September 8, 2016
Creating a brand and projecting a certain image to the public takes a lot of hard work. Making sure that brand and image remains positive in the public's eye takes not only hard work, but skill. Today, news stories quickly become trending topics and hashtags on social media, and opinions on 24-hour news networks spark instant controversy repeated on the hour. Because of this immediate reach and global access, skilled public relations professionals are needed now more than ever to handle how information is conveyed to the public. Getting your master's in public relations can make you an important asset to government agencies, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. If you have an interest in communications, consider public relations graduate programs to prepare you for brand management and being able to prevent and handle any crisis that crosses your path.
If you're seeking out public relations graduate programs, the Master's in Communication online degree program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has a degree concentration that is worth looking into for the next step in your education. Whether you're interested in entering politics, working in media, or wanting to add to your already strong knowledge-base, public relations courses are a necessity for today's information climate. The master's in public relations at SNHU challenges you to take on everything from the branding process to learning how to manage a public relations disaster.
Student Terrica Davis is working toward a career as an entertainment lawyer. Following her undergraduate degree, Davis decided she wanted to attend law school but didn't feel the time was right for that step. Because she wants to make an entire business out of entertainment law, branding, marketing, and public relations, Davis wanted to first get her master's in public relations. After getting her life coach certification, Davis was introduced to SNHU. "I learned about the excellent communications program and knew from day one public relations was the path for me. I knew the program would help me to sharpen my skills and help me develop a successful (business) one day," she said.
Joe Gill '13, '14 MA first graduated in 2013 with an undergraduate degree in politics. Although he could have continued with a master's in the subject, Gill had another thought. Wanting to make himself a well-rounded candidate for employment, Gill decided to work toward a Master of Arts in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations instead of continuing with a degree specifically in politics.
"Communications and public relations are essential parts of the political world and can be easily transferred to other fields," Gill said. He felt that in his chosen field, his best option for continuing his education was to look into public relations graduate programs.
Although Gill didn't initially even consider a communications or public relations degree as routes he would take, after a while it made a lot of sense. "If you want to be successful in the political world, you have to establish working relationships with other elected officials, the media, and your constituents. A master's degree in the communications (and) public relations field aids me in maintaining these relationships."
After graduating from SNHU with his master's in public relations in 2014, Gill secured a job as a campaign manager and now works in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a chief of staff for a state representative.
Being prepared to handle situations that can spiral out of control is crucial when in a position that communicates important, and sometimes upsetting, information to the public. A background in crisis and strategic communications gives you indispensable skills for disseminating important updates, using the right words to convey a message on behalf of your company or government entity, and knowing what to do if and when something goes wrong. In his experience through the master's in public relations courses at SNHU, Gill learned that the most important thing was to stay "cool, calm, and collected."
When confronted with a situation that demands immediate reaction, maintaining a calm demeanor and stating facts honestly and plainly is a must. "Public relations crises seem to go out of control when the person involved with the crisis reacts in the heat of the moment," he said. "It is most important for the person to take a step back, gather all the information, reassess and group your thoughts, and then deliver a statement based on the truth. If you set the 'level of panic' low then you can always raise that level, but if you come in and panic high right away, then there is no backing down from that."
SNHU's Master of Arts in Communication degree has three concentration areas available for you to follow if you wish to direct your academic focus: new media and marketing, and public relations. When you begin your degree path toward a master's in public relations, the courses you'll take will give you a strong foundation in the communications discipline. By learning how communications impacts everyone, you'll have a better understanding of the influence that media has on society. You'll strengthen your speaking and writing skills and be able to better analyze your own networks and communications patterns. The courses in the master's in public relations program at SNHU cover a full range of perspectives to ensure your public relations education is well-rounded.
Gill understands the importance of the master's in public relations crisis and strategy courses because he uses what he learned during his time with SNHU in his current job. "Crises come in all shapes and sizes when you're involved in politics," Gill said. Moving certain legislation forward doesn't always please everyone, and the person who sends out the information and responds to the public needs to know how to communicate effectively. "As public officials, you put yourself in the spotlight to make these decisions that are not the most popular choices. Having taken classes in crisis and strategic communications has taught me to best deal with these situations. It has taught me to be prepared and organized ... have a response ready as soon as someone inquires about it."
During crises that reach national and even global audiences, the threat of inaccurate information may be one of the biggest issues a public relations professional can face. "Social media is a great conduit for disseminating information quickly," Gill said, "but the largest problem with this form of media is accuracy." Inaccurate information sent out on twitter can be retweeted to a global audience, causing panic and negative actions. Gill cited the Boston Marathon bombing as an example of social media creating a public relations nightmare. "There were news stations that tweeted out the completely wrong suspect," he said. "This tweet was retweeted hundreds of thousands of times and an innocent man was wrongly accused of being a terrorist." Learning how to use social media properly and knowing how to ensure the information you're posting is correct will make you a capable resource no matter what field you're employed.
Davis is also well aware of how good public relations professionals can make or break a brand in a difficult situation. "When we think about the differences between good and bad PR, those differences can really be displayed during 24-hour news and on social media," Davis said. "Good PR is always ahead of the curve and ready to adapt under any circumstance. Bad PR allows for the news and social media to dictate the situation which can result in the situation taking a life of its own. 24-hour news and social media can add value to brands or campaigns when handled correctly, but when PR is mishandled, the news and social media can bring about destruction."
The master's in public relations degree courses at SNHU are designed to give you a comprehensive education, leaving you prepared to handle yourself with whatever direction your career takes you. "I am confident, come what may, that SNHU has fully prepared me to take on any task in the field of communications," Davis said. "I believe that I will not only obtain my goals, but will excel greatly due to the knowledge that I obtained from SNHU."
A degree in public relations reaches far past the political landscape. In government, public affairs specialists work for the military and agencies within the various departments, helping maintain relationships between these groups and media representatives. Whether you're working for the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, your communications skills will be needed to manage crises and relay information effectively. Your skills will be put to the test as a public relations specialist or communication manager working in marketing, publishing, healthcare or media as you manage brands and quell any problems that arise with the individual or organization's public image.
Public relations professionals endeavor to better an organization or person's public perception. From the creation of a brand to helping their client connect with their audience, public relations specialists want to produce and maintain a positive public image. In the digital age of 24-hour mainstream news networks and social media, organizations from across the board need public relations professionals on their staff to convey information, from the simplest communications to public statements on emergencies.
Everything you say, write or tweet is immediately available to the public through media. Public relations and fundraising managers work to bring in donations for organizations, including writing press releases and giving speeches. Areas of employment for public relations specialists and those who specialize as fundraising managers include working for religious and professional organizations and services, the education and healthcare sectors, and the government on local, state, and federal levels. Whether it's speechwriting, fact-checking, coordinating campaigns or creating and maintaining corporate images, public relations specialists do what they can to make sure their client is well-represented in the eyes of the media and to the public.
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers make up another component of the public relations sector. As someone in a position where you are reaching out to consumers, you'll ensure the marketing and advertising is worded well, matches the brand, and has the potential to attract new customers.
Deciding to earn a master's in public relations is an advantageous move for a variety of careers. Working in public relations, you may be able to find a position as a speech writer, a social media director, a member of an advertising team or a fundraising manager. Any sector that requires communication between the organization and others needs public relation specialists in some form to oversee that transfer of information.
When you choose SNHU to get your master's in public relations, you're choosing a school that wants to see you succeed. Providing a comprehensive and accessible education, SNHU's degree programs are created with the student in mind and designed to ensure you have a first-rate academic experience. Gill had friends that recommended the master's in public relations program, and said when he applied to SNHU he felt welcomed through the admission process "by a great admission team and advisor that made me feel like SNHU was home."
The feeling of being welcome goes beyond admission. SNHU's instructors are knowledgeable and approachable. Gill said SNHU's instructors "did a great job of presenting the information in a way that could apply not only to the field that I was working in, but also my personal life." You'll be able to stay in contact with your instructor. Whether through message boards, in the course discussion, or through email, you'll feel comfortable asking questions and building a good rapport.
Davis said she chose SNHU because the instructors and administration were there for her. "They pushed me when I needed to be pushed, challenged me when I needed to be challenged, and praised me when I needed to be praised," Davis said. "Each person was here to make me a better student and future employee/business owner."
With an easily accessible, user-friendly interface, you're able to log-in to your courses and participate in discussions or submit your work from wherever you are. For many students, SNHU's accessibility is a deciding factor in their education because of their current circumstances. Alumni like Gill who work full-time have to find a university that fits into their busy life. Earning his master's in public relations online was the perfect solution. "I can't stress how important it was to go to school online," Gill said. "The flexibility of SNHU's classes solidified my decision." If you travel for work or otherwise have a busy schedule, your courses at SNHU are there whenever you're available to complete assignments.
As a nonprofit university, at SNHU your education is priority. From the admission staff and career advisors to the quality of education and the experiences of the students, SNHU strives to provide an environment of encouragement and avenue for success. "My experience at SNHU was truly a special one," Gill said. "I enjoyed every minute of it and I look forward to making a positive change in the world through the education I received at SNHU."
Whether you're ready to begin your online master's in public relations or just want to learn more about the public relations programs at SNHU, the Admission team is ready to answer your questions and help you on your way.
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