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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Comments:
That's a great idea! Let's write a short program outline, and I promise I'll contact every single PR blogger that's a CEO or VP at a medium or large firm and try to persuade them to participate in such a program.

PS: Apparently, the debate on trade-vs-academic PR continues with at O'Dwyer's PR with two columns authored by Linda P. Morton and Fraser Seitel (unfortunately, they are behind a firewall).
 
Deal! I will get back to you after I survive Ice Storm '07 (so far just a threat) and toddler cold-combined-with-stomach-ailment of the month.
 
The educational affairs committee of PRSA has established as one of its goals for 2007 the development of an industry internship program for faculty. The committee co-chairs are Dr. Judy VanSlye Turk and Dr. Steve Iseman.

I am certain that they would appreciate your input and help.If you have difficulty contacting them please feel free to contact me at vhazleto@radford.edu . I am the PRSA board liason to this committee.

Vincent Hazleton, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA
 
Vince, thanks for letting us know. This will certainly save some duplication of effort!
 
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"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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