Five things I’ve learned during semester one of MA PR

This week marks the start of my second semester, so I thought I’d officially close the book on the first few months of my course by mentioning five things I’ve learned so far:

  • PRs and journalists don’t actually hate each other

Really, they don’t! Not any more anyway. They may say they do but from everything I’ve seen and heard there’s a grudging acceptance from either side that they need one another. Most newsrooms are understaffed and overworked while journalists remain desk-bound. PRs help bring the stories to the journalists and in return journalists are helping practitioners justify their retainers to clients.

  • Bigger is better

    Photo by Thomas Hawk

Involved in a campaign and struggling to think of a stunt and will grab your audience by the lapels? Then make something huge! Seriously, big stuff works wonders if you want to generate interest. Even better if you can make it the worlds biggest. It doesn’t really matter what it is – a chocolate bar, a shoe, a naan bread – if you can say that it’s a record breaker then you’re onto a winner.

  • Don’t use AVE

If you’re reading this and you’re involved in PR then you probably know what that nifty little acronym above means. For those who aren’t then I’ll briefly explain. Advertising value equivalent (or AVE) is a method of evaluation where practitioners measure column inches and figure out how much cheaper their service is in comparison with placing an advert of equivalent size in the same publication. Simple, but a little too much so.

Despite what I’ve said above size isn’t everything. AVE doesn’t account for the content of the article – positive, negative or neutral. It’s also becoming increasingly redundant as online media takes hold. Think about it, the phrase “Good news! We managed two-thirds of a 23 inch Packard Bell monitor out of our last release!” doesn’t really sound impressive? This pokey blog takes up more than that!

  • The importance of presentation skills

If you’re not capable of standing up in front of a group of people and talking in detail about your proposed campaign then public relations probably isn’t for you. And if you’re one of these people who can do such a thing without any nerves whatsoever then I hate you.

  • No one really knows what PR is (but I can tell you what it isn’t)!

Okay, that’s not strictly true. There does seem to be some agreement over the more basic areas of public relations but definitions tend to differ quite widely from practitioner to practitioner. Is it purely about reputation? Is it a management function? Is it press agentry? Ask seven different people and the chances are you’ll get seven different answers. Abigail Johnson’s written a great blog outlining the diverse number of the definitions that there are for PR. However, one thing I do now know is that public relations is not a profession!

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