The Number One Thing I Learned from Graduating in Public Relations
Graduating last May was for me a huge accomplishment. This incredible learning experience forced me — as I was shy at times — to be more involved in class projects, field trips, client meetings, as well as participate in networking sessions organized by the PRSA-NCC (Public Relations Society of American National Capital Chapter).
Now comes the crucial question: what is the major lesson I have learned during the program that will shape my professional career?
The answer to this question came to me when I started working on my thesis, near the end of the program. With the help of my wonderful thesis professor, who relentlessly supported every one of my crazy ideas, I was able to narrow down my thesis topic.
I realized I wanted to write about social media, particularly on the notion of dialogue between major companies and customers, which is often undermined in favor of more aggressive sales pitches. After days of head scratching, I decided to work on a case study about one of the world’s most popular coffee brand and their efforts to engage with their online audience.
In the end, this study broadened my view of online interactions. After reading research articles about customer relationships on social media, I realized three main reasons why it is import for companies to build online relationships : brand exposure, reputation management and crisis communication readiness.
To add more substance to my paper, I decided to reach out to prominent researchers that were repeatedly cited in the literature. This gave me the opportunity to Skype call a professor that confirmed my belief that companies will always benefit from participating in two-way and mutual conversations with their audience, regardless of their organizational size and the budget allocated to social media management.
Then, I ticked. The one thing I learned was that we could all benefit from human interactions by giving more without expecting anything in return.
Personally, I believe that we live in an incredible era where technology connects human beings regardless of location and scope. Undoubtedly, digital tools remain invaluable resources to stay informed, engaged, and connected to one another.
However, they also represent a growing challenge for communication practitioners. Information saturation, the overuse of promotional marketing and short-term sales tactics have desensitized users and made them more skeptical of organizations’ intentions. I developed a potential solution to this issue while working on my thesis.
Focusing on providing value, cultivating genuine empathy, building one-on-one relationships, and striving to obtain mutual outcomes improve users’ digital experience and reconcile them with companies and brands.
I am strongly convinced that these concepts will stick with me throughout my professional career. In fact, it has triggered new creative ideas in me and has encouraged me to be more active on social media.
Through this two-year phenomenal learning experience, I gained in maturity and learned it’s not only about working towards graduation; it’s about building the next chapter. That is why I thank my family, friends and all the people that have helped me be successful up until now.
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Jacques Foul graduated in 2016 from American University’s Master’s degree in Strategic Communication in Washington D.C. He now works for a company connecting architects, designers, and the media. He loves to chat about growth hacking and social media marketing, so feel free to connect with him.