CAP 220: Then & Now

Way back in January, I didn’t know a whole lot about the world of PR and what it is all about.  My first blog was a preliminary guess as to what I would be exposed to in this course and while I wasn’t totally wrong, I had just a tid-bit of the knowledge I have now.  Having muscled through this course, I have experience in putting PR practices to use though it will take more real-world experience to master them.  This blog is a deeper look into what I knew, what I didn’t and what I finally learned in CAP 220.

In my first blog of the semester, I wrote about celebrity image and how the only thing I knew about public relations is how celebrities and companies need to maintain a positive image.  But there is more to PR than just that.  It includes paving the way for a product to be brought to market, keeping customers coming back, and how to communicate effectively with a target public.  In this course, we learned a lot about goal setting and evaluation which is critical to the success of a public relations campaign.  In order to reach the overarching goal of the campaign, one needs to know what steps to take and that really came to life in the campaign book.  Through developing objectives, strategies, and tactics, I was able to see how campaign goals are reached and also how PR is a process that cannot be completed overnight.  There are many steps and processes that need to play out that sometimes take years to complete.  There are planning, execution and evaluation stages that all take place on their own time.  Sometimes they happen in one month or one year.  Putting together the Gannt chart for the campaign book taught me that timeline.  It was difficult at times to differentiate between the objectives, strategies and tactics because they all seemed so similar.  But after seeing how each one feeds into the next, it became easier to go through the process and define what exactly what we wanted to accomplish by the end of the campaign.

At the start of this class, I wasn’t sure how my business background would differ from a communications background.  It was cool to see different theories and processes that come from the school of communications and the school of business and how they are different but ultimately accomplish the same thing.  For example, there is a heavy emphasis on the research process in both areas but in my Ad/PR classes, there seems to be more concern over citation and formatting.  Wherein my business classes, there isn’t as much emphasis on using the correct citation format, rather just giving credit where credit is due.  Also, in business, there tends to be the belief that public relations practices are not a necessity.  After having this course, I realize that having good PR is critical to keeping a business profitable because ultimately, consumers pay for good products that come from companies with a good reputation.

In addition, learning the difference between marketing, advertising, journalism, and public relations was something I found very useful.  Although they are very similar, they each have distinct characteristics that make them each their own concept.  Marketing is more about the product itself and putting a company in a position to make a profit off the product.  Public relations is a broad scope that focuses on specialized publics through multiple channels and can aid marketing and advertising efforts and use them as tools for success.

Some things I find useful going further into my education, co-curricular groups, and ultimately into a career are the ability to manage crises, write a press release, and brainstorm solutions to a problem.  Learning ways to effectively handle a negative situation helped me put out fires in my student organization and put us in the best possible position to maintain our reputation.  I wrote my third blog on the crisis surrounding Chipotle when they had an outbreak of E. Coli.  Reading about what they did to save their customer base and get people to come back after such negative publicity, taught me that when you are transparent and open with our customer and they feel like they can trust you again, you can come back from almost anything.  I’m sure I will put crisis management skills to use for years to come.

In my internship with Grand Valley athletic marketing, I was responsible for planning a themed basketball game called “Kids Day.”  The skills I acquired through learning about how to write a press release helped me communicate with the outside Grand Rapids community about the event and inform the public.  Not having had that skill, I would be ill prepared to handle something of that magnitude.  That was when the classroom came to life for me.  I was actually using skills I learned in a class and applied them to something that was happening.

Although this course was a pain in my butt sometimes and it was hard to learn all about what PR is while directly applying it to a semester-long project, it taught me a whole lot.  Not just about Ad/PR but also life in general and how to deal with other people in the business world. Looking back, I didn’t know as much as I think I did about PR when this class began but now that it’s April I can take a deep breath and know that, if nothing else, I made it out alive.


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