It doesn’t seem so long ago I sat in News 101 at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. What I learned there, though, is still sticking after all these years. Those daily tests over The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook helped prepare me for many things.
That’s part of what I told Baylor students in Dr. Cassy Burleson’s advance public relations class this week. I was invited to be part of a panel on Public Relations in Education. On the panel with me were Jennifer Marshall-Higgins, Communications & Events Specialist II and Team Leader for Education Service Center Region 12, and Traci Marlin, Public Information Coordinator for Midway Independent School District.
Marshall-Higgins said it’s important for students to pursue getting their master’s degrees within five years of getting their undergraduate degrees. While it’s not always necessary to get a job, it’s invaluable to a person’s own personal growth.
“Be professional,” said Marlin, who once was a student in Burleson’s class.
“Pay attention to every detail,” I added. A great marketing piece will lose credibility if there is a misspelled word on it or grammatical problem. Burleson mentioned she takes off five points for each type of AP style error. The panel agreed it was important to know the stylebook entry by entry. That’s when I mentioned that even after all these years, I know the AP Stylebook pretty well because of those tests I took in an entry-level journalism course at college. Sure the book adds and changes some entries, but consistency is the key.
Here at TSTC Publishing, Editor Ana Wraight is compiling our own local stylebook. We use AP style for most marketing pieces but also use MLA and Chicago Manual of Style in many of our books. Students should be familiar with the different stylebooks. We also talked about keeping up with the latest software tools and how that can help in any public relations position. I didn’t hesitate to jump in with my own favorite marketing tool, our newest book, Upgrade to Free: The Best Free & Low-Cost Online Tools & Apps by Beth Ziesenis.
Burleson said students chatted between classes that the panel “made them nervous” but were glad to know more about the real-world jobs in public relations. Burleson said while the economy is hurting, and there have been drastic cuts in education, public relations jobs in education do exist. At one point, Austin Independent School District had five positions open in public relations. She also said Baylor has a number of positions in many departments. TSTC also has a marketing department as well as my position in the Publishing Department.
Marshall-Higgins also mentioned that being personable is key to doing well in public relations. If students don’t like dealing with people, they may need to rethink their career choice.
All three of the panelists accept interns from the Baylor program, and all told about their high expectations from their interns. What they are learning in class today will stand them well as they enter the workforce.
Learning today will stick with you for years, decades to come.