Tag Archives: writing

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What it actually means to get a Masters in PR

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

What is public relations you ask? Writing.

As a first semester PR grad student, that’s at least how I see it.  In fact, one of my favorite classes this semester has turned out to be Writing for Media Professionals with Professor Dorothy Clark.

In high school, if you had told me that I would end up loving writing, I would have flat out laughed in your face.  Back then, the only type of writing we did was to analyze works of literature.  And if you didn’t agree with the teacher’s analysis, you wouldn’t agree with your grade either.  That type of writing was just not for me.

But this class is the complete opposite.  Instead of writing to agree with someone else, I get to write for my audience (or, as we like to call them in PR, “publics”).  I get to write things that I can actually use in the fabled “real world.”

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For example, one assignment had us write a traditional news release.  To simplify things, Professor Clark had us write about a made-up conference for which she provided all of the information and facts about the hosting organization. That way, we could focus on both prioritizing the information to fit the format of a news release and also on writing in the objective voice, typical of that writing format.

To make this assignment even more hands-on, we also had to do a second, social media version of the news release; honestly, had no idea what a social media news release was before this class, but everyone knows that social media is huge today, and online news is growing faster than traditional media.  This assignment gave me a taste of both and helped me feel like I was actually learning something practical and applicable for my future career in PR.

Another assignment from this class, and easily my favorite so far, was to “create a blog with a focused brand for yourself” (straight from the syllabus).  I really enjoyed this assignment because we were able to write about something that we are truly interested in, rather than being assigned a topic that we don’t care about.  I chose to create a blog that focused on fashion from an athlete’s perspective.  Check it out here (Note: keep in mind that I made this site for the assignment and therefore it may not be perfect! Meaning the social media links don’t actually link to anything, etc.).

Everything we do in this class is up-to-date and tailored to fit the demands of new media.  Aside from the blog and news releases, we’ve also worked with Twitter, created a landing page for an event, and will be working on a feature and slideshow in the next few weeks.  We’re always talking about writing online as being a portal to other information, writing in your voice versus a company’s voice, and more.  Most of our assignments have second drafts, which gives us the chance to review and refine our work after getting criticism.  I feel that this is extremely valuable for the real workplace, where editors are more likely to chop up your work and spit it back at you, demanding a re-write.

If all of my classes in grad school are as engaging and hands on as this one, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine.

Check out the video below of Alumna Sandra Frazier (’01)  as she shares how the Public Relations courses she took at BU helped prepare her for working in the real world. Frazier is CEO of Tandem Public Relations in Louisville, KY.

Think you have better ideas for future PR assignments? Leave a note in the comments below!

Interested in BU’s College of Communication Public Relations graduate program? Ask us any questions in the comment section. Also, be sure to check out our program webpage for more information the various graduate programs we have to offer.  

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COM grad students share their experiences from BU’s Washington program

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

There is no shortage of opportunities available to BU COM students seeking an internship. Between the rock star faculty, the countless Boston-based news outlets and publications, to the BU-run programs, you’d be hard-pressed to run out of places to send your resume. BU’s Washington, DC Internship Program is one of the invaluable resources available to us, allowing students interested in a number of different disciplines to study and intern in one of the world’s most influential capital cities. From health to public relations, politics to the arts, program participants are able to base their internship on a targeted field of study and take complimentary elective courses.

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I spoke with two graduate students currently enrolled in the Washington, DC program, to get an inside look at their internships. Dian Zhang, a third semester Business & Economics Journalism student originally from China, strives to be an international business reporter. Having completed her undergraduate degree in Business & Economics at BU, she has a solid business foundation that she wants to combine with her journalistic skills and multinational background. She has currently been with the Washington Program for one month.

dsc_0316“A lot of people come to Washington because they want to be involved in think tanks or politics. You see a lot of undergrads majoring in political science – they want to intern on the hill to work for a senator, but for me it’s not like that… I’d like to integrate my experiences to be a correspondent for Chinese media in the U. S. or go back to China and work for a U.S.-based journalism outlet…It’s really hard as an international student to find an internship, that’s the reality. If you can come to DC sponsored by the school and do an internship, it’s a good way to accumulate work experience. The program has been extremely helpful for me,” she says.

Dian is working at The Bond Buyer, a national trade newspaper focused on municipal bonds. Although her background is more general business, she says she’s been dealing with “a lot of numbers, reports, and statistics.” “I really enjoy it because it’s great to have the opportunity to get things published on a real, professional website and write stories with the help of editors and senior reporters. It’s been really rewarding,” she says.

10609420_341562349327303_7974710522429730936_n“The best thing about the program is that you’re not learning things you can get from a textbook. There’s a lot of practical professional training…We’re encouraged to meet a lot of people, go to conferences, and practice being social and professional. There is a class here every week based on the internship, and you also keep a journal about your work experience. If it weren’t for this assignment, I probably wouldn’t have taken the challenge to talk about my future goals,” says Dian. She goes on to say, “It’s important to step out of your comfort zone. I have a lot of friends that want to come here but they’re reluctant because they don’t want to leave Boston. It’s hard, but it’ll be great when you come to a new environment and learn new things.”

Jonathan Riley, also a third semester Journalism graduate student specializing in Political Reporting, has been in Washington, DC since August working for CNN’s Investigative Unit. “I’ve been interested in politics for a long time and DC is the place to be if you’re into politics,” he says. Although he can’t talk much about the specifics of his job, he explains: “Just being in Washington is a learning experience in itself. You can follow politics in the news but you don’t get a real sense of how the federal government works on a day-to-day, practical level until you’re here. When you’re here, no matter what you’re doing really, you’re in the middle of it.”

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“I think the Washington Program is a really great opportunity for BU students that a lot of other schools wish they could have. Particularly for grad students, and communication students in particular, I think it’s a terrific opportunity. DC is a huge journalism market. The federal government is here. National and international politics happens here, so there are great opportunities for people on the PR side of things as well. If you’re into politics, or even if you’re not sure and want to see if politics is something you could get interested in, I would definitely recommend the program,” he says.

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, an information session will be held Thursday, October 9 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. in COM 317. Evening snacks will be provided, so if you’re in the market to grab a quick bite, you might gather some useful intel as well. Have you thought about a semester with the Washington Program? Do you plan on going to the information session? Comment below!

Be Well Read

As an applicant to the masters in journalism program at the BU College of Communication, one of the essays that you have to write, along with life narrative and professional experience, is called “Periodicals”.  This is the part of your application where you get to show the admissions committee how engaged you are in the current media landscape as a consumer. The thought is that folks who are interested in becoming journalists are likely inspired by professionals who they have encountered along the way. One of the defining characteristics of a great journalist is a constant thirst for news and information, and in the periodicals essay you have the chance to share with the school how you quench that thirst.

There is a major focus here at BU on electronic media and social media, so in writing your periodicals essay be sure to make it very clear that you not only frequent a variety of online news sources, but that you have at least a working knowledge of the social media scene.  If you don’t have much experience with social media, I would suggest getting a little acquainted with the ways of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. While you may not use these tools every day while studying here at BU, you will undoubtedly need to use them from time to time.

Listed in the required reading for every jounalism course you take here at BU will be a number of daily newspapers. Being up to date with The Boston Globe, the New York Times and USA Today is expected in the courses you will be taking. Therefore in this essay the ability to demonstrate that you are already in the habit of staying up to date will bode well for your application. And much like I suggested in the social media section, if you are not in the habit of reading daily newpapers, you would help prepare yourself for life at BU by starting.

The fact is that journalism is just as much about reading and staying informed as it is about writing and reporting. In my Journalism Principals and Techniques course in the fall our professor had what he called “The 3 R’s”:  Reading, Reporting, and Writing. In order to be a better writer, it’s vital to be an avid reader. So while you are writing your periodicals essay, be sure to express just how much reading means to you.

I’ve Communicated… Stuff

It’s sitting there, gloating at you.

That blank piece of paper on which you are meant to compose your second application essay. Oh, how you hate blank paper. Somewhere in the recesses of your undoubtedly incredible mind lurks an idea waiting to spill its way out onto that clean landscape of unfulfilled creativity, but no matter how hard you try, you don’t know how to extricate it.

I’m here to help.

How do you write about your communication experience? Does that internship at the GAP count? What did you do, there, anyway? What did you learn?

It’s all so much to keep track of. The best thing to do is start with something simple: re-read the prompt. Make sure you aren’t missing anything. Here it is:

Write an appraisal in clear declarative English of your experience in any area of communication (if any). Include what you expect from a career in the field and why you chose to enter it.

Pretty easy, right? The easiest thing to do is to look over your resume to remind yourself of all the amazing things you have done. Find the activity or job or internship that most connects to the field you are looking to go into. If you
worked for a summer at the local newspaper or interned for a public relations firm or helped create advertisements for your college organization or won a local film festival, these are the things you should talk about. Don’t overthink it.

Here’s what we need to know:

-What did you do during your time in these jobs?

-How did this experience help you learn about the field and how did it shape your future aspirations?

“But,” you say, “what if I don’t have communication experience?”

I knew you’d ask, and I’m so glad you did. Many of our graduate programs welcome those both with and without significant experience in that field. However, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t done something related to communication. Find an activity that most closely relates to what you’d like to do and tell us about that.

Don’t forget to address the second part of the prompt. Why do you want to study public relations? What drove you to journalism? When did you decide to work in film, and why? There’s a reason you are applying to BU COM, and we want to know what that is. Tell us about your career goals and how your previous work and experience tie into those goals.

As always, write in simple, straightforward English with clean prose (think Hemingway – not a bad role model, at that). Make sure to spell check and scan for grammar errors. Again, this is a writing sample, so you want to write well. Finally, don’t be afraid to be creative. The prompt is straightforward, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it interesting!

And finally, good luck!