Last Wednesday I was the guest speaker in two journalism classes at the University of Kentucky (thanks, Chas!). Other than somehow losing my sunglasses between speaking at the 8:30 a.m. class and the 11 a.m. one, it was a great experience. The students are preparing to declare a major, and I was asked to talk to them about public relations as a career option. One area I touched upon (and used this very blog as the foundation) was how the Internet has influenced PR in a short period of time.
One aspect of PR that has changed due in large part to the Internet is our ability to communicate and engage directly with our “public,” as opposed to relying on third-party validation and communication like print and TV news stories and paid advertisement (in most organizations, as we all know, media relations and advertising aren’t disappearing anytime soon).
Thanks to the Internet, we can speak directly to customers and potential customers, through web sites, blogs, social media, and more. Smart companies don’t send their news releases only to media outlets anymore: they distribute them far and wide. They’re bypassing the middleman and becoming their own publishers and distributors. And they can only do this on such a wide scale with the Internet.
Another important example of how the Internet has changed PR is that now we, as PR professionals, are expected to know about social media and how to incorporate it into our public relations activity. As mediums like Facebook and Twitter continue to grow, their existences are validated by the quantity of their users. And where our customers are, we must go!
Another way the Internet has changed the PR field is that it has created a learning and networking environment that’s conducive to career growth, if we’ll only take advantage of it. A U.S. News article last week named the public relations specialist as a top career of 2011. The article included a great quote from Gary McCormick, CEO of PRSA:
“The interesting thing about public relations is that every public relations professional is almost a brand unto themselves.”
I encouraged the students to explore a career in PR by first finding an internship with an agency, since there someone can learn the many ins and outs of the business in a short period of time. I explained that creating a blog like this one to give a voice to your passions is a good way to build up your credibility and experience. If I turned just one student on to the field, I’m a happy gal!
Obviously, the Internet has influenced PR in many more ways than the ones I’ve mentioned. Feel free to share how it has changed how you practice PR or how you work with communications professionals.