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The Need for a Liberal Arts Education for a Public Relations Professional

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Summary: Public relations specialists must be able to adapt and react to ever-fluid situations. And there is no better training than a good, solidly based liberal arts education.

The demands of public relations are becoming ever more complicated. The competition just to enter the field is getting more intense. One cannot even consider an entry-level job in public relations without a college degree.
We use great time-saving and problem-solving machines, yet we realize more dramatically than ever that no machine can replace the human being with his or her endless capacity to think, solve problems, and communicate in a concise, clear, and intelligent fashion.

Public relations specialists must be able to adapt and react to ever-fluid situations. And there is no better training than a good, solidly based liberal arts education.
In order to succeed, all top-notch public relations specialists must have:
  • A keen intellect. The ability to grasp a problem and solve it quickly with productive actions. One must be able to decide when to and when not to. When a client is wrong, the professional public relations person must have the courage to say so. In the long run, a "yes man" not only does himself or herself a disservice but also allows the client to follow a harmful course of action.
  • Empathy. To understand what goal the client wishes to achieve. One has to be able to read between the lines, since oftentimes a client is unwilling, or unable, to articulate exactly what he or she wants to achieve. Once you get a feel for what the client wants, you must also realize why he or she wants it. Again, the need to be part psychologist is recognized.
  • Creativity. The entire public relations package, which the specialist makes up and presents to the client, by definition, is creative. If it were not, why would a corporation or any other customer spend time and money to retain a public relations expert?
  • Perspective. At all times, the public relations expert must keep in mind that he or she has two primary masters. One is the client who must be satisfied with the work that is being done. At the same time, the public relations person must realize that the final arbiter of social change in our society is the court of public opinion. The public can be very fickle and very fast, and one must be able to switch gears and adapt to quickly changing situations in order to succeed in today's world of public relations.
We do not wish to imply that success in public relations requires a liberal arts education. History, literature, and economics majors, for example, all provide excellent backgrounds. A solid foundation in business administration, as well as in attitude and opinion research, is tremendously helpful to anyone who enters the growing and complex field of public relations. But these specific skills, without the general ability to react properly and quickly, would not serve us well.
For any bright man or woman with skills in communication and persuasion and who writes and speaks English correctly, there is no better field than public relations. It is growing and you can grow with it. A summer of exciting work can become an endless career for all seasons.
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