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Study Political Campaigns for a Lesson in Public Relations

Learn more about public relations and communications by watching the upcoming presidential primaries and campaigns. Everyday you'll find an opportunity to see how a candidate handles a tough policy question or personal attacks. You can apply the same principles to whatever communications challenge you may have as a public or private sector PR professional.

All Politics is PR

How will Hillary Clinton explain her vote in favor of the Iraq war? How will Barack Obama address his relative lack of political and policymaking experience? These are some of the tough questions presidential primary candidates will have to answer some of the toughest questions any public figure will have to face. The consequences are enormous, the stakes extremely high. Who could ask for a better opportunity to learn the savvy moves or naive missteps of some of the highest profile public relations efforts in America?

Public Relations Pros On the Political Beat

Presidential contenders, particularly those with the fundraising ability of someone like Senator Clinton, likely employ a corps of the smartest, shrewdest communications professionals around. They can prevent public relations crises and contain them. They can anticipate problematic issues and prepare compelling responses to them. Good ones stay on message, and make sure their candidate sticks to the talking points, never straying into potential political minefields.

Learn From Political PR Blunders

Former presidential candidate John Kerry, with his notorious "I voted for the war before I voted against it," is a lesson for public relations and communications students on what not to do. From that short phrase, his opposition was able to frame him as a waffler. More seasoned, disciplined campaigners will be less likely to make such mistakes. Time will tell how Senators Clinton and Obama measure up in the months ahead.

Formal Public Relations Education

Of course, following a presidential campaign strategy cannot compensate for a formal education in public relations. During a PR or communications degree program, you'll learn how to develop a PR strategy for a business or other type of organization. You'll learn how to get your organization's message out through the media, and how to handle calls from the press. You'll also have a chance to refine your own written and oral communication skills by writing papers and press releases and giving speeches during class and at various student-led meetings.

Public relations is a very exciting field with many opportunities in the public and private sector. And who knows, if you're a political junkie, you just might end up serving as communications director for your favorite presidential candidate.

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