Monday, January 29, 2007

Don't like PR education? Do something about it.

Constantin Basturea called my attention to a practitioners-vs.-Ph.D.'s debate sparked by Bill Huey's remarks, published by O'Dwyer. I wish I could say I learned something from it, but it sounds just like the boring "green eyeshade" vs. Ph.D. debate that was already old when I was in journalism school 20 years ago. I'm not going to bother explaining the different purposes of graduate and undergraduate programs or the reasons that PR research is important and meaningful, because I don't think someone like Mr. Huey would listen. Suffice it to say that there's a difference between college and technical school.

No one (with the possible exception of Mr. Huey) would dispute that the ideal PR professor is someone who has both professional experience and a Ph.D. from a school that's strong on theory and research. However, not very many of those people exist. At the University of Georgia, we're fortunate to have several -- including Lynne Sallot, with 14 years professional experience, and Kaye Trammell, who continues to serve in public affairs as an officer in the Navy Reserve. I am the first to admit that they have a better grasp of the practice than do I, with only minimal experience while I was in grad school. But even I found that it doesn't take long before what you did as a practitioner morphs into something else or even loses its relevancy. How does that newsletter I helped write and edit 15 years ago, on a typewriter for God's sake, really serve my students?

Sometime ago Todd Defren posted on fixing undergraduate PR programs, emphasizing the role PR institutions could take. I would like to add to his list by suggesting that public relations needs an internship program for faculty along the lines of that offered by the Advertising Educational Foundation. I've made efforts to keep up with changes in the field primarily by reading about it and by keeping in touch with former students. A couple of weeks visiting an agency or corporation, sitting in on meetings, listening and learning, maybe even writing a news release or two (assuming they are not, in fact, dead) would without doubt benefit me and, more importantly, my students.

Rather than spewing anti-intellectual invective, let's do something constructive to build the kind of faculty that are most needed.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

PR students and client confidentiality

I got an e-mail today from one of my Campaigns class clients, who'd gotten an e-mail from a third party regarding something that had been discussed in the team/client meeting. Uh-oh. I sent the class a message on our listserv reminding them to respect the client's right to confidentiality.

It wasn't a major problem, but it's a sinking feeling when you get a call or e-mail from a client talking about something your students did wrong. I always warn potential clients that students are bound to make mistakes--it's part of learning--but nonetheless it's no fun when it happens.

Memo to self: talk about client confidentiality before each and every client meeting.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Way off topic

So this has nothing to do with teaching PR, but it's a TV ad that you gotta love. Check this one out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

PR student blogs

During the next few days, my campaigns students will be creating their own blogs on public relations/communication. They are required to post at least once a week this semester, and to get an "A" for the assignment they have to get involved in the blogosphere, posting on other blogs and trying to develop a readership of their own.

I am encouraging them to consider their blogs as part of their employment portfolios. Most of them are graduating in May-- a good motivator!

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Worth reading: "Responsible Advocacy"

I spent part of my winter break catching up on reading, and I came across a book worth recommending: Ethics in Public Relations: Responsible Advocacy, edited by Kathy Fitzpatrick and Carolyn Bronstein (disclosure: I went to grad school with Carolyn and she's a friend).

PR academics have been fighting for a long time now about what makes PR ethical. Some claim dialogue (symmetrical communication) is more ethical than persuasion (scientific or asymmetrical communication). Yet we pretty much all go into the classroom and proceed to teach students how to write "effectively" or plan "strategically" and it's hard to say why that's not persuasion. I like this new book because it recognizes, as PRSA did when it revised its Code of Ethics a few years ago, that advocacy is a core value. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I saw an immediate application for some of the ideas presented in the book for my PR Campaigns class and added it to my brief lecture for the first day of class, encouraging the students to think about the societal effects of their work, and not just the client's pleasure.

(I also uploaded it to Slideshare but can't get Blogger to accept the html code to embed it. In the spirit of the season, bah humbug!)

Addition: here's the most important slide.

"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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