By Lily Gordon
Wedged between the Volcanology building and Lokey Laboratories in the heart of the University of Oregon’s Science Complex, Willamette Hall is not where one would just happen across a Public Relations or Journalism major. In the echoey atrium, students studying Physics, Computer Science and Math can be seen, heads bent over thick books and flashing screens. Willamette is the nucleus of the Physics Department, a subject most future PR practitioners are relieved to have left behind in high school.
Within the depths of kinematics and electromagnetic waves, there is a fountain of public relations knowledge. A hidden gem of expertise. His name is Professor Scott Fisher. In addition to being an advisor and astronomy lecturer within the Physics Department, Fisher is the Outreach Director. He has years of community outreach experience starting from his humble beginnings in Hawaii at the Gemini Observatory (one of the ten largest observatories worldwide) writing press releases, tabling at events and regularly chatting to the local news channel about the work being done at the observatory. Then came his time in D.C. with the National Science Foundation facilitating educational and grant-related programs. Now, the UO has snatched not only a great thinker in the astronomy world, but a PR one as well.
I sat down with Fisher to pick his brain about everything related to community outreach. In addition to being naturally predisposed to the communications field, he says he was born with extra helpings of schmooze, science, mathematics and “dashingly good looks.” Fisher understands how to bridge scientists’ complex ideas to the general public. While astrophysics and science in general may be a yawn-worthy field to some, (but a field with many, many, many PR jobs) it is one of the more challenging fields a PR practitioner can be tasked with strategically communicating. If a person, such as Fisher has, can get Aunt Martha in rural Florida or Hawaii to care about developments lightyears away, then that person can also communicate the messaging of more relatable brands such as Whole Foods, Nike, Tesla or Intel.
For those interested in job security and representing the future of the planet, there are a number of science classes targeted at non-science majors such as Fisher’s astronomy courses. But to get to the meat of it all, the following are key takeaways from my conversation with Fisher. One could call them “The Fisher Keys to Community Outreach Success.”
Know your audience.
“You can’t give the same spiel to every audience,” says Fisher. “It’s about the audience. It’s not about you, the PR person.”
This is core to any public relations plan, but even more so when tackling community outreach. Fisher has developed strategies in order to engage groups as varied as K-12 students to retirees in Central Oregon. And even when the demographics of two events are the same on paper, the value of personally interacting with the community and understanding what makes them tick cannot be underestimated.
Be flexible with the core message.
Once Fisher understands his audiences front and back, he likes to stay adaptable. “Quiet credentials” are an important tool in his kit. A public relations practitioner may know every fact, figure and anecdote pertaining to his or her client, but the real talent is knowing which select things to share with an audience. While a room full of professors may be impressed by your amazing resume and in turn care more about your client, second graders will not. Know what knowledge and experiences to share.
If people don’t care, it’s because they don’t understand.
“Don’t undervalue the interest of your audience in your topic,” Fisher says. “The best presentations and best stories I’ve written or interactions I have had, I’ve always felt that I covered all of the material I wanted to cover, but I left them wanting a tiny bit more.”
Scientists, stockbrokers and lawyers are often guilty of using too much jargon. They leave people wanting more— more of something they’ll actually understand. When it comes to community outreach, people first need to comprehend a subject, be it astronomy, homelessness or adoption, before they can care about it.
By Pablo Lopez
Connie Chandler, a public relations instructor in the School of Journalism, gives us her top-three reasons to build relationships with our instructors on campus.
Networking. Networking. Networking.
This word gets thrown around at us in college classrooms like our parents reminding us to eat our vegetables at the dinner table. But like our vegetables, why is it important?
More importantly, why should we network with instructors that we have to deal with for 10 weeks? Ten weeks should be more than enough time, right? Wrong.
Personally, I rather call it “building relationships.” It doesn’t sound as professional, but as students, I think we’re here to look at instructors as our friends and not as an associate that we’re competing with, dreading to ask them for help and cringing at the thought that they’ll embarrass you in front of the boss.
It’s true, we have a lot on our plate. It is almost impossible to meet with instructors when you’re trying to balance the workload of four or five classes while working a daily job that requires countless hours of physical labor.
Connie Chandler, a public relations instructor in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) agrees. Chandler says, “Students are busy. And going to office hours, if you feel like you have a pretty good handle on what’s going on in the class, may seem like it’s too much to add to your schedule. But I think that the other part that students need to think about is that the instructors in the program that you’re in –in this case PR – really care about where you end up.”
These are Chandler’s three reasons to build a relationship with instructors.
1. Connection: We are here to learn from instructors.
It’s obvious that books cannot teach us everything. We can go to class twice a week, ace the course, and still be oblivious to what’s going on in the work place. Chandler says one of the best reasons to build a relationship with instructors is not only because they ‘have great deal of knowledge on the skills we are learning,’ but because they have ‘a fair amount of practical experience in the work place that you want to go into using those skills.’ They’re here to help; use them.
2. Good Practice: Instructors welcome “cold emails”
It’s an awkward, and sometimes intimidating introduction that you have no idea how to approach. As hard as it sounds, it’s not that bad. Instructors know that we have questions, and sure we might sound a little nervous, but don’t be hesitant and just do it.
Chandler explains that it’s as easy as sending an email. “Most instructors in, for example, the PR sequence, would be open to even just an email that says: ‘I’m a student in the public relations program and I know you are an instructor in the program with a special interest in leadership – for example like Dave Remund has – and I’d like to sit and talk with you. Can we do that sometime?’”
If you have a relationship with an instructor already, she recommends you simply ask to be introduced either virtually or in person with another instructor in the department that they think would be a good person for you to sit and talk with.
3. Access to Opportunities: Guidance into the right path
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely in the same boat as I am. We need a well-trained sailor to help us get to the destination we’re trying to reach. Which is exactly where the instructors come in to play. Chandler shares, “part of helping you get to that place is certainly the skills that you’re learning in the classrooms, but it’s also in getting to understand what you’re specifically interested in as an individual and helping in anyway that we can to guide you toward the path that you really want to take.” An exceptional staff surrounds us in the SOJC, and ultimately, they are here to help.
Many students check out when the sun makes an appearance, especially at the University of Oregon, where students are far too familiar with the rain and clouds. Instead of using the sun as an excuse to avoid homework and responsibilities, take control of spring term and use it to your advantage. Here are a few ideas on how to stay focused, while also enjoying the weather.
In order to truly enjoy the nice weather that spring brings, you will need to be prepared to do so. Getting your responsibilities out of the way on cloudy days allows for play on days with blue skies.
Out with the old, in with the new. There’s not much that feels better than throwing out old junk and clutter. It freshens your room, allows for more free space, and becomes a nice place to focus when needed.
May I suggest a little ODESZA? Gather some fun songs that make you put on your happy pants and allow you to dance it out. Listen to the playlist when you’re feeling discouraged and remind yourself summer is only weeks away.
This computer app allows you to put all of your most distracting websites on a ‘blacklist’ and it won’t allow the websites to load for however long you set your focus timer. Take that, Facebook!
After multiple hours of studying and staring at a screen, you often hit a wall and no longer retain as much information. Instead of sulking inside and dreading to continue, go outside, take a walk, a breather, and maybe do some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing again.
Whether it’s spring term or fall, it’s always a good idea to treat yourself after a good day of work. Eat some cake, get a pedicure, see a movie, or go on a fun weekend trip.
Lastly, it’s always good to have goals to strive for. It focuses on an end date and forces you to accomplish what needs to be done before then. Fitness goals, academic goals, or general self-improvement goals are always good options.
Brooke Adams is a junior transfer student, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Business Administration. Brooke is a native Oregonian, avid coffee drinker, and music lover. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeIAdams.
As the finance director for UO PRSSA, I am often asked, “Why should I become a dues paying member?” Well, of course, I’m going to do my best to encourage you to pay the membership due and become a part of what I see as one of the best organizations on campus. But you deserve the facts. So here are my top three reasons why you should become a dues paying member of the PRSSA National Chapter:
Enhance your education.
Events, competitions, leadership opportunities, scholarship and awards, writing practice, and current news are all provided once a member of the National PRSSA chapter. All of these opportunities provide members with the chance to network and interact with other public relations students around the country. Experience is one of the best ways to enhance your education so use these PRSSA benefits to your advantage.
Broaden your network.
The National PRSSA organization provides students with many ways to network and meet new people. They organize events, start discussions via social media platforms and provide students with access to the Champions for PRSSA directory, which gives students access to a network of dedicated professionals.
Launch your career.
Ultimately, we all hope to graduate from college with the security of a job position. The National PRSSA organization provides students with three databases to help launch their career. Once a member, students have access to the PRSA Online Job Center, an internship database and the PRSA Associate members’ list.
Interested in becoming a member of the national PRSSA organization and beginning to work towards your public relations career? Membership dues are $80 per student annually and are due by February 18. You are welcome to pay with cash or check – please make checks out to ‘University of Oregon Foundation.’
Sophie Lair, Finance Director, manages and prepares the chapter’s budget for the academic school year and collects annual dues from members. Sophie is currently majoring in public relations with a minor in French. Follow her on Twitter at @sophielair.
Winter term in college is difficult anywhere – it’s in between summer-just-ended and when-will-summer-get-here. At the University of Oregon, it’s cold, wet, and grey, the homework is piling up and there’s no sunshine for our necessary dosage of Vitamin D. Sometimes it’s especially difficult to get past the bleak grey abyss, so I’ve compiled a few helpful tips to get you through to spring break.
Enjoy the rain’s simplicity and stay inside.
Sometimes listening to the rain and reading a good book is a great way to spend a cold day. Make some tea, organize your workload, research something you’ve always wanted to know more about, bake a new dessert, or plan a movie night in with friends.
Take advantage of the new recreation center.
The newly renovated Rec Center offers multiple options to get your endorphins going including rock climbing, swimming, weight lifting, and organized sports.
End your week with On The Rocks.
The university’s male a cappella performs every Friday at 4pm in the EMU Amphitheater.
Take advantage of the Outdoor Program on the weekends.
During the winter, you can take the Berg’s bus to Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, Willamette Pass, or Hoodoo for the day to ski or snowboard at a discounted price.
Stay organized and improve your time management skills.
Consider buying a planner and arrange your week to allow time for homework, extracurricular activities, and exercise. However, don’t forget to pencil in time for relaxation too. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Focus on the end goal.
The halfway mark is already here, and spring will be here before you know it. Keep up with your schoolwork, and use these tips to get you through the rainy Oregon winter.
What do you do to get through winter term?
Brooke Adams, external relations committee member, is a junior transfer student, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Business Administration. Brooke is a native Oregonian, avid coffee drinker, and music lover. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join UO PRSSA at its first meeting of the year! Learn about our upcoming events as well as how to get involved and gain PR experience.
We’ll also be starting our series: “The Basics of PR.” Hear from a few professionals talk about the difference between in-house and agency life, ethics and leadership, advocacy PR, healthcare, and non-profit. Whether this is your first year on campus or you’re a seasoned senior, there’s something for everyone to take away.
Lastly, make sure to join us after the meeting at Pegasus Pizza! We hope to see you there!
For many of us, graduation is around the corner. That final day in spring is full of excitement, happiness and fear. The monumental transition into the real world can seem daunting, so, here are tips to help you along the way:
Make goals. As public relations professionals, we know a lot about the importance of planning. Pretend that you work for an agency and the client is yourself. Make a plan with long-term and short-term goals. Ask yourself reflective questions to help you plan your future, but always leave room for change and opportunities you don’t expect.
Land that first internship or job. Landing a job right out of college can be overwhelming and discouraging, especially when you don’t get a job you thought you were qualified for. The trick is to stay optimistic and keep your options open. Apply for jobs that could lead to your dream position. As a young professional, you have time to try out plenty of options and you never know which experience could lead your ultimate goal.
Manage your money. Now that you have a new job with a real salary and expenses, you need create a budget and stick to it. iReconcile, Expenditure, MoneyBook and Mint are great apps to help you track your budget.
Continue to network. Building a strong network is about surrounding yourself with people who inspire you and will vouch for your character. A professional network will help propel your career forward and strengthen your resume. Personally, networking can connect you to your new community and help build a balanced life.
Keep learning. College may be over, but knowledge is still out there. Ask questions, this will demonstrate passion and commitment to your employer. Seek out new experiences to bring more to the table – personally and professionally.
Hopefully these tips will help ease your anxiety. Just remember that every executive started out as a scared recent graduate just like you.
Continue this list of tips or comment with your own concerns for the transition from student to professional.
Ruby Hillcraig, external relations committee member, is a senior at the University of Oregon studying public relations. Ruby hopes to pursue a career in fashion and beauty PR when she graduates in spring 2014. You can reach Ruby at email@example.com.
Although writing a cover letter can often be frustrating, it is the first and most important thing a potential employer sees. The right cover letter can get you one step closer to an interview. Here are a few tips to make the writing process easier and your cover letters more successful:
Keep your cover letter well organized and easy to read. Use the first paragraph to explain why you are contacting the organization. Be sure to include any mutual acquaintances and mention your interest in the company or a specific position. In two to three concise body paragraphs, elaborate on your relevant skills, experience, knowledge and expertise. Conclude the cover letter by reiterating your interest in the company and mentioning a call to action, such as “I look forward to hearing from you.”
Tailor your descriptions of skills and experiences to fit the position. Use the job posting as a guide to identify two or three key skills that the employer is looking for. Then, brainstorm the ways in which your skills or experiences illustrate those reoccurring themes. By using key terms from the job posting, you can show that you not only understand what the job entails, but that you’re the right fit for the position.
Remember, they want to know what you can do for them. The more clearly you illustrate how you can benefit the organization, the more likely they call you for an interview. Consider concluding each of your body paragraphs with a sentence summarizing how the skill or experience you mention is relevant and how it will impact the employer.
For more advice on writing a standout cover letter, read this post on the seven-step resume makeover and this article on the mind trick that will help you write a more creative and passion-filled cover letter.
What has been your most successful trick to writing a unique cover letter? Let us know by leaving a comment.
Hannah Osborn, external relations committee member, is a junior pursuing a double major in public relations and magazine journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahmarieoz.
The public relations major sequence is rooted in skills such as critical thinking, strategic writing, business management and creativity. At the School of Journalism and Communications, we take classes, which cover the multiple facets of public relations. Here are three different areas you should consider taking courses in before you graduate.
Digital Arts: If you are interested in design, you should consider the introduction into digital arts sequence, ARTD 250, 251 and 252, which covers print media, time-based and interactive digital arts. You will learn multimedia design by using Final Cut Pro X, InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. If you want to pursue a minor in multimedia, you will need to take four classes in addition to the three mentioned above.
Literature: Literature classes are required for all journalism students – take advantage of the courses that directly correlate with writing skills. For example, ENG 380 Film Media & History or ENG 381 Film, Media & Culture focus on the intersections between cinema and media texts with a topic of the professor’s choice, such as global environment changes or the LGBTQ community. These courses will teach you to think critically about the relationship between human perception, media, and world issues. Comparative literature classes are also useful for fine-tuning skills such as close reading and analyzing passages.
Business: An understanding of business management is important for anyone considering public relations as a profession. The introduction to business class, BA 101, can further your knowledge of the subject. You might consider the business minor, which consists of six courses. Business is a foundation for public relations and if you’re accustomed to business operations then you will be better able to assist in the decision-making processes of any company you will represent.
Overall, public relations is a highly competitive career path. To standout to employers, you need to be well rounded, so, take classes that spark your interest and inspire you to think critically and creatively.
Have you taken any of these classes? Which courses did you benefit from? Which courses would you add to the list?
Sacha Anderson, external relations committee member, is a senior at the University of Oregon studying public relations. Sacha hopes to pursue a career in entertainment PR. You can reach Sacha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So you have finally landed the interview. Now what? Here are 10 tips to help you overcome anxiety and land any internship or job with ease:
1. Come prepared. Do your research about the company or the person interviewing you. When they ask you why you want to work for them, you can talk about work they have done for clients or campaigns that inspired you. Also, bring a pen, paper and a copy your resume.
2. Know your resume like the back of your hand. Chances are, your interviewer is not going to read through your entire resume before the interview. They will be glancing over it throughout your conversation and asking you to speak more directly about experience that intrigues them. Practice elaborating on key points on your resume the night before your interview.
3. Come with three great questions. When your interviewer asks you if you have any questions at the end of your interview, you have a chance to ask more about what really interests you about their company. Try to avoid sticking to questions about the internship position itself.
4. Arrive early, but not too early. Try to walk into the lobby about five minutes early.
5. Map out your route the night before. Know how to get to the company that you’re interviewing at and how long it will take to get there.
6. Prepare an interesting elevator pitch. If you only had 30 seconds to tell someone about yourself, would you just parrot information that they could get from your resume? Be creative but strategic.
7. Dress to impress, but keep company culture in mind. Even if the company you are interviewing at is casual, you should show in your attire that you take the interview seriously. Typically for a casual company, you don’t have to wear your nicest suit or heels. Find one formal piece, such as a blazer, and balance all of your less formal items around it.
8. Be confidant. You have to believe in your abilities before anyone else will.
9. Smile. Show that you want the job and that you are happy to be there. An interview is really just a conversation between professionals – not a hostage interrogation session.
10. Say thank you. Write a hand-written card thanking your interviewer for considering you for the position the day after your interview. It shows that you’re detail oriented and makes you stand out.
Amelea Renshaw is the 2013-2014 University of Oregon PRSSA operations director. She is currently a junior double majoring in advertising and public relations. You can contact Amelea at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @amelearenshaw.