Why PR 101 should include Business 101?

Posted by on February 2nd, 2012

Dear Younger Anne,

How are you? I know it’s been a while, but I have been super busy the past few years.  You look GREAT in your profile picture by the way! Anyway, the reason I am writing is to give you a friendly piece of advice about the public relations world that will really help you down the road.  Take a business course.  Take Econ 101. You will need to know statistics! Don’t blow off MATH!

PR is all too often swept up in the Liberal Arts category that includes courses in journalism, sociology, history, literature, languages, basic communications, etc.  All great and valuable classes.  However, as PR professionals, it’s often our job to consult on corporate communications strategies – not just on one brand or product.  How can we do that if we are not sure how the company is actually run?

When I first came to KCSA nearly 10 years ago I came from a consumer shop with no understanding of B2B PR or the inner workings of how a business works. Words like “IPO,” “earnings,” “capital markets,” “reverse shell,” “secondary offering,” were Greek to me. Heck – I didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond!

Thank God I had wonderful, patient mentors here to show me the ropes (note the hue of the tip of my nose). I was literally taught how to read The Wall Street Journal (there’s a method to it!  You can get through it in 25-30 mins! I promise! Tweet me and I’ll show you how!).  I watched CNBC, studied the business section of The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, the Financial Times and read books like Where does the Money Go?, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science and The Quants, How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It.  Granted, I was just a young sponge soaking up everything, but looking back now – it would have helped enormously if I had an academic business core to build upon.

I’ve interviewed men and women your age and asked them if they’ve had any business, econ or statistics courses. And their answers always surprise me – “No, it wasn’t a requirement” or “No, because you can only take classes in the business school if you are a business major.”  Ummm – what?  It may be a while since I’ve been in school – but if you’re the one paying – why can’t you decide what classes to take? Even if it’s not counted toward your major – be bold and take it anyway!  (like one class will matter in the grand scheme of your student loans!).

This is not an anti-“PR Major” rant – it’s merely a rant on how to better prepare young PR professionals like you for the big bad business world out there. At the end of the day, until PR becomes incorporated into business schools, you are on your own when it comes to getting a basic business education.

So, dear younger self, know that you have a fun and fulfilling career ahead of you! It will be full of learning and growth, meeting great clients and reporters,and learning how to deal with the not-so-great clients and reporters. So soak it up and learn as much as you can along the way. Get out of your comfort zone. Oh – and don’t get your hair braided on that spring break trip to Jamaica…you looked like an idiot.


Wiser Anne