What’s the point of a qualification in public relations? It seems that many practitioners still believe that learning practical skills on the job is all you need. PR Week in the UK has just run its annual end of term report questioning the value of a PR degree, and citing those luddites who favour non-PR graduates.
The truth is that to be successful in life (not just PR), you should understand why you are doing things, not simply have “how to do it” competencies. That’s accepted in other areas – from the traditional professions of medicine and law, to skills based occupations such as plumbing and being a pilot.
Why do many in PR continue to celebrate ignorance and treat the work as little different to working on the checkout of a supermarket in theoretical underpinnings? What’s to be proud of in thinking anyone can do your job?
Of course, some PR graduates may not be able to apply the knowledge that they’ve studied and need to work on improving their skills. But it is ridiculous to criticise the value of PR degrees on the basis that graduates lack practical experience – indeed, many have undertaken vocational experience as part of their studies.
No-one is completely competent in everything when they start their careers – or when they encounter new areas (such as social media). So working in PR should be about lifelong learning – and that means those practitioners who have practical experience considering the value of substantiating this by improving their knowledge of underlying principles. That’s what the many successful students of the CIPR qualifications are doing.
It seems terrible to me that many in PR are content to keep doing what they’ve always done – and never bothering to read a book or improve their knowledge or competencies. Learning on the job doesn’t necessarily mean doing things right – look at the ongoing criticisms of many PR practices.
I’ve worked in and around PR for over 20 years – and I’ve been involved in the academic side for the last decade. But I continue to seek to improve my skills and also my knowledge – I don’t see these as mutually exclusive nor something that is only for juniors.
As Malcolm Forbes is quoted as saying: The dumbest people I know are those who know it all.
At least the PR graduates that I’ve worked with are willing to learn – unlike those who seem year after year to trot out the lazy criticisms of PR degrees.