It’s time again for freshers events, lecture schedules, and contact hours. An exciting time for incoming university students and simultaneously a potentially daunting one for finalists. This is the season of job applications and seemingly-permanent career decisions. If you’re anything like me, this is accompanied by an onslaught of questions and indecision. It’s hard not to think you’ll be pigeon-holed and stuck if the choice is wrong.
Naturally, many of us are drawn to professions we hear about constantly – attending Oxford meant I was surrounded by aspiring consultants, investment bankers, politicians, entrepreneurs, you name it. They were ambitious, driven, and experienced. It was hard not to feel like an imposter when I was not interested in any of the typical routes.
Having studied psychology, it seemed fitting to go into research or clinical study. With no background in communications or journalism, I hadn’t considered PR as an option. I only had a vague idea of what the term even meant. With a little bit of research – a skill I’ve come to use daily in my role now – I found an evident favour for essay-based degrees like politics, history, and languages. They set the foundations for the skills needed in PR – the most vital of which is probably writing. However, I came to realise this wasn’t about subject content, but rather transferable skills that could be moulded and built upon with experience.
The connection between psychology and PR may not jump to mind immediately, but there are a number of insights the subject can provide. At its core, PR is the act of persuasion to influence an audience. Being able to understand the audience and clients is key; their attitudes, motivations, what they appreciate, all of which is imperative to tailor the approach and engage effectively. We all fall victim to implicit biases and subconscious behaviour, adding an additional layer of nuance to developing these relationships and understanding.
The psychology of social influence essentially underpins every step of a PR strategy. The concepts of group behaviour and attitude formation allow us to anticipate how a client will react to campaigns and act accordingly. Knowledge of biases and contextual influences that may elevate or hinder positive social perception can be worthwhile to consider when strategising. Applications of learning theory may be relevant in generating desired associations, or even implementing the use of key cognitive processes to ensure the conveyed message is memorable. While one does not necessarily need a degree level understanding, it’s clear that a background in psychology can be highly complementary to building PR expertise.
PR is a career that requires a diverse range of skills. The role values heterogeneity in academic backgrounds. It’s dismissive of the idea of ‘worthless’ degrees, instead appreciating the invaluable nature of differing perspectives. If you are able to demonstrate competence, a willingness to learn, creativity, and perhaps an interest in psychology, you may want to consider a career in PR.
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