Are Online Programs More Agile for Public Relations?

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Now is a great time to be a public relations professional. Whether you want to dive into the world of politics following the chaotic 2016 election cycle or enter into the nonprofit world, there has never been a better moment to enter into the public relations arena. After all, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report suggests that the field will experience growth by 2024, introducing plenty of competition for large firms with significant media exposure.

Why should you choose an online PR program?

Online PR programs offer a unique level of flexibility, convenience, work-life-study balance, networking opportunities and self-directed learning, unlike traditional, on-campus degree options. Students who enroll in online programs benefit from the same curriculum as on-campus students, yet from the comfort of their own couch or home office. Similar to on-campus learning, students have the power to define their educational goals and push themselves to succeed. Yet, for online students, they have the power to self-direct the very nature of their learning environment. This makes them become better self-starters and more inclined to work hard to succeed in their chosen career.

In the field of Strategic PR, you must employ the use of traditional methodology, in the form of press releases and public statements, along with tools of the next generation of PR, such as viral marketing, social media campaigns and strategic brand awareness. Unlike a classroom environment, an online PR program allows you to benefit from receiving a comprehensive PR education that adapts with the ever-changing nature of the field, while never having to uproot the world around you.

Perhaps you have already established yourself at your firm and are looking to learn more about the innovative new approaches in the field. Meanwhile, you may be new to the industry and have no idea where to begin honing your skills. Just like any other PR degree programs, online students will develop a professional portfolio and gain the necessary skill sets they need to further revolutionize the PR landscape around them. The main difference being that they don’t have to leave the world in which they are established in order to further their career.

woman typing on computer in coffee shop

Like on-campus programs, online programs are agile in that they can quickly adapt to any changes occurring around them. But how are online programs more agile in response to the changing landscape of PR? The following two areas will highlight the need for adaptive, online PR programs due to specific changes taking place industry-wide:

The PR role itself will evolve

According to the Public Relations Society of America’s 2017–2019 Strategic Plan Executive Summary, change has become the “new normal” for most students and PR professionals across the world. There is no such thing as a dull workday or a stagnant period where people aren’t learning how to tackle new challenges or how to use innovative technology.

Within the next few years, many PR professionals may refer to what they do as “strategic communications,” “brand storytelling” and “brand experience curating.” Soon, PR professionals will be expected to not only possess the traditional, necessary skills of relationship cultivating, writing and strategic planning, but they will need to be knowledgeable and skilled in paid advertising approaches, content mapping, social media, and the technology that goes with them.

This swift evolution of the modern PR professional has occurred as the result of a ripple effect from the rest of the communications industry. As the field changes, every person within the industry must adapt their approach, skills and mindset in order to come out on top. Some of the main drivers for this growth and change are the areas of crisis communications, content creation, brand reputation, media relations and social media.

As the field itself is evolving rapidly, online programs are able to remain agile and change based on the landscape around them. Professors can provide real-life examples of changes in the PR field around them at the click of a mouse to students from all across the country.

Online reputation management will be the new normal

Whenever someone wants to go out to eat, travel to a new city or get their car fixed, one of the first actions he or she take is to look at reviews and general online presence. Huge red flags nowadays are for a business to have little to no internet presence or for their Yelp page to be clogged with negative reviews. While the online world has more fully opened consumers’ eyes to the good and bad of the world around them, it has likely also made the average consumer more critical.

The world of PR in regards to online reputation management is no different. Whenever someone searches for your firm or brand and discovers that you have plenty of negative or low-quality content or even no content at all, your company is not going to pass this essential consumer test. This is because companies grow and fall in today’s technology-centered world based on their level of visibility online. While decades ago, companies only had to release a carefully worded press release to contain problematic situations, now, anyone could look up these same situations online in an instant. As a result, it is likely that future PR professionals will need to place more emphasis on acquiring skills in the area of online reputation management.

In an online PR program, students will gain an understanding about how critically important online reputation management is. Like with any quality on-campus program, students will also benefit from the agile nature of the program, as they can learn while simultaneously applying these skill sets to their current job. Even for those not already in a PR career, practicing these skills prior to landing a PR job will allow them to be as prepared, or more so, than those around them who haven’t just gained valuable knowledge from an online degree program.

If you have been considering entering into the public relations field, a degree from the George Washington University may be just the path you are searching for. Check out our website today to learn more about this promising and quickly evolving industry.