Public relations education leads to careers with no limits

Job-ready graduates ready for a diverse range of opportunities

Nadia MoharibMount Royal University | Posted: March 9, 2023

Jessica Quiring

Jessica Quiring believes public relations provides the perfect career path for her — one that began with her relocation to Calgary to join the program.

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Jessica Quiring is going places with her Mount Royal University public relations degree. And she’s only halfway through her studies.

In 2021, her acceptance to MRU took her from Abbotsford, B.C. to Calgary, where she lives in residence on campus. Now, the 20-year-old is taking advantage of the University’s Outbound Exchange Programs and is spending the next six months in Vienna, Austria.

It is a great addition to her academic pursuits, and with many other interesting places nearby (Budapest is on Quiring’s list), it also means some additional travel, too.

Why public relations?

MRU’s School of Communications Studies offers degrees in journalism and digital media, broadcast media studies, information design and public relations.

Quiring believes public relations provides the perfect career path for her — one that began with her relocation to Calgary to join the program.

“Having a whole new mailing address stretches you as a person and brings challenges and growth,” she says. “I have found something I love to do. I’ve found my passion.”

In high school, Quiring excelled at English, writing and public speaking, and also liked coming up with ideas. She describes herself as a “people person,” and knew she wanted to do something in communications, but was not quite sure what that would be.

“My grandma introduced PR to me. She used to be a career counsellor and knew of everything under the sun,” she says.

Closer to graduation, Quiring took advantage of webinars offered by MRU to prospective students.

And she was sold.

“It’s a very practical degree. It’s a little bit of everything,” she says. “You can do journalism work, graphic-design work, you do public-speaking classes, writing classes, marketing classes. So it’s sort of all those programs in one.”

Taking students places

Public relations professionals use strategic thinking and relationship building to do their work — skills that are integral to any organization’s success.

Sent out with a versatile set of skills, graduates are job-ready for a diverse range of opportunities such as corporate communications specialists, strategic social-media advisors, community relations co-ordinators, media-relations specialists and crisis and issues management leads, to name but a few.

Quiring loves knowing her degree will have the power to take her to many places.

“Every single classmate wants to do something different,” she says. “I know one who wants to do government public relations and one who wants to do sports.”

Quiring hasn’t ruled out getting her master’s in public relations, but also likes the idea of working at an agency where she can take on a diverse roster of clients, or even one day run her own.

“I like keeping busy and not having the same day every day,” Quiring says. Clients may be a famous country singer, or a nice downtown restaurant in Calgary, or a public library.

“It doesn’t just hold you to a single slot,” she says of the degree. “It is so versatile and you can do a million things. That’s the ‘pro’ of the profession — there are no limits.”

Creating the story for clients

Quiring knows public relations is nothing like the impressions some have of the field of unethical practitioners twisting the truth.

“I think the biggest misconception about PR is that it is just spinning the story,” she says. “Whenever I hear about PR in the media, it’s a celebrity’s PR team, or ‘this is a PR stunt,’ or ‘they got caught in a scandal and this is totally spinning the facts.’

“What they don’t see are the real people behind the scenes collaborating, sharing ideas and approaches, coming up with creative ideas and starting new lines of products or launches.”

That, she says, is what PR is all about.

Quiring predicts demand for PR professionals is only going to increase as a tool for organizations and businesses of all sorts as they cater to more discerning clients and customers. As much as a lot of it comes down to whatever they are selling, she says many consumers are f,more ocused on how those companies do business and operate when it comes to ethics and values.

“More and more, businesses are recognizing that nowadays customers don’t just want your product, they want the brand as well,” Quiring says.

“Brands need to establish that story and PR professionals are here to help write that story and market it and create relationships.”

Deeply committed to her studies, Quiring is also soaking up many other opportunities that come with being an MRU student, such as acting as vice-president of events for the MRU PR Society and as a lifeguard and swim instructor on campus. She is this year's recipient of the MRU Linda Singleton Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded to a full-time Bachelor of Communication — Public Relations student based on academic excellence and extracurricular activities on campus or in the community.

Her Vienna travels are part of a study-abroad program open to all second-year MRU students. Courses will count towards her degree.

In addition, PR students take on internships between their third and fourth years to amass 150 hours and expose them to the real-life work world.

To rack up some of her time, Quiring volunteered with PARKER PR Inc., putting her in contact with owner Ellen Parker, who just happens to be an MRU PR alumna and shares Quiring’s confidence in the Bachelor of Communication – Public Relations program. She says much of what she does today goes back to her time at Mount Royal.

Ellen Parker

Ellen Parker says the PR skills she was taught at MRU translated immediately to the workforce, where she arrived well-trained and ready to go.

“I can’t say enough good things about MRU,” she says. “Everything that I run the business with is based on what I learned at MRU.”

Parker says the skills she was taught translated immediately to the workforce, where she arrived well-trained and ready to go.

She had various jobs in Calgary, with Wordfest and the Calgary Inter-Faith Food bank (now the Calgary Food Bank,) before moving to the Big Apple to work at a PR firm representing celebrities.

Initially making about $100 a week under the table, she concedes it wasn’t glamorous.

But that didn’t matter.

“It was my childhood dream to work in New York,” Parker says. “It is the capital of PR.”

She eventually returned to Calgary, got married and planned to be a stay-at-home mom.

But plans change, and in 2015 the mother-of-two launched her boutique PR firm, which now has eight full-time staff and an intern or two at any given time joining the team and helping make the magic happen.

“I’ve probably had 30 to 50 interns or volunteers from the MRU program,” she says.

Parker believes she is exactly where she is meant to be — in a position to help people, which is what she does with her public relations work — creating events, generating awareness, raising money and community building for her clients.