The field of public relations is closely related to the marketing and advertising areas. The exact job description of the PR practitioner can vary, but they generally look after the public perception of their company of that of its products. This can involve creating information that shows your employers in a good light and providing this material to the media, customers, clients and other members of the public. It can also involve organising events to highlight your clients’ products and achievements. Successful PR professionals tend to be confident and sociable with excellent communications skills. Further study public relations courses can be attractive to those with business, media or general arts degrees who are looking to specialise at postgraduate level to further their careers.
At postgraduate level, public relations academic programmes can be particularly specialised, concentrating on subjects such as PR Techniques, Media Writing, Sponsorship and Community Relations, Event Management, Public Affairs & Lobbying, Communication Theory and Strategy & Corporate Environment. The European Institute of Communications, the Fitzwilliam Institute, Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education and Dublin Institute of Technology all offer postgraduate programmes in Public Relations.
Public Relations positions tend to be slightly less widespread, but a growing number of businesses and organisations employ public relations staff or information officers. Both the public and private sectors alike require Public Relations experts. As with the marketing area, there are a number of specialised agencies in Ireland who look after public relations for their clients who can range from multinational companies to charities to private individuals. With the spread of celebrity culture, media, politics and sporting luminaries increasingly employ their own PR staff for protection and support. PR in particular is an excellent option for undergraduates of all disciplines. John Gallagher, DIT’s Course Coordinator of the MA in Public Relations, explains: ‘A few years ago we had a student here who had a degree in agriculture and that was obviously a bit uncommon, but because there were agricultural companies in need of communications experts who had a feel for their industry, this student was very well sought after. In fact, she was the first in her class who was employed and there was a couple of companies fighting over her.’
‘What we try to do is gather people from as broad a range as possible of academic pursuits: arts, communications, law, business, agriculture, science; because those are the people that the industry wants. The companies who’ve taken on our graduates over the years reads like a “who’s who” of corporate Ireland,’ he adds.
Gallagher is also course director of an exciting new option for people with an interest in PR and politics: the MA in Public Affairs and Political Communications, which was launched last year. A ‘unique course’, this programme is the only one in Ireland that facilitates an internship in Seanad Éireann. Students spend three days a week in DIT Aungier Street and two more working with an assigned senator in Leinster House. The inaugural 15 graduates of 2007 are ‘virtually 100 per cent employed’ according to Gallagher in areas such as public affairs consultancies, and by TDs and senators as full time assistants.
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