An Inside Look at the PR Industry

By Lucy Respess

While the public relations industry has numerous subsets and job opportunities, its extensive network can often seem overwhelming to undergraduate students who may not know exactly where to start or which area of specialization they are passionate about pursuing. Last week, I spoke with Dr. David Clementson, an assistant professor of public relations in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA. Dr. Clementson offered his perspective about various areas of public relations that are worth considering for undergraduate students and emphasized the diversity of the field as a whole.

How have you helped students understand the field of public relations throughout their undergraduate studies? 

Dr. Clementson presenting research to students.

I believe that my number one job as a professor of public relations is to help students get good jobs in the industry. Public relations is very professionally-oriented and our main focus as professors is to help students get good jobs, get promoted, stay employed and do strong ethical work in the industry.

What are some of the key roles of a public relations professional?

There are many different functions that PR professionals play, but two of the most crucial are employee relations and external relations. Employee relations is a vital component of public relations because you have the responsibility of maintaining a cohesive bond internally for the company, especially when so many people have been working from home. There is also an area of employee relations called specialist internal communication which places significant emphasis on corporate social responsibility and things of that nature. When considering external relations, things like external crisis response and external social media are two very important sectors of the profession, both of which tend to get a lot more coverage than internal relations. 

What are some of the different professions public relations pertains to? 

There are so many different professions and careers that require public relations. Since there are so many industries available, you really have to try and assess what you like the most. Business, tourism, nonprofits, sports, recreation, higher education…these are just some of the different professional areas that incorporate public relations into their professional framework. Additionally, government and communication at all levels – federal, state and local – all require public relations professionals. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Public Relations? 

One piece of advice I would give to any student pursuing a future in public relations is to take the resources available to you and use them to set you apart. At UGA, there are so many different public relations-related clubs, such as PRSSA and Talking Dog, which will differentiate you from others when applying for jobs and trying to figure out which profession to specialize in. With the prevalence of so many jobs, there is still a highly competitive job market and students need to do what they can to set themselves apart.