So You Majored in Psychology…
Contrary to popular opinion, psychology is a lot more than talking about your feelings. Psychology is defined as “the science of mind and behavior.” And while myself and my fellow psychology majors did talk about feelings from time to time, we spent a bigger chunk of our days thinking about… well… thinking.
So how did I end up in PR?
Virtually all of the theories and ideas that public relations is based upon are rooted in psychology. Trying to influence consumer attitudes about a client? There’s psychology behind that. What about the best time or place to hit someone with news? There’s a study for that, too. Here are a few other unique things that psychology majors bring to the table.
One of the very first classes I took while studying psychology was statistics. It was a requirement for my major, and I wasn’t happy about it. Math has never been one of my favorite fields. However, it gave me a new level of understanding about how to interpret and use numbers in a meaningful way.
A massive spreadsheet of numbers is daunting to just about anyone, but with a little knowledge about metrics (because not all statistics are created equal!), those numbers become a lot less scary. Now, when reporting results back to clients, I’m not just throwing a bunch of random numbers out there. Instead, I feel confident explaining how different measurements are impacting the team’s goals.
Thinking Creatively and Analytically
While many fields are either primarily numbers-driven or idea-driven in nature, psychology teaches you to think with both sides of your brain. In PR, that ability to embrace both creativity and pragmatism is critical. Very few days go by without multiple brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas for blog posts or bylines. On a daily basis, I’m putting my creativity hat on to think up social media posts for clients. But I’m also crunching numbers in Google Analytics and putting together coverage reports.
Research, Research, Research
Many of my psychology classes were spent critically analyzing the research of others in order to set us up to conduct our own research later down the line. That meant analyzing what makes a study good or bad, pinpointing areas where the researcher may have injected his or her own bias into their work and scrutinizing whether or not they looked at the right numbers (remember: not all statistics are created equal).
All of that is incredibly useful in PR. Perhaps an article comes out using faulty data about your client. If you know how to use those numbers, you always have the option of writing a byline pointing out the actual situation. Maybe your client wants more engagement on their website. Taking a deep dive into Google Analytics can give you all kinds of insights (beyond pageviews) to build out a truly exceptional plan.
Understanding Your Audience
Since a huge part of PR is trying to encourage certain types of behavior, it makes sense that it’s where psych majors find their calling. Most PR campaigns are oriented around goals like launching a product or company or generating positive buzz around a new product. If you want to accomplish these things, you have to understand the audience you’re targeting. In my psychology classes, I read countless studies about human behavior and how it changes depending on factors like location, proximity to others, timing and more. Today, those are always in the back of my mind whether I’m sending out a pitch or writing a tweet. If you know your audience, you can understand how they’re going to react that much better.
Did you major in something other than PR? Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet @LaunchSquad. And if you’re curious about what other skills transfer to the PR world, check out more unconventional ways to hone your industry knowledge here.