Do what I say, not what I do… Public Relations education and practice

Does it matter if those educating tomorrow’s PR graduates have never worked in the profession themselves?  It could be argued as a sign of maturation of the profession if those teaching in Universities have followed an entirely academic career path.  I’m not so sure – PR graduates are already competing against those with business or other non-specialist degrees for jobs in the industry.  One benefit of a degree in PR ought to be a greater insight from those who’ve been there, not just read about it in books or undertaken academic research.  I’m not so sure that setting up academic consultancies is the answer either.  You undoubtedly gain valuable credibility and understanding in stuffing press packs, organising launches, writing speeches, responding to irate consumer media, developing internal communications campaigns and networking with influencers for real.  Sure, experience needs to be balanced with understanding of theoretical approaches that underpin good practice, but a few battle scars must help you integrate academic and practitioner perspectives to the benefit of those starting out on their careers. 

Words and context

Teaching a writing workout workshop yesterday for the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA), much of the focus was on words – emphasising their symbolic value. 

Today’s news shows that all the carefully crafted words in Chancellor Gordon Brown’s conference speech praising the PM (and himself) mean nothing against the under-the-breath remarks of Cherie Blair muttering “that’s a lie” in the nearby exhibition area.  Symbolic of a strained relationship undoubtedly.

The number 10 PR machine has cranked into action – not claiming comments out of context (this time) so much as a journo mishearing the words spoken.   In the US, Bush is busy redefining the meaning of the word torture – in the context of counter-terrorism.  Much as his predecessor redefined the term “sexual relations” in the context of denying wrong-doing.

English is a living language – where the meaning of words is open to adaptation, but their deliberate manipulation to political ends is undoubtedly propaganda.  Something that does remain a dirty word, alongside spin.  Both unfortunately linked too closely with Public Relations – which desperately needs better ethical symbolism.