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Changing My Perception of PR–One Class At a Time

Sophia Sullivan is a sophomore at Boston University studying public relations. She is a member of BU PRSSA's Digital Media and Blog Team. Sophia is also the head of the philanthropy team for BU PRSSA's Conference Committee and is a member of the Creative and Digital team for Unleashed.


“What do you mean you’re studying public relations?” is a question I have been asked repeatedly. When I took my first PR class, I also carried misconceptions about the field in general: I assumed I would simply learn about crisis communication and methods of rebuilding trust when a company made a mistake. From the Papa John’s scandal to BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, examples of company incidents were at the forefront of my understanding about PR. After all, it’s known that the field gets an inaccurate reputation from the entertainment industry. The classic money-minded and deceitful PR characters played in popular television shows have contributed to false perceptions surrounding the nature of the profession.

The media’s role in generating a skewed public understanding of PR has socialized many of us to associate the job with general terms such as “damage control” and “spin.” However, PR goes beyond crisis communication. PR professionals are responsible for communicating with and preserving mutually beneficial relationships among all publics, not solely relying on relationships with consumers. They collaborate with journalists to land unpaid media space for their organization and value the essential role of employees as an initial line of communication with external publics. PR professionals also take on initiatives surrounding meaningful global actions that relate to their mission. Countless strategic communication efforts and considerations of ethics constitute the role of PR practitioners in ensuring their company’s positive long-term reputation.

Taking a class on PR exposed me to the numerous routes a degree in the field can take you: media relations, corporate communication, government relations, and investor relations—to name a few. I was surprised by how versatile the major is and the amount of opportunities to get involved with PR at Boston University. As a transfer student coming from a school with no PR degree, I have been thankful for the efforts the University and professional clubs take to expose COM students to the field. Being a member of PRSSA has helped mold my updated perception of public relations and attending speaker and faculty events have been eye-opening opportunities that have increased my excitement to pursue a degree in the profession. Networking and learning about the various ways professionals have risen to their position have also broadened my understanding of the career and the differences in advancing through agency versus in-house PR firms.

I look forward to taking more specialized PR classes during my time at BU, specifically PR in the Non-Profit Industry and Business Fundamentals for PR. I am also eager to join PRLab and work with clients in a real-world setting. Choosing to major in PR was one of my best decisions, and I can thank my professors for teaching me the value of the profession as a whole.

Written by Sophia Sullivan

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