Why a Major in Public Relations is the Perfect Fit

Mad MenChoosing a major in college can be stressful. Having to make that one decision that defines your next four years and future career is overwhelming! However, the decision to major in public relations is one I will never regret.

As a freshman at Auburn University, I had never heard of public relations. I only knew what I was good at… writing, editing, event planning, and all things social! My college career began in marketing (not creative enough) and then interior design (too creative). My advisor finally suggested public relations, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that guidance.


While there are several required courses, the public relations major gives a variety of classes and elective to choose from. For example, I am able to take a Business Marketing class as well as a Writing for Television and Film class! Some of the required public relations courses include Journalism Fundamentals, Multimedia Writing for PR, Case Studies, PR Research and Style & Design.

Office SpaceThe coursework at Auburn University made me a better writer, stronger communicator, and a more effective event-planner. Through projects and presentations, I have learned how to work in a group setting and become comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Many classes have real-world clients involved, where you have the opportunity to conduct research or develop a campaign from start to finish for them. This class experience has given me great confidence in my public relations abilities, whether I’m in an internship or office position.


Auburn University requires every PR major to complete an internship before graduating. This requirement makes you more attractive to companies and helps broaden your horizons before a job search. The internship program must also prove that it actively strengthens a student’s PR skills. Therefore, the day to day intern work isn’t the typical coffee run and office work! Instead, PR students can learn and contribute to the workings of the organization.

Using MemesThe internship opportunities are truly endless, as every company needs an intermediary between the organization and its audience. It can be helpful to network with clients and begin building those relationships early. Internships can also help you to discover more about your interests. Through my own summer internship at a creative agency, I had the opportunity to work with multiple clients on event planning, press releases, websites, graphic design, and so much more. It helped me realize just how much I loved working with social media and digital content strategy!


One of the best things about the public relations major are the endless job opportunities available. Public relations is a versatile major, with skills that benefit in a variety of industries. Entertainment, athletics, fashion, healthcare, politics and non-profit organizations all utilize PR practitioners. A career in PR definitely doesn’t put you in a box!

Public relations is for the creative, the entrepreneur, the leader, the innovator, the writer, the communicator, the social media savvy, the designer, the problem-solver, the analyst, the researcher, the curious, and the driven.

Many public relations graduates choose to work with either a firm (such as an advertising agency) or go into corporate or “in-house,” which is investing in one client over time. Both avenues of work have their own pros and cons, and I’m still not 100% certain which course I will take in the future.

Public Relations

Public relations practitioners can easily become event planners, media relations experts, marketers or social media managers. Any job that requires strong writing skills and relationship-building would fit perfectly. From an advertising agency to a Fortune 500 company, your PR major is what you make of it!

Does a major in public relations interest you? Visit Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts website to learn more.

Crisis Communication Case Study: Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle hazmat suitChipotle Mexican Grill is known for their innovative, fast-casual and farm-fresh food. They’re definitely proud of their supply chain, so much so that marketing ads focus on their naturally-raised and organic ingredients. Their mission statement is even Food with Integrity.

These facts are ironic considering their recent struggles with food safety. Outbreaks of not one, but three food-borne illnesses and pathogens (Salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus) in Chipotle restaurants have resulted in numerous hospitalizations and fatalities. Their long-standing rhetoric of food integrity stands in contrast with the reality of bacteria making their way into your burrito!

The epidemic began in August 2015 at a Simi Valley, California location. A sick employee infected 234 customers, but the outbreak was over by the time health officials confirmed a link. In Minnesota, 64 customers ate tomatoes with a side of salmonella. The worst case came in November 2015, when more than 140 Boston College students (including half the men’s basketball team) picked up the highly contagious norovirus from their campus Chipotle. In total, almost 500 people in 9 states became sick from Chipotle’s food according to public health officials.

the apology

Biohazard ChipsThe effects were immediate once health authorities posted information. Sales and stocks were tumbling, and Chipotle saw their first quarterly decline as a public company. Steve Ells, the founder/CEO of Chipotle, made an appearance on the Today show on December 10 for a televised apology. Ells acknowledged the situation, apologized and expressed concern for the suffering customers. He announced a comprehensive food-safety program that would “exceed industry norms” and stated that Chipotle had recently hired two food-safety consulting firms. However, he admitted they still did not know which ingredients to blame. Produce that’s hard-to-clean and eaten raw is considered high-risk. At Chipotle, that’s the tomatoes, lettuce, and cilantro—the same stuff that gives that signature fresh taste.

“The fact that anyone has become ill eating at Chipotle is completely unacceptable to me, and I am deeply sorry,” Ells wrote. “As a result, we are committed to becoming known as the leader in food safety, just as we are known for using the very best ingredients in a fast-food setting.”

About a week after this apology, Chipotle placed full-page newspaper ads across the country pledging to do better. Ells also promised customers that Chipotle would be “the absolute safest place to eat.” Following these actions, more E. coli outbreaks were reported in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Lessons learned

In February 2016, Chipotle implemented strategies to win back its customers. They used an abundance of caution in closing down company-wide for an “employee food safety training meeting” on the morning of February 8. The brand also launched their giveaway campaign, called the “Chiptopia Rewards Program.” 5.3 million users downloaded coupons from Chipotle’s app for a complimentary burrito, and 50% of the coupons were redeemed.

Chipotle hazmat suitChipotle was absent online amidst this crisis, offering no public statement on its website or social channels. Their Facebook and Twitter pages only had responses to angry customers. Meanwhile, their website had pages devoted to their supply chain sourcing. No official channel acknowledged the crisis as Chipotle faced seven lawsuits and an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In January 2016, they finally updated their website with a “Focus on Food Safety” page addressing how the crisis happened, explaining the viruses and featuring more details of their new testing methods.

in review

I feel Chipotle could’ve had a stronger online presence throughout the crisis. Their social media channels were merely used as customer service tools. I also can’t help but wonder how they could emphasize their fresh ingredients while skipping over food safety basics. It doesn’t matter how fresh or healthy their food is if it’s been contaminated! Finally, I wouldn’t have stated to press that Chipotle would be “the safest place to eat.” This generalization is impossible to guarantee, and the CEO looked foolish as he was proved wrong yet again.

Mark Crumpacker, the Chipotle chief creative and development officer, said “There’s nothing worse from a trust perspective. This is not the kind of problem that you market your way out of.”

In conclusion, Chipotle was honest, authentic and quick to put their CEO and communications team on damage control with this situation. They did a good job changing the conversation with their Chiptopia rewards program, which was necessary to win back wary customers. It’s unfortunate that their marketing and branding centered so heavily on their food production before this crisis, as I feel it only made the irony of the situation even more tempting for media coverage.

My Hootsuite Platform Certification Experience

Hootsuite Infographic

I am thrilled to say that I am now Hootsuite Certified! My Social Media class was required to become Hootsuite Platform Certified this semester. This has been one of my favorite things about the course.

I was fortunate to have worked with Hootsuite as the Director of Public Relations for Auburn Panhellenic. This position required me to post once a day on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Planning out content using Hootsuite made my job much easier.

where i use it

What I love most about this platform is the ability to schedule posts in advance. This saves time and keep my day from being interrupted. Hootsuite even helps me set up different social streams to track relevant content. It also allows me to schedule Facebook posts or save drafts.

In contrast, the Tweetdeck dashboard only allows the user to post or schedule using Twitter. Hootsuite gives control over multiple accounts on multiple channels. However, users don’t yet have the ability to automatically post on Instagram.

Hootsuite Features

Although I knew the basics before taking this course, I learned more about specific marketing and customer service features during the certification process:

  • Reply seamlessly to FAQs with approved drafts
  • Avoid duplicate responses by assigning messages
  • Target messages by location or demographic profile
  • Track efficiency through inquiry response times

In conclusion, I would absolutely recommend becoming certified before entering the workforce. I already know this social media management platform will be incredibly useful to me in a public relations career.

If you would like to learn more about what you can get with this Platform Certification, check out my infographic!

A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging

To blog or not to blog?

As I set up this blog for a class (shout-out to #Sisson3280), it struck me how easy it was to create. Carving out your own little corner of the internet can be a piece of cake. It’s writing the perfect post that takes work!

I’m not the only one to realize this. Personal blogs are a dime a dozen in these tech-savvy times. It’s even become the norm for brands, from Disney to Dodge, to create their own corporate blogs that give us a peek behind the curtain.

Blogging is definitely a skill that’s here to stay. Here are my tips and tricks for a blog that breaks the mold:

Take a risk.

Research what’s out of your comfort zone, or take the opportunity to dive deep into an unknown topic. Every time you hit “publish,” that’s another chance to show what you know (or what you’re learning about)!

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid.

This principle isn’t just for design. Short sentences that are easy to read work best in a post. Don’t make your blog more complicated than it needs to be.

Consistency is key.

Consistency keeps readers coming back to your blog. The timing of posts should be consistent as well. If it hasn’t been updated since 2010, it’s time to restart.

Find your voice.

Let your personality shine through your words! Give your brand a cohesive tone and message by the language you choose. Remember, a formal company ≠ casual blog.

Sharing is caring.

Make it as easy as possible for readers to share and subscribe to your posts. Adding social links or an RSS feed is simple, especially through WordPress plugins. After all, a blog without readers is just a diary!


The Best Social Media Channel for Your Content


Pros: Facebook is a true leader as the largest and most active social network in existence. It’s an easy place for a business to get started, and allows for the best possible demographic targeting. It’s also a great platform for running contests and competitions.

Cons: Facebook has become a pay-to-play network and is one of the most competitive platforms to advertise on. Page owners are subject to the whims of the algorithm, and have no guarantee that their content will appear on user timelines. It’s also declining in use among teens and millennials.


Pros: Instagram has been a rising star in social media. This visually pleasing network has higher engagement than Facebook and is the go-to platform for teens and millennials. Instagram allows for creativity while still providing a good structure for beginners. It can also track posts using hashtags like Twitter.

Cons: Instagram is more about branding than selling. It also needs strategic visual content. If you don’t have the talent for photos, Instagram probably isn’t the right platform for you! Sharing photos must be done from mobile devices, and the new sorting algorithm could affect the future performance of posts.


Pros: Twitter is the ideal channel for news, announcements, product launches, trending topics and quick bites of punchy content. Engagement revolves around conversation. It’s a great customer service tool when used to respond to customer complaints or questions. Twitter’s value also lies in its ability for posts to go viral using trending hashtags. It’s now evolving into a top real-time news source.

Cons: Twitter doesn’t give you much wiggle room to get a message out to your followers with its 140 character limit. If you’re targeting an older population, then the people you’ll want to do business with probably aren’t engaged here. It’s also much more difficult to target users based on their behaviors and interests.


Pros: This strong visual branding tool generates direct sales with the help of its “buy-now” button. Pinterest is perfect for promoting products, from clothing and furniture to wedding cakes and gift ideas. Almost 70 percent of Pinterest users are female, but it’s catching on with men too. Well-curated content can easily be shared and viewed by millions.

Cons: Curating the best content onto virtual bulletin boards can be time-consuming and easily overwhelming on this platform. It’s definitely not the best place to target men, and it takes a strong visual appeal to see results. Only use this channel if you have great images to share!


Pros: YouTube has a huge audience as the second most popular search engine. It reaches 81 percent of all Internet users! This platform is perfect for ‘how-to’ tutorials or demonstrations. Advertising is cheap, and you can easily create a brand channel to host videos. YouTube is now owned by Google, so videos are much more likely to appear in search engine results.

Cons: Video production can be expensive and time consuming. While videos can certainly be entertaining and informative, they also need to be high quality to attract an audience. Older visitors tend to spend less time on the site.