Public relations pioneer
In the late 80s, public relations (PR) was a developing field of work. RMIT was the first university to offer a degree in public relations and it produced industry pioneers like Sharyn.
“I was part of the first intake of students to the public relations course at RMIT in 1985 and everyone was still attempting to work out what this young new career option was all about,” she said.
“The course creators were very passionate about the field of PR and I trusted the course would be high calibre.
“The degree became coveted in the years to come and it seemed everyone wanted to get into [RMIT’s] PR course.”
Glamorous and empowered
For Ellen, working in public relations with her mum is a childhood dream come true.
“Growing up, I watched my mum launch, grow, and run an exciting and successful PR company with offices in Melbourne and Sydney,” she said.
“This was of course so empowering and motivating for me to observe growing up. She always had amazing clients that made my childhood exciting, with clients in shoes, makeup, fashion, décor and more.
“She was able to help new businesses flourish and succeed, and she was able to contribute her opinions and knowledge in some of the world’s biggest companies.
“Seeing her ideas brought to life made my ideas seem possible.”
Career doors wide open
Public relations professionals can work in roles in the corporate, government or non-profit sectors. Many choose to build their own businesses with the networking and entrepreneurial skills they develop at RMIT.
This includes Ellen, who established her own gin company two years after graduating.
“My course at RMIT gave me the skills to work with clients, write copy and produce ethical strategy for large and small companies,” Ellen said.
“My close friends from the course have ended up working for many top brands, where we are able to collaborate and work together a lot. So the networking aspect of the course has affected my career journey too.”
RMIT’s specialisation in public relations is a huge advantage for graduates, Sharyn said.
“After graduating there was never any issues with gaining employment,” she said.
“Back in the nineties mostly journalists were the ones who gained jobs in PR, however the degree gave me a wealth of knowledge beyond media relations. This opened doors for the vast array of opportunities in communications, public affairs and marketing fields.”
Changing with the times
As the PR industry has evolved, so too has the Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) at RMIT.
Strong communication skills continue to be at its core, alongside media and stakeholder relations, strategy and industry research, relationship development and project management.
“Public relations now covers so many more areas than when I first joined the workforce,” Sharyn said.
“Because RMIT backed the profession by introducing the first PR course, many other Australian universities followed suit. This has ensured the profession continues to develop and keep ahead of the changing media and communications landscape.
“The profession is certainly more strategic now and integrates with many other business disciplines.”
RMIT’s reputation as a leader in communications-based courses ensures it is a top choice for prospective students.
“RMIT is well-known for having [some of] the best communications courses in Australia, so it was of course my first pick for PR,” Ellen said.
“PR courses at other unis are often grouped into arts degrees, and I liked the idea of having a specialised communications degree.”