The way people access information and communicate seems to change almost daily. More than ever, smart phones and tablets are the go-to sources of information, displacing traditional broadcast and print media.
Nonetheless, in spite of changes in technology, there will always be a need for communicators who can provide relevant content in appealing formats. For students looking for jobs in broadcast media, advertising, journalism, marketing and public relations, it means a much broader skill set is needed to be attractive to employers.
Gary Potter, associate professor of Speech at Northeast State Community College, calls these new communicators “mediaists” – meaning those with know how to write for print, shoot video, create social media content, manage a blog, and code HTML. The skills are far beyond what was demanded of journalists or PR specialists in the past.
“You’re not going to be able to do your job without an understanding of technology and the different forms of communications,” said Potter who heads the Advertising and Public Relations, and Broadcasting programs at Northeast State. “In our programs, we are job-focused and teach the skills that the market demands.”
To ensure his students have what it takes to compete in the job market, Potter puts his students to work on projects that give them hands-on experience. Students may find themselves working on a PR campaign for the College, producing a news clip for YouTube use, creating a music video, or interviewing sources for Direction Northeast, the College’s 30-minute news program.
“They make mistakes, they break things, but they learn how to adapt and think on their feet,” Potter said. “It’s a huge advantage in that first and second year students get to do things that only upper level students do at four-year schools.”
In addition, Potter said, they discover early on about whether communication is the right major and career field for them.
“The last thing I want is a student going through two to four years of school and then getting a chance to do a campaign or project and finding out the field isn’t right for them,” Potter said.
Potter praises the support his department receives; noting technology resources include a digital studio, high-definition video cameras, 14 video editing stations, and an audio board just like the one at legendary Sun Records in Memphis. In addition, the department’s studio has a green screen for weather forecasts and a modern news desk was recently donated by a local TV station.
While it may seem like a scary time to dip a toe in the communications pond, students shouldn’t be discouraged from following their interests in public relations, advertising, marketing, and other related fields.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, media and communications occupations are expected to remain healthy in the coming years. While job opportunities for broadcast and print journalists may get tighter, other communication occupations such as public relations specialists, photographers, video editors, camera operators, and technical writers can expect to find good opportunities.
“The thing to realize is that all types of companies, organizations, and institutions have a need for communications,” Potter said. “There are opportunities for those individuals who have a wide variety of skills.”