Thursday, October 15, 2015

Culture Shock - The difference between University and the Public Relations Program

The difference between my university political science program and a public relations program is definitely bigger than I had originally thought when I applied for the program. During my undergrad at McMaster, I took a (political) communications course which led me to think that PR is something that I could really do. Although we did learn some of the rules of journalistic writing and how to write a media release, nothing at university would have prepared me for this public relations program. I don't mean to scare anyone away from the program because so far its great, it's just a huge transition. I mean, I just spent 4 years of my university life learning and perfecting the craft of writing 15-page essays, and now I'm being taught to condense everything and be as concise as possible. The simpler the message the better, that's new to me and probably to most of the people in this class. My brain was put into shock, I just memorized all the rules to essay writing and now I had to learn a completely new style that was foreign to me. Gone was the flowery language, the page lengths decreased, and a new set of style guidelines to follow for potentially the rest of my life (that is if I can find a job in this profession). But like everything else I've learned, it'll take time. 

So far, we're roughly 6 weeks into the program, I'm still struggling to be concise. The first assignment we were handed was a mission statement, sounded easy enough, but when I actually got to the part of writing one for myself it was more difficult than I thought. Not because I didn't know what to do, but because I was struggling to write in a comfortable tone and speak to the general public. The most difficult thing about that assignment was the fact that I wanted to sound professional but also keep a unique and fun tone. This definitely wasn't something I was used to but I managed to get it done and it went relatively well. The 15-page essays that were jargon-filled are now a thing of the past as I'm going to attempt to embrace the new style of writing that could be my future. 

Yet, 6 weeks into the course and the writing isn't even the thing that I'm most uneasy about.... Making things newsworthy, re-writing leads and heads is something I've never had to do, so this is is going to be a challenge for the ages. I've only ever written boring papers, how am I, someone who struggles with creativity going to make something sounds newsworthy and entertaining? As the saying goes "practice makes perfect" and I sure could use a lot of practice on making things newsworthy. It's a learning process and I'm definitely up for the challenge. It sure beats writing 10  essays a year about the same topic. 

One of the biggest differences between my university experience and what I've experienced so far in the public relations program is the number of assignments we have, I'm not used to all the little assignments that we have to do. I'm more used to having 2 or 3 assignments per class and each worth a large portion of the final grade. This is something that is new, but I do see the value of having more assignments worth smaller percentages of the final grade. At least I was told it's supposed to teach us time management skill and if I'm being honest it really has taught me to manage my time a little bit better than writing a large paper worth 40% of my final grade. The assignments now are a lot more hands on and I can see why they'll teach me the necessary skills to be successful as a PR professional in the real world. I'm thankful it's more hands on that university and that I can see the applications of the skills in the world after education. 

It's definitely different than what I'm used to, but I'll have to learn to survive in a new program and a new outlook on things. I think this quote from Richard Edelman, the preisdent and chief executive officer of Edelman a global PR company best sums what PR is like. 

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