The new integrated PR: Learn to love again

By Susan Sullivan

Last week, I registered for my final capstone course in my online Integrated Marketing Communications degree program from West Virginia University – pretty exciting stuff, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I signed up to earn my MSIMC, I was a fresh new public communications manager at the City of Morgantown, West Virginia -- the first the city had ever employed. While I was sure that my background in journalism and previous job at a north-central West Virginia TV station would give me a great foundation for working with the media, I found myself ill prepared for the public relations part of the job. Although I grew on the job, I decided that a Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications would better prepare me for the new world of PR.

Are you looking into going back to school or hoping to find your niche in marketing or communications?  Here’s what I learned about going back to school to bolster my PR career:

Susan Sullivan is project coordinator at Broodle Brands in Cincinnati.

Susan Sullivan is project coordinator at Broodle Brands in Cincinnati.

1.  Prepare to admit you don’t know anything about the new public relations.  Sure, I was confident that I knew how to write a press release, how to respond to media questions and get them to the right person to interview, and how to share meeting agendas, but I knew precisely squat about web metrics and SEO and managing brand identity online!  I was intrigued at how public relations, marketing, and advertising have all evolved into this machine that now uses social media, online relationships, and data collection. These topics all coalesce into the same office, and I found myself wanting to build the Public Communications Office on an integrated marketing communications basis.

2. Reading for class is lot more enlightening than studying was in college. Because the classes are about new topics that are constantly evolving, teachers are continually updating material to include the newest topics via articles and blogs. It’s not just all textbooks, and blog posts from the hottest Brand Love enthusiasts or social media marketers really stoke the fire for me. Plus, being able to learn new things online while I’m still working full time allows me to apply the lessons that very day at work, which is really encouraging.

3. Fall in love all over again. Remember that first time in class you heard about the press secretary’s job, or read about a magnificent marketing campaign, and knew that was your calling?  Taking courses on today’s IMC approach to public relations helps you see your love in a new light. Refreshing your knowledge about the career you have spent a healthy 10, 15, 20 years on gives you new perspective on how to achieve a higher level of relationship with your target market or constituents. Your audience may not communicate the same way it did 20 years ago. Learning their behaviors and how you can cater to their needs in today’s society may not only help to build your business, but make you love PR like you used to.

As I count the days to graduation, I’m also counting the new ways I can benefit the company for which I now work. It helps me get ahead in today’s job market, helps me understand my consumers better, and gives me reasons to love getting up for work in the morning. If you’re looking for a way to put yourself ahead of the game and the competition, consider classes in integrated marketing communications, and feel the love again.