What should I look for in a Public Relations/Communications program?
May 6, 2013 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of enrolling for Fall 2013, and I'm interested in a practical, skills based (as opposed to academic) program. What courses are absolutely essential nowadays?

My dream job would be to do Communications for a performing arts theatre, music festival, non profit organization, trade association or something like that. I'd also like to have these skills in general, in case I decide to volunteer for a political party. Yes- I know I would be poor forever- but for now this is what I'm going with. If I have to work in the corporate world instead some day that's fine too.

I am looking for a one-year post grad program in Ontario or Quebec (Montreal would be my #1 choice-- so much so that I'd consider going there even if the program is not as good because I think it's the best place for what I want to do). Some of the choices I'm considering are McGill, Concordia, Loyalist and Algonquin.

Courses I think I would need:
Event Management
Digital Media

Internship/Coop placement?

I know volunteering is going to be my way in moreso than the college diploma, but I want to go back to school and I think something like this would make me more confident in feeling like I would know what I'm doing on the job. Also, based on an informational interview I did last week, it seems like a college program in addition to my arts degree is a good combo.

Basically, if you are in PR, what courses would you deem essential to any college program that is worth doing? Also, I know that there are no jobs anywhere, I'm going to be poor, etc etc, but for now this is what I'm considering.
posted by winterportage to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing.

Seriously, most of my job is writing. Emails, press releases, blog posts...I mean that was literally my morning today. Anything what makes you better at words is worthwhile, especially editing-type classes because my lord the awful writing you will have to whip into shape.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Consider doing a *practical* masters program that also includes co-op. I'm not sure if you can do co-op at Mount Saint Vincent in Halifax, but perhaps there is something similar in Ontario/Quebec. http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/programsdepartments/graduatecalendar/graduateprograms/publicrelations/default.aspx
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: I worked in fundraising for nonprofits for five years and have a BFA in Theatre Management. I think a straight PR or Communications degree would not be quite as relevant to what you're looking to do as you think. Fundraising and events for nonprofits and performing arts organizations can differ tremendously from those sorts of things in the for-profit world. I would recommend looking at a Performing Arts Management or Nonprofit Management program instead. These usually include courses on fundraising, communications/PR, budgeting for nonprofits, etc. I think those sorts of classes would serve you better.
posted by anotheraccount at 11:05 AM on May 6, 2013

Basically, if you are in PR, what courses would you deem essential to any college program that is worth doing? Also, I know that there are no jobs anywhere, I'm going to be poor, etc etc, but for now this is what I'm considering.

I am not sure this is the case. There are jobs -- not a zillion, but you are not doomed -- we have a quite a few new professionals in our offices.

But Ghostride The Whip has it. You need to be able to write well. PR school is not going to make an excellent writer out of you...but it will help. I am most familiar with the post-degree programs in Ontario of which there are a few. Humber College has an excellent reputation. The topics you mention are covered in most, if not all, PR programs.
posted by Lescha at 11:11 AM on May 6, 2013

I am put off by poor grammar. Most fund raising literature is carefully prepared, but not all is. When I see wrong pronouns - e.g., "give to you and I" - and/or misspelling - e.g., "seperate", my elitist purse strings tighten.
Reading will also strengthen your writing. Read classical literature. You will be smart enough not to parrot passé terms, but the wide vocabularies will inspire your writing.
posted by Cranberry at 12:42 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you could write for a school paper or do a journalism internship, that would be helpful. I agree that writing skills are really important. The problem with coming from academia is that you have probably never been in a position where the person who is reading what you wrote is doing so voluntarily. When you write for a newspaper or magazine or blog, people have to make the choice whether to read what you wrote or not and if they choose not to read it, you aren't successful. That's in contrast to academia where your professors arguably have to read every paper you write. If you can write well enough that people want to read what you wrote, you're in a good position.

Also, internships. If I was hiring and had to choose between someone with a degree in public relations but no work experience in the field and someone with a degree in Himalayan literature who had work experience, everything else being equal, I would hire the latter, no doubt.
posted by kat518 at 3:21 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've looked at internships.. most of them seem to require a journalism/communications degree, so I thought maybe getting that would be my first step...

Re: reading classical literature: I did this for four years at university and I loved it, so I guess I might as well continue.
posted by winterportage at 7:23 AM on May 7, 2013

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