April is Communications month at University of Maryland University College’s (UMUC) Office of Career and Alumni Services. Throughout the month, we are highlighting the University’s communications experts to examine career and industry trends, and provide students and alumni a chance to learn about different career paths within this fast-paced industry.
Recently, UMUC Graduate School Public Relations Chair Dr. Mitchell Marovitz answered questions about career trends and opportunities in public relations. During his 30 year military career, Dr. Marovitiz served in a number of communications positions including public affairs officer, 5th Signal Command; chief, Army Public Affairs-Los Angeles Branch; and director, media operations, American Forces Information Service. After retiring as an Army colonel, Dr. Marovitz was the director of entertainment for the USO, Inc., overseeing celebrity recruitment and the production of celebrity tours for our troops. He also led strategic communications teams in support of intelligence and defense department clients at Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. from 2004-2012.
Q: What public relations trends are currently changing the profession?
A. Changing technology, it should surprise no one, has had a tremendous impact on the practice of public relations today. New channels of communication have improved our capability to identify and directly communicate with our stakeholders and other audience members. To be sure, social media has allowed us to engage audiences and help them become involved stakeholders and provide invaluable feedback about products and services of the organizations we represent. One important emerging trend is the convergence of the fields of public relations, marketing and advertising. This convergence can be a good thing or a bad thing or both…we don’t really know yet. On one hand, strengthening the relationships an organization has with its customers is vital to the continued success of the organization and public relations has always been a part of the promotion mix in marketing. On the other hand, native advertising, which, while it looks like a news story, is really paid advertising and requires a strong ethical foundation among the public relations practitioners who create or distribute such materials. Additionally, we need to watch how convergence will affect the relationship between PR professionals and journalists, who depend on each other to create and distribute balanced news stories to the public.
Q. For UMUC students looking to enter the public relations field, what can they do before graduation to garner work experience? How important is it for them to have experience prior to graduation for them to stand out amongst their competition?
A. Fortunately, many of our graduate students are already working in the field and are working on their master’s degree to advance and move from a tactical to a more strategic and leadership position within their organizations. For those seeking a change in career and a move into public relations, first, I congratulate you on your choice and second, I whole-heartedly recommend seeking out internships while you are a student. Not only does an internship provide insight into the inner workings of the profession—to verify you made the right career choice for you—but it also provides invaluable real-world experience. It says a lot to a prospective employer that you could manage your time well enough to successfully complete school and work in a “real world” job. Now, I’m very proud to say that our curriculum provides “real world” experiences within the academic environment—so our students do get those experiences—but there’s nothing like an internship to overtly demonstrate that to a prospective employer.
Q. For UMUC students and alumni who are professionals currently working in public relations, what additional education, certification or training should they pursue to help them strengthen their skill sets?
A. I am an advocate of professional certification. Our career field does not require it but certification accomplishes three things: first, it demonstrates, in a tangible way, to you and to others, dedication to the career field, high ethical standards and currency in practice due to the maintenance requirements of most certifications; second, it builds in your master’s degree by providing a proven methodology, which can translate into confidence in the boardroom when making pitches and discussing strategy with organizational leadership; and third, it provides you with a special network of highly skilled and experienced practitioners on whom you can rely to discretely discuss the most highly sensitive of professional issues.
Q. How important is it for public relations practitioners to join industry associations? Any specific industry associations you recommend?
A. I definitely recommend joining a professional organization such as the Public Relations Society of America or the International Association of Business Communicators. Government employees might also look at the National Association of Government Communicators. These organizations provide great professional development programs that keep you current on the latest techniques and strategic thinking in the field as well as great networking opportunities that can and do help shape careers.
Q. Any final thoughts or recommendations you want to share for UMUC students and alumni entering public relations? Why is now an exciting time to enter this profession?
A. You’ve made a good choice! Ours is a growing, exciting and fulfilling career field. No matter what economic sector you want to work in, there is a growing need for public relations practitioners. And, no matter whether you enjoy working with media or internal audiences, dealing with crises, focusing on communications strategy, or producing informative and inspiring communications products, if you like helping people to tell their story, and if you like leading a diverse group of creative people to help tell that story, then a Masters in Management with a Public Relations specialization is for you.
Q. Any final thoughts or recommendations you want to share for people currently working in public relations?
A. If you’re already working in the field, I don’t have to tell you how exciting and varied our career field is. You already know. If you desire to become a leader in the field, to move from producing communications products to developing the strategies and leading the teams that produce those products, then your Masters degree is an important next step. I know there are competing demands on your time but stick with it: your degree is an important element in driving you to the next level of success.
For more information on career opportunities and resources available to UMUC students and alumni from the Office of Career Services, click here. Please check out the additional Careers in Communications content by clicking here.
Jennifer Tomasovic is the director, Communications for Career and Alumni Services at University of Maryland University College. She has spent career crafting communications strategies and messaging using both marketing and public relations tactics to enhance the brand and reputation for both the clients and organizations she has represented.