Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let's Get Down to Business

During the past two years of my undergraduate education, lecturers and educators collectively told me that the key to starting a public relations career was to "get a minor in business!" It's a warning I heeded very fast and despite the inconvenience of a business minor then, the benefits are starting to make sense now.

I have had three PR professionals to tell me how important it is to obtain this background. The first was FedEx's Manager of Social Responsibility, Rose Jackson Flenorl, who I invited as a guest speaker at Ole Miss once. The second was PR legend and Burson-Marsteller founder, Harold Burson, who I was lucky enough to meet at a special speaking engagement. My third person to identify the importance of the business minor was Ellen Hartman, president of the Atlanta office of Weber Shandwick, during a personal resume critique.

Some PR majors obtain their degree or emphasis from a journalism, communications, or media school (or department). On the flip-side, other PR majors may obtain their degrees from a business school. From my view of the journalism and business programs offered at my university, the choice of which path to pursue is subjective to the individual.

But one fact is for certain - each area of study needs the other. Journalism/PR majors need a minor in business and Business/PR majors need a minor in journalism to better their communications skills.

As for myself, I chose the journalism route because of my belief that it included a more personal communications technique to public relations. But that did not deter me from making business my minor. In fact, I went on to take additional classes in the business school to include business law and honors calculus because I'm such a glutton for punishment.

Most business minors emphasize classes in the core marketing, management, economics and accounting aspects of business. All off these elements will benefit a PR career.

In my first job, I'm already implementing the techniques learned through my marketing principles course and now better understand both the macro and micro economic patterns that influence the economy. And someday, when I find myself in an upper-level position, the management and accounting course work will serve their purpose in leading project teams and preparing budgets.

So do English and history minors have a prayer in PR?

Despite the advice of the PR all-stars previously mentioned above, most of my PR counterparts in the journalism school continue to seek minors in English and history. These minors can actually provide hefty support depending on your passion in public relations.

History minors can enjoy very exciting careers working for various museums and historical societies. And English minors have a leading edge when applying for publishing companies and copy editing positions with firms.

But these are very niche areas of public relations and the pursuit of these must come with a passion for the territory. These minors will otherwise serve little purpose in the corporate world of business entities and PR/Marketing firms.

How about a Political Science minor?

A political science minor would serve to benefit those looking to go into the government sector of PR. In fact, the political science minor is second only to the business minor in the hierarchy.

This area of expertise can expand from local, regional to national government work. When using the Vocus on-demand marketing software, your communications options fall under PR or GR (government relations) software.

So in short; go for the business minor. It may be overbearing at times but the education is worth it. We live in a business centric world and given today's increasing competition for PR jobs, a business minor will help propel you above the competition.