I’ve learned a lot about public relations in the classroom. I’ve memorized the RPIE model, the five strategies of Benoit’s image repair theory and PRSA’s ethical values. I know the definition of public relations by heart. As much as I’ve learned in a classroom setting, I’ve found the most practice in an unlikely setting. By serving as the president of my sorority, I’ve learned more about public relations than I ever thought was possible.
Perception is reality.
I’ve learned I must represent my chapter in the best light possible at all times. While I am just a single member, I’m seen as an extension of the sorority itself. Similarly, every employee at a job is viewed as an extension of the brand that they represent. While perception is subjective, it is what becomes reality for each consumer. For example, if an individual sees media content they don’t like from a certain brand, that brand’s very essence becomes unfavorable for that particular consumer. For this reason, clearly articulating messages is essential to ensure that an organization’s story is portrayed accurately and favorably.
Stay on your toes.
While serving as sorority president is one of my greatest joys, with over 200 women in our chapter, it brings new challenges every day. I’ve learned how crucial the environmental scanning step is within the crisis communications cycle. It’s essential to always be equipped to address a crisis. Environmental scanning is constant. The risk management plan is ready to go at all times. While a sorority crisis tends to be more menial than a global PR crisis, both matters require work to be done quickly and accurately. Spreading false information quickly is certainly more harmful than spreading the truth at a slower pace. In an ideal world, timeliness and honesty work in tandem.
Brand identity is key.
“PR Week” for sororities typically occurs during the first weeks of school when current sorority women all wear matching t-shirts with their Greek letters. This is not just a collective effort to match one another; it’s a strategic way to spread awareness about each Greek organization. Hours upon hours go into researching current trends and planning each design that will stand out from all other Greek shirts. The more a student is able to recognize a chapter, the more they’re able to understand it’s brand identity and voice. The same goes for any type of organization. While this does not always entail frilly shirts and embroidered hats, creating a consistent brand identity speaks volumes to an audience. Each individual within an organization is certainly unique in their own way, but it is important that the organization in itself is unified by its branding and common values.
I’ve seen the versatility and relevance of public relations throughout my term as a sorority president, but in reality, public relations permeates nearly every corner of life.
Lane Henderson is a senior from McDonough, Georgia, attending Samford University. She studies journalism and mass communication with concentrations in public relations and advertising and minors in Spanish and marketing. As president of Samford’s PRSSA Chapter and having a myriad of internships under her belt, her mission is to foster authentic connections through strategic communication, creative storytelling and unwavering integrity. In her free time, she enjoys taking walks with friends, playing golf and traveling to new places. Learn more about Lane by connecting with her on LinkedIn.