Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Commission on Public Relations Education Report

I've just looked over the recently released report from the Commission on Public Relations Education. It's refreshing to see a reexamination of Public Relations curriculum.

First, if you're looking for a perspective on the new report head over to Forward for Paull Young's interview with the report's two authors, Dean Kruckeberg and John Paluszek.

As I read through the report I noticed two topics in particular (this will be the first post in a series) that I think are worth mentioning.

Firstly, Kruckegerg and Paluszek lay out three different models of undergraduate PR curriculum:

Journalism/Mass Comm;

Communications/English/Liberal Arts;

Business Management;

As I read over the descriptions of each of these programs, I think my coursework at the University of Maryland consisted mostly of the comm/english/liberal arts model. As a corporate communications professional, I’m asked to know lot about certain companies. I could interact with the IT, legal, marketing, and finance departments all within one organization in a given day.

This type of interaction makes wonder if I wouldn’t be better prepared in my line of work had I been offered the Business Management Model. Don’t get me wrong, the University of Maryland’s Public Relations program did a fantastic job of preparing me for life in an pubic relations agency, but I think some of those more business oriented courses would have helpful.

I wonder how many recent graduates are in my similar position: a corporate communications professional with a background with a more liberal arts PR degree. I’d bet more young public relations professional are in that boat than the opposite: a non-profit in-house communications professional with strong coursework in business PR.

If I’m right, and there are a large number of young pr pros wishing they could more fluently speak with, say, the marketing and finance folks, then I’d be a proponent of universities adopting the report’s Business Management model. I’d be eager to hear the thoughts of other young pr pros on this one…

UPDATE: I caught up with Dr. Kruckeberg, one of the authors of the report, via email this evening. He had this to say regarding my idea that, as young PR pros are asked to take on a wider variety of business tasks, it becomes even more important to have a business oriented curriculum with which to fall back on:

"The Commission's research and analysis certainly support your contention, which is also implicit throughout the Commission report when it isn't explicit. Most certainly, you are not saying anything counter to the Commission's recommendations, and recognition of the importance of this business knowledge has been pervasive in the discussions of Commission members as they have prepared this report during the past two years. As an example of a public relations education program that emphasizes business as a critical curriculum component, the major at my university, i.e., the University of Northern Iowa, requires a course in each of these: economics, accounting, management, marketing and consumer behavior"

Thanks to Professor Kruckeberg for taking the time to shed some light on the business oriented curriculum and to speak with young PR bloggers!

I think this report is especially important to young public relations professionals and I'll be posting more about this in the coming days...


Paull Young said...

Thoughtful post John, I'm glad you enjoyed the podcast.

Let me just say that Dean Kruckeberg is a true gentleman, very giving of himself to both young professionals and the profession as a whole.

My major was part of Arts/Communication - which I'm a big fan of.

I figure you can pick up business in practice, and probably later on at Masters Level.

Arts/Communication teaches you to think broadly - which is a critically important base level skill for PR.

Mike Sacks said...

Get an MBA. That's the solution if you want to talk business with your clients and understand their business strategy with some sophistication.

"Thinking broadly" is probably a base level skill across many professional industries, certainly not unique to PR.

One of the top client complaints, seen in poll after poll, is that the agency doesn't understand the clients business.

Lets fix that. But to do so, PR agencies will have to make it worthwhile to pursue an M.B.A.

Young Washington DC PR Pro said...

Paull-- I too had a liberal arts/comm focus. I think it certainly did give me a well rounded perspective. Maybe you're right, business skills could be picked up at the graduate level. But I feel as though one or two of those "rhetoric of the greeks" sort of classes could be replaced by a few finance and econ courses.

Mike-- I wonder how many PR pros, after earning their MBA, decide to move on to more business related fields, leaving the PR profession in the dust. Perhaps that's why PR firms do not reward MBA grads as much as they should.