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Four practical ways to support public relations students

The relationship between teaching and working should be a two way street. In public relations we’ve work to do.

If you’re a public relations practitioner and you want to help improve the relationship between theory and practice I’ve four practical suggestions.

#1 Lecturing, socials and meetings

First contact the teaching staff at your local school, college or university and introduce yourself. Offer to visit the school or university and talk to students about an area of practice, or some of your recent work. Many universities incorporate guest lectures into their syllabus.

I’ve developed this relationship with Newcastle University where I’ve been a Visiting Professor in Practice in the School of Culture and Arts for the last three years.

If the idea of lecturing is daunting find less formal opportunities to meet with students. You’ll need to dig around to find local networks.

The University of Greenwich runs a networking group called the PR Fraternity. CIPR Wessex runs an annual Meet the Professional event. Keep your eyes peeled for the 2017 event.

Return the favour and invite teaching staff into your agency or department for a working lunch to experience practice at first hand. The exchange of ideas will be invaluable to both parties.

The CIPR or PRCA can help with introductions if you’re unsure where and how to start.

#2 Dissertation support

Second, offer to support students on university courses with research as they prepare for dissertations.

Undergraduate and Masters students are all expected to investigate an area of practice as part of their degree.

I always urge students to investigate an area of practice that they’re passionate about and will prepare them for work.

Inevitably finding people to interview is daunting. It’s an area where practitioners can add tremendous value.

#3 Mentoring

Third, offer to support students with mentoring.

The transition from theory to practice, from university to work, is challenging and you’ll be able to provide a lot of support.

Local CIPR and PRCA networks, or the #PRstudent hashtag on Twitter, are a good place to start.

#4 Work experience

Finally, talk to your employer about offering work placements to students.

Every teaching establishment approaches work placements slightly differently. Schools are keen for students to gain experience of the world of work and shadow someone in employment for a week or two.

Universities are typically seeking placements from summer work experience placements to 12 months.

The relationship between theory, teaching and practice in public relations is an issue I’ve being been exploring since I was Past President of the CIPR in 2015. A Community of Practice Facebook group grew out of this discussion.

Sarah Hall, Dr Kevin Ruck, Dr Jon White and I ran a workshop at BledCom on the topic last year. We invited contributions from academics and practitioners ahead of the session and published a toolkit afterwards.

Most recently I chaired a discussion for the PRCA of more than 100 practitioners in London this week. There’s an archive of the live stream from the event on Periscope.

Please leave a comment if you’ve any other ideas from improving the working relationship between academics, teachers and practitioners.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks Steve. I wonder if you could add to this some work shadowing for academic staff. Helps build knowledge and ensure academics understand the pressure of agency work. Also, I wonder if we can set up a ‘shared’ place for research projects – both for students to do and also maybe some pro bono work that PR agencies do but could be supported by student talent?

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