During my spring break trip to Northern Ireland I studied human rights, law and transitional justice. This study abroad experience was centered around the conflicts in Northern Ireland, as a result of British colonization and the progress toward peace that is happening now. Throughout the program, I made connections that were helpful for a future career in the Public Relations world. Here are a few:
- Never underestimate the information someone can give you.
We met with people directly affected by the Troubles, a nationalist conflict during the late 1900s. These people embraced Irish culture through shops, pubs and restaurants. In discussions with local shop owners and pub goers, we gleaned information that supplemented our studies. This was helpful because it allowed us to catch a glimpse into their experiences as civilians in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It is important to never underestimate the information someone can give you. In the PR industry, it is important to see new perspectives in order to understand what is needed
- Language and word choice matter.
The people of Northern Ireland are working towards peace and unity, but they are still very torn from the after effects of a turbulent period in their recent history. Word choice was very important while in Northern Ireland, because the two sides of the conflict are extremely polarized. To put it short, the unionists want a united Ireland free of the United Kingdom’s jurisdiction. The loyalists want to keep British rule in Northern Ireland and continue to reap the benefits of being under this rule. While the sides are opposites and both want a different future, the peace process is working to mend ties and create unity among Irish people. The division led us to interact with people very differently depending on what perspective they had on the conflicts. Language and word choice are extremely important in PR as they communicate your message to an audience. There are different words that can mean nearly the same thing, but we must be conscious of what ideas we are trying to convey and how we are going to show that to a designated audience.
- There is a lot of power in meeting face-to-face.
Though we did a fair amount of preliminary research on the Troubles and its aftermath, nothing could compare to meeting those affected by it. People provided invaluable perspectives and allowed us to truly engage and understand what happened during that time. Meeting these people was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I can’t even begin to explain how impactful it was to hear their stories firsthand. It is also important to prepare ahead of time in PR, but meeting in person is really important whether it be with coworkers, clients or potential employers.
- Utilize the connections you make with people.
This goes without saying, but when speaking with people you should always be professional, personal and engaged. It was interesting to speak with people from all different walks of life and try to make each interaction personal and memorable. I networked with a cab driver who also works for a company based in my hometown, which really made the world seem a lot smaller. Making impressions on people really matters and PR professionals know the importance of networking in even the most unexpected circumstances.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Some of the most interesting facts I learned came from asking questions. Through life in general, it is important to ask questions, no matter how stupid you may think they are. Most of the time, people appreciate questions and see it as a really good way of engaging and understanding a concept. Be curious and never stop wondering about what comes next.
These are five tips for success in PR, brought to you by my study abroad trip in Northern Ireland. I hope you find it helpful and inspiring and consider a study abroad during your college career too. Thanks for reading!
Margaret Mary Hicks is a junior strategic communication major with a certificate in Law, Justice and Culture as well as a certificate in Social Media.
Catch her on Twitter @mmhicks19!