Today’s post is a bit different from the other topics covered in this blog already. It is looking at PR, marketing and social media from an academic perspective rather than a practical one and discusses whether higher education can provide the foundations of PR and teaches students how to practice it.
I have read a few articles in the recent weeks suggesting higher education is lost on PR and social media- these are entirely practical disciplines and one cannot learn them at university but at work “by trying things out, evaluating results, stepping back, thinking again and learning by doing.” Even though the suggestion seems quite accurate, I have to strongly disagree. It is true PR and social media and marketing as well are all very practical disciplines- the more you practice, the more you learn. However, we have to take one thing into consideration- these are all new and undeveloped sectors that need to be properly researched and backed up academically. Before you come up with a certain theory, you do a proper research first, compare and contrast it with other theories, identify the weaknesses and test it. This is why I believe it is of great significance for PR and social media practitioners to possess academic knowledge on these subjects as this way the industry will go forward. Academics and practitioners need to go hand by hand in order to develop the PR industry and this includes social media as well.
I have to admit the PR industry has a bad reputation as it is quite often related to manipulation, black PR practices, gossip and so on. And this is because every second person is calling themselves a PR practitioner. For me, you cannot be a PR professional unless you learn how it works from the bottom to the top. From writing press releases to doing corporate communication- it is all considered PR. Yes, you can learn the basics by practicing and trying things out, you can develop instinct when you create a daily routine, but you will never possess real knowledge. People around the world are fighting for the right of education while others who have easy access just refuse to make use of it. Countries such as Germany and UK have made their education systems accessible for their citizens from all classes within the society. Taking the decision not to receive education in these countries is a matter of choice and not of opportunity.
In my opinion, the statement one does not need education in PR, social media or marketing is just not serious. It is true neither PR and social media nor marketing is considered a science; it is more practice than knowledge that you need. However, it is so just because the practitioners have the wrong attitude. I’m not saying it’s wrong to call yourself a PR practitioner without having a PR degree- many practitioners have degrees in marketing, journalism and even in disciplines such as maths or engineering; I’m saying it is wrong to condemn the industry to remain all the same for years ahead by denying it the opportunity to be developed academically. I think the only way for PR to get rid of the bad reputation and receive popularity and respect is to reach out a hand to education.