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Friday, November 19, 2010

My Major is Public Relations NOT Journalism...

As a college senior I am often confronted by family, friends, and even random acquaintances about what my major is. The conversation goes a little like this…
“You’re graduating so soon, what are you majoring in?”
“Public Relations”
I am then shot a bit of a confused look
I then go on to say “Strategic Communications”
Another confused look
“I’m in the journalism school…”
“Oh! You are going to be a journalist!”
“No, no that’s not what I said…”
Since beginning to pursue my major in public relations I have struggled with explaining to people what public relations really is. Confused looks and inaccurate assumptions have become a part of many conversations pertaining to my major. This got me to thinking. Does the general public know what we do? Or how they are even affected by our work?

Public Relations Definition
Defined by PRSA (PRSA) “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” And defined by The first World Assembly of Public Relations Associations “the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”

Everyone is affected by Public Relations
Whether people know what public relations is or not they are affected by it everyday. Do you still take Tylenol when you have a headache? I know I do, or at least I’m not afraid to. And would that still be the case if not for how the public relations were handled in 1982 when Extra Strength Tylenol bottles were tampered with and poisoned? Johnson & Johnson took swift and aggressive action. They managed to maintain their relationship with their publics and regain its good image.

More simply do you ‘like’ your favorite restaurant on Facebook? Or perhaps you ‘follow’ them on Twitter? These are both ways in which public relations professionals connect their company with their publics in order to build a positive relationship.

If only I had a sufficient amount of time to go into this explanation the next time I’m casually asked “So what’s your major?” Until then…
“I’m in the journalism school..”
“Oh! You are going to be a journalist!”

Shannon Berkery
University of Minnesota
Jour 3279
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