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

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