Studies & Degrees in Public Relations
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Public Relations Study Programs
Public Relations is the art of making an impression to the public. During elections, notice how some candidates, if not all, carry a baby and then coincidentally a cameraman appear out of nowhere and clicks his camera. Then, conveniently, the picture is all over the front pages of major broadsheet publications. Candidates usually hire a PR specialist to give them an image boost to make the public vote for them. Before elections used to be just a contest of platforms but nowadays is really the war of PR specialists. The better your PR man, the greater your chances of reaching through to the public and ultimately win the election. PR specialists are consulted from just about anything, from the color of the shirt to the slogans to be used. Anything that would be perceived by the public will be scrutinized by a PR man. However PR specialists are not limited to image building. They are also called upon on to help minimize an impact of a nasty rumor or news. The movie “Wag the Dog” which starred Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman exemplifies a PR man’s expertise by doing damage control on a potential scandal that could ruin a candidate’s bid for the presidential office.
Sometimes, PR specialists are labeled as spin doctors. Usually, spin doctors have a deceptive or manipulative edge to it. A spin is a term in the industry that may refer to an event or campaign. Deceptive because sometimes a spin may be presented using selected facts only. This is what they call cherry picking. Remember when a popular vocalist died because of AIDS. News of HIV did not go to the public ears only after years of his death have passed. News of his being HIV/AIDS victim did come out when only until people where not much ostracized to people with AIDS.
Speaking of AIDS and HIV, PR specialists are also brought in to give public awareness programs such as AIDS awareness campaigns the right exposure and in order to reach as many people as it could. Information dissemination is also one of the specialties of a public relations man. In one Southeast Asian country, New Year’s Eve is celebrated by exploding firecrackers. Over the years, incidence of detached hands and fingers are a common scene among hospitals during January 1. To disseminate the ill effects of lighting firecrackers, PR specialists were called in to let the public know that firecrackers are dangerous and unsafe. The following year, the government showed ads weeks before New Year’s Eve the fate of past victims who played with fire in a literal sense. The TV infomercials showed lots of blood and detached hands and fingers and little boys anguishing in pain and at the same time swearing never to touch another firecracker again. It was so gory that the public got the message and from that year on, incidence of severed body parts due to firecrackers went down from hundreds to less than 10 cases.
Public relations man may not be that famous maybe except in the industry but truth to tell, it is really the PR man who wins elections, who sells products and informs the public.
Job positions for Public Relations:
Media Relations Specialist
Media Relations specialists usually are Public Relations degree holders. Although, often interchanged with public relations, media relations in truth is not the same as public relations. The field of media relations, as compared to public relations, has a more limited scope. Media relations typically deal and coordinate with people connected or involved in producing news through mass media channels. Media relations specialists would normally avoid paying advertising agencies to promote something and would just rather maximize mass media coverage like the evening news. For example, a presidential candidate doesn’t have enough funds to go all out in full scale campaign so what they would do is contact a media relations specialist and give their campaign itinerary to news outfits like CNN or FOX news or to national newspapers and hope that reporters will cover their actions. Making headline would really give maximum exposure as even though people won’t actually buy newspapers, still the headlines would be read by thousands or millions of people just because the news were written in bold letters on millions of newsstands around the nation. Like in the case of Obama, during his campaigns, media coverage were maximized as reporters are covering his every speech and opinions on issues as he might become the first colored president of the United States.
With technology evolving, traditional mass media like television and radio now don’t dominate news coverage. The Internet really is giving these traditional mass media networks a run for their money. Remember how Sarah Palin was ruined by a youtube video? Because she wasn’t really that prepared to take one-on-one interviews, especially with veteran anchors such as Katie Couric, their opposition took this opportunity and broadcasted this disastrous interview over youtube.com. The video was immediately viewed by millions of young voters and the appeal of Sarah Palin was turned to ash in an instant. It was disastrous because she was used to stating canned statements prepared by her party’s staff and when no scripts was in her hand, of course, the viewers knew that Palin’s knowledge of politics and economy would become a liability as a crisis is beaming to greet the new administration to be. As American voters are very mature and wise, the video would not be construed as malicious as it was really Sarah Palin speaking on a television-broadcasted program. The Internet just made the video more accessible to millions of Americans in so short a time.
In politics, it is not just really who has a good platform that wins, but nowadays, it is becoming quite clear that winning an election is also like a chess game between two public relations or media relations specialists. Whoever has more access to more mass media outfits would definitely have more channels to express their candidate’s views. For candidates, they must make sure that the media specialist they will hire will have a spectrum of contacts from television to radio and of course, the Internet.
Media specialists are not only election aides but definitely, their services will be welcomed wherever mass media coverage is needed.
Investor Relations Specialist
Public relations graduates may find employment in companies with a public relations department or investor relations department. Usually, publicly listed companies have an investor relations department which usually handles media related affairs. Investor relations office also handles answering the questions of anyone interested in buying and selling the company’s stocks, commercial papers and bonds. It is the job of the investor relations specialists to first and foremost sell the company’s financial instruments to investors. This is the main reason why an Investor Relations specialist is required to have a degree in Public Relations. The company would be able to sell their commercial papers, stock and bond offerings easier if someone is making their image look better and more appetizing to potential investors. If the company has an image of stability and professionalism, for sure investors will queue up to buy their commercial papers. Investor relations specialists are also in-charged of overseeing shareholder meetings, press conferences, one to one briefings with big time investors and even the company’s annual reports. Any information that will be scrutinized by the public and investors are the overall responsibility of the department.
It is important that the company’s press releases would not make the company look bad or in trouble because one false word would surely rattle the investors and would send the company’s stock price spiraling down. Nowadays, people are very critical to a company’s financial condition. Press releases are very important because that is where investors look for clues whether they should buy or sell their holdings. Investors would not like to hear words like “sales were down,” “no dividends this year,” “targets will not be met this quarter” or any indication that the company is losing money. If the company is doing bad it would fall on the Investor Relation’s department to make their investors hold on to their investments and to dissuade them from selling. When it comes to passing of good information to investors, it would also be up to the investor relations department to time the release of that piece of information. A very good timing would surely push the stock price of their company upwards. For example an announcement of interest rate cut was just made, which usually boost stocks, and coinciding with the company’s 50% dividend increase would surely entice investors to buy up equities to a company that is giving 50% dividends.
Investor relations department of utility companies like power and train companies usually have added duties apart from informing its investors of the financial state of the company. Because companies of these nature are of special interest to everyone, especially during crisis, when there’s a blackout or power outage, or when a train got derailed, an explanation from the company usually are demanded by the public. Why is power not being restored immediately? Why is the train delayed? The longer a press release is not made rumors and speculations would mushroom and then ultimately would sow panic to the general populace. Usually, rumors of terrorists attack would surface as to cause of delay or people would start to believe that there might have been something serious that happened if the company has not issued a statement to allay fears of the public.
Because almost every publicly-listed companies needs an investor relations specialists, opportunities are plentiful and their services will be sought after.