (4 credits) News Writing & Reporting I

Completed application and required documents must be turned into Rm. 189 Comm Arts and Sciences by the 10th week of the semester. If you would like to begin the specialization during spring semester you should apply during the Fall semester. You are allowed to submit your application before the 10th week so please do so. Students will be notified of their application status via email at the end of the semester.



Undergraduate Public Relations Specialization adviser

Lauren Gaines
189 Communication Arts and Sciences Building

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