Public relations: the profession that refuses to learn?

Public relations: the profession that refuses to learn?

A debate in London next week will explore the relationship between academics, teachers and practitioners in public relations. I hope that you can join us.

The PRCA is hosting the debate in London from 6pm on Wednesday 15 February.

It’s bringing together employers, students and universities to debate whether in 2017 it’s necessary to have a public relations degree.

It’s a deliberately contentious topic to generate interest. It’s worked. More than 80 people are due to turn up for the discussion.

Panellists joining the conversation

The following panellists will join me at the event.

  • Faith Howe, Director and Partner, Head of Talent Development, UK and Middle East at FleishmanHillard
  • Nicky Garsten, Programme Director in (BA Hons) Public Relations and Communications and Senior Lecturer, University of Greenwich
  • Robert Minton-Taylor, Senior Lecturer, School of Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, Leeds Beckett University
  • Chris Owen, Director, M&C Saatchi PR

The event is being hosted by FleishmanHillard Fishburn (FHF) at Bankside 3, Southwark Street, London, SE1 0SW. It's the site that FHF shares with Ketchum in London, and other agencies in the Omnicom group.

The relationship between public relations theory and practice is an issue that I’ve been exploring since I was President of the CIPR in 2014. I joined Newcastle University as a Visiting Professor in the same year.

Exploring theory and practice

Here are some of the issues that I hope to explore.

Community of practice

Why is the relationship between public relations theory and practice so limited? Is it not the case that without the historical perspective and discipline provided for by academics, practitioners lack rigour and are limited to trading in simple crafts and tactics?

Degrees as career preparation

Since when did degrees become about career preparation? A period of conversion between the workplace and university is the norm in almost all professions. Why isn’t this the case in public relations?

Continuous professional development

At the heart of this discussion is the value of education to those in public relations. By my estimates, less than three percent of practitioners are signed up to continuous learning with the CIPR or PRCA. Why is this?

Why is public relations the business that seemingly refuses to learn?

Is it an issue of regulation? We’ve a low, or no, barrier to entry, and public relations pays relatively well. What’s the impetus for learning and continuous improvement?

What would best practice look like?

What kind of relationship should academics, teachers and practitioner have with each other? Are there any other related professional disciplines that have got this right?

Two way street

I'm going ask panellists and the audience to share examples of where theory has helped inform practice and vice versa. What are your standout theories or examples of public relations in practice?

Where do we need help?

What are the big issues in public relations that academic colleagues could help us address? Where do academic colleagues think they could add the biggest value to professional practice?

Practical ways forward

Finally I’m keen to explore some practical ways in which academics, practitioners and teachers could work together. I ran a workshop on this topic at BledCom last year. Outcomes included events such as this, awards, conferences, exchanges and share media.

Please get involved

If you’ve any other topics you’d like us to cover please leave a comment. I’m keen to involve as many questions and viewpoints as possible.

In fact I hope you’ll come along and join us. The 2018 President of the CIPR has promised to show up.

Please email Mary Davoudi at the PRCA if you’re interested in attending. Alternatively you can follow the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #PRCAdebate.

Event summary

6pm, Wednesday 15 February PRCA Industry vs. Academics Debate FleishmanHillard Fishburn (FHF) at Bankside 3, Southwark Street, London, SE1 0SW

Public relations dissertation topics

Public relations dissertation topics

Mental resilience against the newsfeed

Mental resilience against the newsfeed