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6 Courses Colleges Should Teach PR Students

Effective writing and media relations will always be mainstays of college public relations courses, but the business is always evolving, so curricula must do the same to produce the next generation of consumer or tech PR professionals. I recently gave a lecture on “real world” PR to a class of college juniors and was surprised that the coursework still focuses on securing traditional media. Here are some courses we’d like to see the forward-thinking professors offer their students.

Content Creation: Owned, Earned, Paid, Shared. At one time public relations was narrowly defined by traditional media relations, but that’s a bygone model. Today’s PR students need to know about the concentric circles that make up the different kinds of content that can promote brand visibility. In a nutshell, earned media refers to traditional media as well as blogger relations. Shared includes everything from online influencer engagement to social media platforms. Owned encompasses content under corporate control, like websites, white papers, or a Facebook page. Paid includes sponsored posts, tweets and lead generation. All categories overlap and share a common nexus that is “authority” – the right voice to tell the story.

Social Media Strategies. Sure, college students use Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook every day for personal use, but successful PR grads have to learn how to use the platforms to connect companies with customers. It’s imperative to know which channel best benefits which product/service – Instagram for food porn or travel lust, LinkedIn for exec bylines or career development, for example.  The social media landscape changes daily, it seems, so smart students also need to stay abreast of developments such as Snapchat’s new partnership in Truffle Pig, an agency that will offer a range of creative and content services.

Video Production. Much as today’s broadcast journalists have become their own “camera-people,” the savvy PR student needs to master the craft as well. The immediacy of video means being prepared to capture both staged moments (press interviews; company events) as well as genuinely spontaneous encounters or those that try to be, such as this effort from Gillette/Venus that may just try too hard.

Reading 101. Even if you don’t want to read this study on the positive cognitive effects of reading, suffice to say that nothing improves your writing more than reading. Students need to read everything – sure, they might think Buzzfeed supplies all they need to know – but branching into reading great literary or film criticism, well-constructed Op-Ed pieces and, you know, books, will all help make one a superior writer.

Writing for business. Many PR classes focus on journalistic writing, particularly press releases. Yet, every year more and more journalists and industry types question its relevance. What is never irrelevant is good, concise business writing. Whether it’s crafting a carefully worded missive to a testy business associate, trying to sell in a pricey plan to a marketing partner or simply setting up a meeting with a complicated agenda, PR students need to learn the basics of business writing.

Art of business relationships. Something else in public relations classes that goes untaught, the fine art of establishing and keeping good business relations. This can include thoughts on how to network, how to set up and run productive meetings and even the mastering of social skills. 

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