Applying English-major skills to the PR world

By Catie Godbold

While I earned my undergraduate degree in English literature at Campbell University, my professors often preached about the skills an English major acquires over the course curriculum. Over recent years the use of humanities degrees has come into question with the rise in STEM degrees. While the causes for this decrease in humanities degrees vary, my personal experience has taught me one small fact: A lot of people do not understand what humanities degrees, specifically English degrees, enable you to do.

All throughout my schooling, after being asked what my degree was and answering English literature, people asked, “So, you want to be a teacher?” My answer then was yes, and my answer now is a solid maybe one day, but not because it is the only option available to me. Since starting my internship at S&A Communications this spring, I have learned a lot about the public relations/marketing world, including how to write a press release and what to do when you get an employee’s hometown and wife’s name totally wrong in a document due to a clerical error. However, the internship also helped me realize just how much I already knew how to do in the workplace thanks to my background as an English major.

After asking myself how my degree prepared me for this field, I noticed how these five skills enabled me to make an impact in a PR/marketing workplace.

  1. Idea/content generation – In my internship, one of my tasks is to generate new ideas for the North Carolina 100 on a regular basis. Writing articles and keeping them condensed to 100 words has become a favorite of my routines. However, my skill with inventing new content or project solutions on the fly comes from my experience generating research topics for my literature classes. When every class requires a unique topic for an assignment, literature students must get creative if they want to do quality work.
  2. Research abilities – When it comes to agency PR, you never know what type of client you are going to get. Sometimes this results in working with clients from vastly different fields like construction or the fur industry. To help with creating a marketing plan, I researched industry demographics. Years researching for papers and projects in the academic setting left me more than prepared to comb through the internet and other sources for needed information.
  3. Organization and data management – For clients searching for upcoming conference opportunities over the next year, organizing the data I find while researching becomes crucial for their success. In this case I organize my Word and Excel documents with coherency at the forefront, as my supervisor or others on the team will need to access the information. Organizing information into a clear and concise form was a major requirement as I earned my degree. If my presentations and research had no understandable flow of logic, my intended audience would be lost.
  4. Analysis and the application of information – Clients seek solutions to a variety of problems or situations. In order to help, it is essential for anyone interested in public relations and marketing to be familiar with analyzing the information the client or someone else on the team provides. Analyzing information and creatively applying it are at the heart of brainstorming sessions among colleagues in PR/marketing. Prior to coming to S&A, I had always analyzed literature and created a paper or presentation to address or fill a gap in pre-existing academic research. Those same skills enable me to ask the right question or propose a potential solution to a client’s problem.
  5. Editing/proofreading – When communication and image are a major focus of a company, the presentation of newsletters, press releases and social media updates can take center stage. Editing and proofing are essential abilities for anyone creating or reviewing content sent out by a PR/marketing department or company. For many English majors, years of writing papers and improving drafts will give them experience editing and proofing documents for companies concerned with getting the correct point across.

The public relations and marketing industry offers a variety of opportunities not only for clients, but also for future employees. Based on my personal experience and enjoyment at interning with S&A, I highly recommend other English majors explore their options and dip a toe into the waters they may not have realized were available to them.

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