10 February 2012
I came across this quote the other day, and I started to
wonder just how much my degree has helped me adapt to life in the
'real world' of public relations.
I studied for a Masters in PR (broken record, sorry guys), and I
knew all along that the link between academic theory - which is
more significant than common sense in university terms - and its
links to PR practice would be tenuous at best. I knew that at the
time, and I know it even more now after 6 months at Octopus
I said in my last
post for Blogtopus (also about my degree, I need to get a life)
that the problem with PR academia is how every text/ theory/ model
you come across deals with absolute truths i.e. it tries to be
applicable to EVERY aspect of PR. In turn, this restricts students
to a very top-line overview of what PR does in practice, with real
world detail sacrificed for more philosophical arguments like 'what
is the political economy of communication based on…'. Blah + blah +
blah = snore.
There were times when I felt like everything I learned was so
detached from what PR was actually like, and I found it hard to
apply theory to practice. At that stage, I was fairly sure I was
going to find little to no value in the course. Even months after
the course had finished and I'd started at Octopus, I still found
very few transferable elements between academia and work.
Then, as I mentioned, I saw this quote the other day, and I
began to reflect once more on whether I'd wasted loads of money for
nothing, and in hindsight, I think I've been too negative about it
I maintain my argument that theory is close to being pointless
for helping students understand what real world PR is like. Yet the
things I learned at BU (representin'!) have still
helped me rather a lot as I've got to grips with 'doing all
For me, the biggest thing I learned was the need to be aware.
Not even necessarily aware of what's going on news-wise (that's
essential anyway), but aware in terms of the range of opinions that
parties with vested interests might have on a certain topic. One of
the best things I heard at uni was that as PRs, it's our job to
influence the marketplace of ideas, and I think awareness is
integral to that. Awareness is crucial to knowing how one party
might react, whilst balancing the interests of another party, and
at the same time trying to make ourselves look good.
Another aspect I've taken from my course was the need to build
(and juggle) a wide range of relationships. I remember thinking to
myself at the time that, while it may be challenging to build
relationships with loads of journalists, it'll be easy to do once
I've cracked the formula. There's a wider emphasis in academia that
PR is the central hub not just between the client and journalists,
but between much broader parties. That's not to say I've been out
'listening to the people', but I really do appreciate just how
right all the textbooks were when they said how fundamental
relationship management is to successful PR.
I've also had to become very competent, by necessity, at being
good at a lot of different things. I'm struggling to decide whether
it was uni that taught me that, or whether I'm driven by the fear
of not having an answer when questioned by a client or journalist.
To argue the case for PR theory helping me here, I'd say that the
very fact that nobody can agree what PR actually is in textbooks
means you have to be prepared for all possibilities.
I've just looked at the word count, and I fear there may not be
many readers anymore.
So, here's a quick summary: I thought my PR degree was rubbish
at the time, but it's turned out to be well good*.
*These are all technical descriptors.
PR, graduates, PR Degree | 1 comment
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