Reflections…

Am I the only one amazed that it’s nearing the end of April? It seemed like the winter lasted for like 7 years, but the spring is flying before my eyes so quickly that I can’t even stop to enjoy it! The end of the semester is near, my motivation to do anything remotely related to school is pretty much nonexistant, and I’m ready for warm weather, flowers, and to give my brain a rest.

I’m going to be honest and say that this public relations class was literally one of the hardest classes I’ve ever had to take at Grand Valley so far (and during our last class discussion, I’m not the only one that thought so!)… Maybe it’s because I was so clueless at the beginning so I was trying my absolute best to keep up, maybe it was all the writing and blogging, maybe it was the fact that it was a 10 am class and getting the motivation to get up in the mornings was a struggle in itself. It’s a really hard class! But, I’m actually really proud of how far I’ve come in these (long, cold, wintry) months.

Take, for example, our campaign planbook for our university client, Men In Action. They’re a rape-prevention group on campus who is struggling to find members. The first day of class when my professor talked about said campaign book, I literally had no idea what she was talking about. With the help of my professor, classmates, and research, I came up with tactics like giving away free stuff to students and co-hosting an event on campus. Okay, maybe they’re not the most creative of ideas, BUT a few days ago, I handed in my professionally bound, 41-page (but I mean, who’s counting..?) campaign book and I’m really proud of the result. I never would have thought I could do it, really.

And these blog posts? Sure, it may have been annoying to come up with a topic and sources to match, but I think I’ve run a pretty successful blog, if I do say so myself. Also, keeping this blog up-and-running will give me something to do during the summer!

I think the skills that I’ve learned throughout the semester will be able to help me whichever direction I decide to go in, if I can ever decide… I think it’s important for most all careers to have some sort of background in communications in public relations, because we use these skills pretty much every day.

So reflecting on this past semester and wrapping up my final blog post (and doing pretty poorly on the online final exam…whoops), I’m actually really glad I took this class. I met some great people in the class, had exciting class discussions that I was actually interested in, I created a real campaign that I can use in a portfolio if I so desire, my professor was knowledgeable and down-to-earth, and I now actually know what “public relations” means beyond Samantha in Sex and the City. I’d say that’s a pretty successful semester.

And let’s not forget to mention, that 41-page campaign I talked about will definitely help me in other, future classes. A 6-page paper? 8 pages? 12 pages? Piece of cake.

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PR Definitions: Then and Now

Just a few months ago, I was coming into my public relations class not knowing a single thing about what PR was, what it meant, what I would be learning, etc. I remember looking up the definition and trying to put that idea into my own words and I think I ended up with something like this: “public relations is portraying the client in a positive way for the public.” Looking back now, I think I had the gist of what PR was, but Google was a very helpful tool in that. After being in this class for 4 months, I can now safely say that I have a pretty good grip on what public relations is, what the goal is, and what PR practitioners do to reach that goal.

I think one of the most important things that I have learned this semester is physically doing something that a typical PR practitioner would have to do, which is writing a campaign book. This idea of “learning-by-doing” has proven to be greatly effective in teaching students skills that last. In an academic article by Clark, Threeton, and Ewing of Pennsylvania State University, they agree with this, saying that, “this direct experiential encounter with a learning event requires active engagement of the student as opposed to passive engagement commonly associated with teacher directed instruction that generally results in minimal student interaction in the learning process,” (2010). In other words, it was more helpful for me to learn the idea of a campaign (which, at the beginning of the semester, I had no idea what it even meant) by actually writing it out in a real life scenario, than flipping through pages of my textbook and listening to lectures about it.

Moral of the story, my definitions of public relations from the beginning of the semester compared to now are vastly different, mostly in part to experiential learning about PR. And while I (kind of) hated every second of writing my 40-page campaign book (sorry, don’t shoot me!), I will be the first to admit that the experience has made me much more aware of what public relations is, who public relations is, and how public relations is. After all, “It is one thing to understand the parts of a news release, but the process of crafting an actual release for a client’s approval creates an experience of learning,” (Maben, Whitson, 2013).

 

Clark, R, Threeton, M, Ewing, J. (2010). The Potential of Experiential Learning Models and Practices In Career and Technical Education & Career and Technical Teacher Education. Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JCTE/v25n2/pdf/clark.pdf

Maben, S, Whitson, K. (2013). Experiential learning labs in public relations programs: Characteristics of undergraduate student-run public relations firms on U.S. college campuses. Retrived from http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4ndJHQmA0PMJ:www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Maben/publication/256082435_Experiential_learning_labs_in_public_relations_programs_Characteristics_of_undergraduate_student-run_public_relations_firms_on_U.S._college_campuses/file/504635217de16ef25e.pdf+&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us