Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jack O'Dwyer published an article about me!

I just found out that Jack O'Dwyer published an article about me and my blog post on "Public Relations in Service to Society" earlier this week. I'd link to it, but it's for subscribers only.

I was a little surprised that Jack forgot to mention it in the many e-mails we've exchanged in the past few days.

I suppose the lesson Jack wants me to learn is not to pick on the guy who buys ink by the barrel. Luckily, in the age of blogging, I get to publish my own response. In general I thought the article provided a fair representation of my post on how PR should be taught. As I pointed out to Jack, he himself has often published criticism of the practice as well as public relations education, so I would think he would be among the first to endorse an approach that tries to emphasize public interest over personal profit.

However, a couple of things were unfair. Jack concluded his article with part of a comment to my post by Marcel Goldstein in reference to the poor quality of PR graduates he has encountered. But he left out the first three sentences: "this post reminds me of the best about blogging in that you provided a fresh perspective to an old issue. You have broadened my view and I am greatly appreciative. I think sometimes practitioners, such as myself, have lost sight of the larger picture about PR education in our frustration at the quality of basic entry-level hire skill sets." I think this makes it clear that Marcel was trying to find a solution, not criticizing me or my post as Jack's article implied.

I think Jack's characterization of my reasons for not wanting to discuss the recent discussion about PR education ("is too busy to take up a discussion of PR education with this website and is not qualified to act as the spokesperson for PR education") was a bit simplistic given the daily, sometimes lengthy but always sincere and honest e-mails I sent him this week. For example, one of my reasons for not wanting to comment is that I have not read his article on Don Wright's speech. It's difficult to comment on something about which you have no knowledge. (I have since read the interview with Don on Strumpette.) I did state that I don't have the authority to act as a spokesperson for PR education since I am only familiar with my own school's program, and I suggested that he contact a more appropriate spokesperson from one of the accrediting boards or the PRSA educators academy.

Finally, in one of his e-mails to me, Jack mentioned that several other PR educators also refused to talk to him. If he publishes a story about any of them, will someone please forward it to me?

On the bright side, a link from Jack's Web site is the most exposure this blog has ever received. If trying to embarrass me results in having people put some thought into public relations and its role in society, that's okay with me. Sadly, though, according to Feedburner, only 5 people have clicked through in two days.

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So, what do you make of Don Wright's comments?
Obviously Don raises some really important issues, and he said some things I didn't know. For instance I had no idea that there are 35,000 PR majors and 700 colleges and universities teaching PR. This does seem obviously more than the market can bear. But who is to decide which schools get to teach PR, other than the market?

One of my colleagues forwarded Don's interview to the rest of us and we're discussing it via e-mail. I don't know that I agree with everything he said, but he has certainly stirred some worthwhile discussion. I will definitely post more on this in the future.
Way to go, Karen! Being the subject of an O'Dwyer headline isn't all bad. It happened to me back on Aug. 10 when I criticized PRSA in a blog post. Jack's story triggered a number of interesting conversations and connections for which I'm grateful.

You need to think of O'Dwyer is our own little Michael Moore. He's not terribly objective, and he's even outrageous at times. But he raises issues that most others won't touch, and he gets us talking about them.

As for Don Wright's comments in the Strumpette interview -- Bravo, Don! So many great points. But as a senior statesman of the PR academy, Don was treading carefully, as he must. (He'll never make a good blogger. Too tactful.)

As Don points out, way too many colleges and universities use PR as the "cash cow." In the process they mislead students into believing they're prepared for careers in PR. That's wrong, as it's bad for the profession.

You need only look at the job placement rate of PR grads (overall about 50%, last I checked) to conclude that there's a good bit of academic chicanery out there.

As Professor Wright points out, if PR programs were truly doing their jobs, employers would be lining up to recruit their students. I don't see many PR programs boasting about their job placement rates. Maybe it's time for a little transparency in the academy.
Thanks, Bill. Not quite sure why he thought it would embarrass me to publicize a post that I put out there for all the world to see-- but I have to say that his characterization of PR in the public interest as "social service" cracked me up because it's so like the old Whitaker & Baxter socialized medicine campaign for the AMA.

Unfortunately, though, the post hasn't spurred any more discussion. After 5 days, only 7 click-throughs from his Web site.

Then again, there's so much debate about PR education out there right now that at the moment there's really not much need to stir that pot!
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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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