I can’t let the blogging debate about the value of public relations qualifications go without my twopennies worth.
The world’s leading… makes some valid points that the “qualities that are vital in succeeding in PR include a decent level of intelligence, a willingness to learn, an ability to write, a proactive approach, a dash of confidence and some half-decent presentation skills.” But that isn’t all you need – and the comparison with CEOs not having CEO-degrees ignores the training and qualifications many have gained (including MBAs).
Those who rubbish qualifications do the many fine under- and post-graduates entering and working in the profession a disservice. As Richard Bailey notes the majority of those undertaking work placement receive considerable praise, despite not having yet finished their degrees. The 4th year PR students that I work with at Bournemouth University will be an asset to anyone smart enough to offer them a job.
An undergraduate degree course in PR offers an excellent grounding in a wide range of areas that are relevant for modern public relations – which means more than simply media relations.
Serena at A communica-holic’s view shows the level of commitment of many seeking to build a career in PR. She is studying the CIPR Advanced Certificate (with CMC at Cambridge), spending £1,900 of her own money (as are many undergraduates) to improve her potential in the competitive PR job-market.
Is she wasting her money? What about those students I met in Bulgaria and the dozens of others around the world who have studied the CIPR Diploma by distance learning. All these are seeking to improve their own abilities and the reputation of PR in countries dominated by old-fashioned “press agents”, propaganda and worse.
Stuart Bruce as ever has wise words regarding the necessity for those coming into PR from a different field to learn and develop, for example by doing the Diploma.
He also cautions that it is not helpful for PR to “pretend you can learn it all on the job”. I worked in PR for a decade before first studying the CAM qualification and then moving on to teach the CIPR ones. I had strong skills developed by colleagues working for major automotive companies, and I’d also read widely and attended practical training courses (including those run by MIPAA, which I now organise).
What the academic perspective gave me (and continues to provide) was greater depth of understanding of the vocational aspects of PR, as well as a wider knowledge of business management, communications, organisational culture and much more – all applied directly to PR management. This not only reinforced my practical skills, but increased my confidence and abilities to work on a par with other management functions and debate robustly my recommendations with senior executives.
I don’t believe this is a one or t’other argument – if you don’t have a qualification in PR, then check out what you could learn. My own view is that a post-graduate course in public relations is of great value for those with practical experience. If you’d like to find out for yourself, I’d be happy to welcome you as a guest at my next Diploma session on 2 June at Guildford – where the class begins to integrate the wide range of theory they’ve studied so far into a strategic PR planning and management campaign.
Of course, once you’ve made a commitment to PR education – the “do-withouts” accuse you of having an agenda. But isn’t a position promoting ignorance and denying any benefits of studying PR equally one-sided?
PR qualifications are just a start – we need to keep up our skills and knowledge throughout our careers. If you graduated 2, 5, 10 or 20+ years ago, things have changed. New thinking is out there – there are some excellent academics researching some really useful areas that have practical benefit to practitioners. In addition to the post-graduate CIPR qualifications, there are many good masters and doctoral courses. There is also the Alan Rawel CIPR Academic Conference in July (one of many good conferences), where many thought-provoking and challenging academic and practitioner papers will be presented.
Everyone serious about working in PR needs to learn to improve what they do today – what they will need to do tomorrow – and reflect on what was done yesterday (since history and the development of the profession by those without the advantage of taking such qualifications is equally valide to study).
That’s what greenbanana is all about – recognising that we never know everything and regardless of whether we have skills and knowledge gained from experience and/or education, it is not be enough.