From analyzing public opinion to setting objectives for a company, the public relations field encompasses a variety of abilities and skills that can be developed in the college classroom.
PR co-eds can greatly benefit from the knowledge and hands-on experience they gain in the classroom, explains Assistant Professor in the JMA Dept. at Duquesne University, Dr. Giselle Auger, 47. She has had first-hand experience of PR course development and evaluation since she started at Duquesne in August 2011. However, her various positions in journalism, desktop publishing and design, book editing, marketing and public relations have all contributed to her current wisdom in the field. Dr. Auger agreed to share her knowledge and tips for PR classes based on her experience at Duquesne University.
College Lifestyles™: What are a few of the PR course requirements at Duquesne University?
Giselle Auger: New PR majors are required to take “Introduction to PR and Media Relations”, “PR Writing”, “PR Strategies and Case Studies” and “PR Campaigns.” We added the PR writing class to the curriculum last fall and the Case Studies class will be added in the spring of 2014. Students who declared themselves PR majors prior to this year have different required courses because there were fewer PR courses in the curriculum at the time they declared.
CL: What do students learn in these courses?
GA: The introductory course is intended for those who are interested in PR or are curious about the field. We cover a great deal of material during the semester from the history of PR to crisis communication, media relations and cross-cultural relations. Students also write and design an advertisement during the introductory class.
The PR Writing class is designed to provide an in-depth practical writing experience for students. Assignments include a social media release, annual appeal letter, resume, cover letter, feature type articles, a brochure, and a position paper.
The Strategies and Case Studies class will be designed to provide a series of case studies for students to examine and analyze covering a wide range of PR areas such as sports PR, entertainment PR and event management. It will also include cases that illustrate the types of issues encountered in PR, such as crisis and reputation management situations.
The PR Campaigns class is a capstone class where students conduct a PR campaign for a nonprofit client in the Pittsburgh area. Students work in groups of 5 or 6 and prepare secondary research, interview the client, develop a survey and collect data, develop objectives and measurement standards, and design tactics. The class culminates with student groups presenting their campaign plans to the clients in a formal business presentation.
CL: Are there any other courses you believe are beneficial to PR students?
GA: An additional class that I think is very important is a visual design class wherein you learn more than just the basics of InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. Good PR professionals often need to provide design management and technical design assistance during their careers.
CL: Which PR classes relate best to work experience in the PR field?
GA: All of them relate to practical application in the field. The PR campaigns class is probably the class that lets students be the most confident and able of the skills and knowledge they have gained.
CL: What advice do you have for students working on group projects for a class?
GA: Remember to be responsible to those in your group. You might be confident that you’ll get the work done right under deadline, but it may make your group members very edgy and unhappy. If that were your boss you would not want to make them edgy and unhappy so, be considerate and do your part in a timely manner. Also, communicate with your team members.
CL: What hands-on experience do students get from PR coursework?
GA: During the semester in the PR Writing class, students work on the types of writing projects I described earlier. The final project is a portfolio of five PR pieces for the same organization. The pieces may include a social media release, how-to article, annual appeal letter, and other items.
The PR campaigns class provides students with a graphically interesting and well-designed campaign book that is also well-written and comprehensive in content. Many students have used these books in their job interviewing process.
CL: Which PR classes have you taught at Duquesne?
GA: I have taught “Introduction to PR and Media Relations”, “PR Writing”, “PR Campaigns” (Capstone), “Nonprofit PR”, “Special Event Planning and Management” and “Media Ethics.”
CL: How do you make classroom material applicable to the PR field?
GA: I bring in my personal experience all the time. I am very dedicated to making sure the information I teach and the curriculum we provide at Duquesne prepares our students to compete with the best.
CL: What are some projects you have assigned for students in your classes?
GA: In the Introductory class students prepare a media guide that is in-depth and practical. It provides valuable experience for the student as well as a tangible piece that can be part of a portfolio. Students also write a group crisis communication case study, which can also be used in the portfolio.
CL: Why did you develop this project?
GA: I don’t know of anyone else who requires this of their students but I found myself learning how to do this on the job when I was the Marketing Assistant at Hydro International. It was embarrassing to have to go to the public library to ask for help to do my job and I want my students to be better prepared than I was when they enter the field.
CL: What are the biggest questions and concerns you’ve been asked during office hours?
GA: Students who are thinking about becoming PR majors often ask about the practical portfolio building exercises we provide. Others are curious about the types of jobs they can pursue and others want reassurance that PR is a practical field.
CL: What is the biggest problem you see for PR students?
GA: The job market is tight right now. I suggest that if they cannot get a job right away in PR they should get a job to pay the bills and volunteer as a PR position for a nonprofit organization. These organizations need good, strong, PR professionals to help in a variety of activities from volunteer recruitment to event planning.
CL: Do you have any final tips for PR students?
GA: Read the chapters before lecture. Do your best. Be creative. Study for exams! Read the textbooks!