One of these things is not like the other

By Emily Mentzer

This past Saturday, four PR teams and three journalism teams competed in PRSSA’s third annual Media Crisis Competition. While most teams were familiar with press releases, pitch letters, and press conferences, my team of three marketing majors stumbled through the unknown vocabulary to piece together what we could to compete.

We were given the responsibilities of writing a press release, speaking at a press conference, answering questions from the journalism teams, writing pitch letters, and responding to the crisis via social media. While some of this we have learned as marketing students, for most of these tasks we relied on Google and a little help from some PRSSA members. First, we were given about an hour to write a press release. With little experience, this was the most stressful part of the day. We then wrote a statement to give at the press conference. Here, we learned how important it was to know the facts and admit when an answer is unknown. After (slightly terrifying) questioning from the journalism students, we were able to head back and work on responding to the crisis on Twitter and Facebook. The day provided plenty of learning opportunities for both fields. However, completing these tasks made the differences between marketing and public relations more apparent.

Marketing and public relations seem to be very similar on the surface. Both careers are largely focused in digital marketing, communications, and advertising. It became clear throughout the day and speaking with other competitors that we were all working toward similar career paths. If we were all preparing ourselves for the same career, why was this competition so foreign to one group and not the other? Despite the challenges, I gained some valuable insight into career paths I will be entering come graduation in May. From my experience, very rarely will you find a marketing job without writing, or a public relations job without digital marketing. The writing skills I learned in the competition will carry with me to become a more well rounded employee in the future.

The competition gave incredible real-world experience. I learned about the logistics of public relations, thinking on my toes, and working under tight deadlines. Equally important, participating in the competition provided me with great resources, including portfolio material and networking opportunities. Realizing a major isn’t the be-all end-all of knowledge for a career path is the biggest asset of graduates entering the workforce. Expanding out of our comfort zones and finding opportunities we may not be the most qualified for are the best learning experiences.