Often we make decisions not knowing where they will take us and then later regretting the fact that we didn’t take time to study our options and thinking through the decision carefully. For me, I had thought about public relations in detail and thought of where it might take me but was nervous as to whether my perception was actually going to turn into a reality. I knew public relations was going to be about managing an event or occurrence that has taken place within society and how the public would receive the message but I didn’t know how I was going to fit into that equation. I didn’t know if my skills would “fit the bill”, would I be able to be a public relations professional? (That answer is hopefully a yes, being in final year I am hoping that I’m shaping up to “fit the bill”).
When I first started my course I had visions of going into marketing or advertising or PR-ing for an organisation. However, telling other people didn’t work out the way I expected. Studying to be a “PR” came with a great deal of “slagging”, many people laughed and asked was I going to be outside the clubs trying to drag them in and persuading them to be on the guest list, or was I going to be writing to them on Facebook telling them that this club is amazing and they have to go there on Tuesday night. No became a very frequent word to start my conversations, explaining that my course actually isn’t about “repping” for clubs and that it has a lot of content on communication, language, interpersonal skills, advertising, marketing, politics and lobbying.
As time went on (and fortunately the slagging died down) I started to get more and more interest into how much work takes place in the world of business regarding communication and public presentation. A project given to us that involved evaluating a well-known organisation’s strategy to retain and grow within their target audience really started to get me thinking how much planning is needed to be successful, there is so much knowledge needed to keep the product in the consumers mind and many variables are needed to be kept in consideration. Evaluating skills we had was another project, on a weekly basis we recorded ourselves acting out skills we displayed in certain scenarios. Here you might wonder why is this relevant to public relations, I myself didn’t get the usefulness of this module in the beginning but rather how awkward it was to act like an “ejit” in front of people I barely knew, but again as time passed I discovered how useful it was. Practicing to communicate with people I didn’t know and evaluate my skills was valuable, I realised that in my future job I am going to be communicating on behalf of an organisation to individuals I have never met before on a regular basis, so learning to communicate effectively was important and getting the social awkwardness out of my system now was worthwhile.
Many lectures consisted of professionals coming in and explaining their area of expertise and how they got there, each professional was linked to the lecture topic which was easy to digest as for me the content of the lecture didn’t always register with my brain but getting the material again in a different manner helped. It was so interesting to know how my course could take me down so many different career paths, public relations was going to open up so many options.
I do feel lucky to have made the right decision, it could have went so wrong and I could have been back at square one wondering what am I going to do with my life. Thankfully I have been kept interested and eager to discover more of what public relations has to offer.
Niall Byrne is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on twitter @NByrne96