How poetry led me to become a Public Relations student
I remember standing up in front of a rather small audience. As I read my speech, I nervously stared at the two men in front of me whose eyes were glued to the ceiling. Right next to them, a woman struggled to make eye contact with me while she counted the minutes until our break.
The clock ticked.
My tongue felt heavy and my hands were sweating.
My words were obscure, dense and incredibly boring.
I wondered how I got there.
Then I remembered: I was pretending to be a literature expert in a never-ending academic congress, and we all seemed to hate it.
Regardless of how much I loved reading and writing, I was unhappy with my literature major. I wanted to find a way to communicate with people at an emotional level, to engage them through exciting stories about the world. Writing long, indecipherable essays just wasn’t doing it. That’s when I found public relations.
I know my literature colleagues must be thinking I gave up my love for poetry and research, but I didn’t. As I dive more into the strategic communications world, I have started to realize how much my new professional life resembles what I learned in the past. Here is how my passion for novels and poetry intertwines with a career in public relations:
I spent hours at my city’s local libraries trying to find out more information about how a novel was interpreted, or what kind of poems were being published at the time. Public relations works the same way. We must stay up-to-date with the latest news and know everything about our client, our customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Even though I don’t spend as much time in the library as I did before, I have spent a significant amount of time monitoring social media channels, reading press releases, looking for the most suitable influencers and bloggers, and finding trustworthy data about the market.
During four years, I wrote long academic essays on how literature became the utmost political tool in Latin America. Even though I found this topic incredibly interesting, my language was often hazy and abstract; and even my mom refused to read my papers. PR has allowed me to find simple yet accurate words to describe the world around me. I have learned to clarify and simplify complex topics by knowing my audience and using the right communication channel. Writing is still my daily bread, but now I am enjoying it with others.
As a literature student, I learned the power that lies behind a story. Novels like ‘1984’ for instance, were written to warn us about how dangerous and coercive modern-day governments can be. In PR, stories are the bridge that connects brands and organizations with their publics. Building strong, relatable narratives is a key component of the practice of public relations.
I still think every communications practitioner should take the time to read a novel. Reading is a way to connect with other people’s thoughts, aspirations and emotions: an exercise in empathy. This kind of empathy is the most important step in building genuine relations with our clients and customers.