PR needs more PR in high schools

Melissa Nodding

Think about how you heard of the Mount and the public relations (PR) program. For me, it was through a friend of a friend. When deciding which university I’d go to and for what program, I felt that there was only one choice: to attend the same school as my older brother.

I was unaware of my options and just like many high school students I met with my guidance counselor.  Seeking advice about communications programs was challenging and my counselor knew nothing about the program. It wasn’t until my first year studying general communications at Memorial University in Newfoundland that I learned about the PR program.

If I ask any one of my PR friends how they heard about the Mount’s PR program the majority of them would say: Through a friend or through a parent, but never through a high school guidance counselor.

Why isn’t PR presented as an option?

We need to find a better way to get the word out about our profession. Most people don’t understand what we do, the benefits, and they don’t realize that going into the public relations program here offers so much more than taking a communications program at a larger university.

We have co-op, small classes, classes that apply what we are learning to the work place and hands on training in multiple areas. PR is a specialized program that prepares you for a growing industry with countless employment opportunities.  So why are we failing to promote the program that each and every one of us fell in love with?

I’ll tell you why, because with no concrete definition of the public relations profession, how can you explain to people what it is without actually throwing yourself into it. It’s hard enough for people who actually take PR to explain to others what it is. Asking a guidance counselor who doesn’t understand what we do to explain it to a high school student is not even an option.

With so many misconceptions about PR floating around, high school students aren’t given the chance to understand the profession. They might only think of PR in the Samantha Jones sense, or the spin-doctor, or even the talking head. They don’t realize that it’s so much more than that, and it is incredibly rewarding.

What can we do?

It would take a lot of hard work and lobbying to develop one solid definition of public relations that is used globally. But we could as PR people often do, come up with our own definition that shows, rather than tells.

Telling someone that they will write communication plans isn’t the same as showing them what their work will accomplish. It won’t show them the results at the end of the year when an organization has met their communication goals thanks to their strategy.

It won’t show them how important communication is in any work place, that corporate culture produces a positive environment in which everyone can excel. We need to show them all the behind the scenes work that we do that leads to a stronger organization or corporate image; but they don’t understand that this is what we do.

If we approach the problem of how to create good PR for our program with a different perspective that shows rather than tells, maybe we could change how people view the program.

If we were to accomplish this, high school guidance counselors would have a better understanding of what PR practitioners do. Once they understand, they will be able to explain and promote the program in their school. The key to solving this dilemma is developing a new way to help people understand what we do. A new approach that shows, rather than tells could mean more knowledge, less misconceptions, increased enrollment, and most importantly increased PR for our PR program.