If being good at something is the most important indicator of success, being liked is probably a close second. In fact, sometimes being popular is preferable to being good. How else would reality television exist?
Now, being good at being liked? That’s the best combination of all.
At Ohio Northern University, students studying public relations learn how to be liked — that is, they are taught the skills required to generate and maintain a favorable public image, something that is vital to all companies, organizations, governments and even public figures. ONU offers both a public relations major and minor to prepare students to meet the challenges of an increasingly scrutinized public space.
ONU’s public relations program is one of only 30 programs in the U.S. to be certified for education in public relations (CEPR) by the Public Relations Society of America. It also boasts an award-winning faculty and a nationally recognized chapter of PRSSA, the Public Relations Student Society of America. Through PRSSA, students are exposed to the industry through national conferences and presented with internship opportunities.
Last summer, three ONU public relations majors participated in internships that represent the depth and breadth of the industry. One worked for an unlikely employer nearby, providing a vital public service. One traveled to Los Angeles to work in the white-hot glare of the entertainment industry. One stayed right here in Ada, yet affected television programming in Boston, Mass.
Brittany Holland, a senior public relations and communications double major from Ada, Ohio, interned with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) District 1 office in nearby Lima, Ohio, where she learned the importance of public relations as a communication tool. In a government agency like ODOT, it is essential to keep the public informed with the latest on construction projects, detours and traffic accidents that may directly affect their lives.
Congratulations to the ONU PRSSA chapter for receiving the "Star Chapter" award at #PRSSANC! Keep that tradition alive!— ONU PRSSA (@ONU_PRSSA) October 11, 2014
“I’m responsible for the Construction and Maintenance Report, which means I communicate with all the engineers, project managers and county managers every week about ongoing projects, and then I compile it all into a single document that we send to all of the area media to allow them to report on what’s happening in their area,” she says.
Due to the proximity to ONU, Holland was able to begin working at ODOT last December and remains there to this day. By having such an extended internship experience, Holland fully appreciates the never-ending aspect of public relations. There is no downtime in PR, nor is there a skill you won’t be called upon to use. Holland has helped write press releases, created videos, and produced infographics that ODOT has used on their website and Facebook. A few of her graphics even appeared on local television broadcasts.
“We learn so much through our PR courses, and we gain valuable experience through our True North PR practicum courses. My bosses at ODOT thought I was going to have a little bit of a learning curve, but that didn’t happen,” she says.
Holland’s internship with ODOT shows how public relations can serve the public’s desire for information regarding the things that impact them on a daily basis. Alexa Lammers, a junior public relations and musical theatre double major from Tipp City, Ohio, had an internship that illustrates how industries, particularly commercial enterprises, employ public relations professionals to influence the public to pay attention things that aren’t germane to daily life.
Few places draw the public’s attention like Hollywood, Calif. Last summer, Lammers put her ONU education to the test under the bright lights of the entertainment industry as a Warner Brothers Television Co. publicity intern.
Lammers’ public relations courses at ONU provided her with the knowledge she needed for a publicity internship. Publicity is an offshoot of public relations that focuses on gaining public visibility or media attention for a product or service — in this case, the television programs produced by Warner Brothers. For Lammers, it was a perfect fit.
“My internship never felt like work, because even when I would spend the entire eight hours of my day collecting news articles, they were articles about shows I was interested in. I was genuinely interested to read what people were writing about our shows,” she says.
The internship afforded the self-professed "TV junkie" some amazing opportunities. She attended the “Pretty Little Liars” 100th episode party and the San Diego Comic-Con, and she helped host the Television Critics Association during its annual visit to the studio.
All of these great experiences stemmed from Lammers’ ability to impress representatives from Warner Brothers Television at the PRSSA National Conference she attended as a sophomore. After screening the pilot for the show “Almost Human,” they challenged the audience of college students to provide suggestions for ways they could promote the show. Lammers was one of two students to win the contest, but she gives all the credit to the ONU PRSSA Chapter for putting her in the position to impress.
“Our chapter is small but mighty. We are one of two chapters of PRSSA that have won the Star Chapter Award every year since it’s been created. That’s really cool. I don’t know that I would have felt comfortable going as a sophomore if I was at any other university,” she says.
Last time seeing this on my drive to work! Not forever, just for a little while hopefully pic.twitter.com/4ZQxBlkoPi— Alexa Lammers (@AlexaLammers) August 8, 2014
Back home in Ada, Katee Johnson, a senior public relations major from Forest, Ohio, found an internship perfectly suited to her busy schedule even though it meant working for American Public Television in Boston, Mass. As a market researcher, she did the work that has been part of the backbone of the industry for decades: keeping tabs on the competition.
American Public Television’s Create TV features lifestyle programing that rivals many of the most popular networks on cable television, particularly “how-to” programs about cooking, home improvement, arts and crafts, travel, and gardening. Johnson watched programs comparable to the ones offered by American Public Television and kept track of the times that they aired, the topics they were about, who the hosts were and where they came from, how often the episodes were aired, and which shows were running marathons. In addition, she also monitored their websites and social media interaction.
“My job was to look at these competitor channels to see how they first got the interest of viewers and online users, and then how they attempted to connect with them,” she says. “Studying that engagement really made the internship enjoyable. And it was great for developing my research skills.”
Johnson’s internship is also interesting in that it was completely “virtual.” She never once set foot in Massachusetts. She did it all right here on campus in her spare time while working full-time as a summer conference coordinator for ONU. She communicated with the television station entirely via email and by telephone. Her only requirement, apart from her excellent public relations skills, was a broadband connection and a cable subscription.
“Because I was on my own, because it was a virtual internship, I had to be very creative, self-starting and organized. I had another internship where I sat at a desk from eight to five, so this was definitely different,” she says. “But it was a really good experience. I developed my communication and research skills in ways that I know will be beneficial when I graduate.”
When it comes to finding skilled interns to help move their enterprises forward, companies, organizations and agencies across the United States are having success with Ohio Northern University public relations students. Their combination of enthusiasm and preparedness is apparently making them pretty popular.
What’s not to like about that?
Miranda Buschur, a freshman marketing major from St. Henry, Ohio, contributed to this story.