Learn how to promote yourself
Professor and PR pro Margaret Murray shares how public relations skills give students what they need to market their experiences and build relationships no matter the major.
Ciara Colón is constantly seeking ways to make herself stand out. The Business Studies and Communication double major has worked in customer service, marketing, sales and design.
But it wasn’t until she took Communication Assistant Professor Margaret Murray’s public relations courses that she realized her career calling. Not only did the classes help her decide to pursue a career in digital marketing and branding, they also helped the senior prepare for it.
“Even if you aren’t a Communication major, take her classes. There will be times when you need to communicate with an audience no matter what job you have or field you work in. It’s important to deliver your message well so it’s received as you intended,” she said.
Through courses she took online, Colón became certified in the social media management platform Hootsuite and landed her first public relations client through a class project. With the confidence and experience gained, she left a retail sales job to focus on her business Cesigns Design Shoppe. “These classes seriously changed my life. I cannot explain how glad I am that my academic adviser pointed Professor Murray’s classes out to me.”
Murray oversees the 15-credit Public Relations Certificate, which can be added to any UM-Dearborn major. Always up for an opportunity to teach, Murray shares three things students learn through the certificate’s core courses COMM 260: PR Principles, COMM 360: Social Media for PR and COMM 460: PR Campaigns.
It’s all about relationships
“When people think of PR, emailing a pitch to a journalist for publicity often comes to mind. But PR is much more than that. It’s building and managing relationships with your customers, employees and community through communication,” she said. “That can be through social media, podcasts, reviews, email, your website or old-fashioned word of mouth. The methods and strategies may change over time, but the key to it all is the relationship.”
“You need to show that you can do it for yourself before someone will hire you to do it for them,” Murray said. “It might feel awkward to do self promotion, but you need to lead by example. Have a good headshot. Use perfect grammar. Create or update your LinkedIn. Whether we like it or not, people are always judging. Have it go in your favor.”
Be a trusted voice
“People are losing trust in institutions like governments and large media outlets. Now they’re more likely to trust information from local sources,” she said. “Build your reputation with customers, employees and people in your community. Let people know who you are and what you stand for, and back that up with words and actions.”
That’s advice she follows. When Murray shares her expertise, she incorporates it into lessons in a way that builds trust with students and showcases her professionalism and large network.
During the PR Campaign class, students create campaigns for actual clients. That’s how Colón’s business landed its first paid project. After the class, South Arbor Animal Hospital hired Colón based on her final presentation.
And when Murray’s courses moved online in 2020 due to COVID, Murray created the podcast PR-mageddon with alumnus Mohamad Jaafar, a recent graduate of the Communication program. Even during a time of social distance, Murray wanted to connect students with PR professionals while also showing the importance of digital communications materials.
Colón said her business continues to grow and is thankful for Murray’s support, knowledge and teaching style. “Professor Murray is an amazing professor who did more than teach me about communication and promotion strategies. She helped me learn more about myself and how I could successfully put my interest in people, business, design and marketing together.”
With graduation less than a year away, Colón is ready — she’s got a cohesively branded business, a strong social media presence and an ever-expanding portfolio — for what’s next.