Student PR experience

12 Sep

The most impressive thing about the University of Central Lancashire’s student-run PR consultancy, UK Progress, has been the column inches it has gained in The Guardian and PR Week over several weeks.

Because my first thought was that the bridging of academic and practice elements in a PR degree course is hardly new. (Our students begin the process of finding clients and developing a portfolio of real work after their first week).

My second thoughts are more difficult to express. They pursue the main argument against payment-by-results: that it encourages consultants and clients to follow short-term strategies. ‘I can get you in the press, but it may not be in your best interests, and may involve me duping a journalist’. I hope UK Progress will be better managed, and will pass on knowledge and clients from one year to the next.

3 Responses to “Student PR experience”

  1. Eric Koper 28/10/2003 at 5:23 pm #

    At UCLan we incorporate real life practice from year one. The strategic advice and editorial products that are covered by the UKProgress experience is aimed at final year students who we believe are capable of doing a professional job under guidance.
    The income generated goes straight back into the student experience. They operate from a well equiped office with portable computers, telephones, color laserprinter, indeed a coffee machine with free coffee and tea. They also get travel expenses, stamped envelopes, business cards, and most importantly on demand education for areas that require extra tailored expertise such as finance, corporate communication, consulting skills, office and staff management, quark express, web-design, and logical framework planning by staff within the division of applied communication, the business school and outside experts.
    People familiar with our courses such as Alan Rawel of the IPR know that we’re involved in innovative approaches, and the comment regarding “column inches” is quite derogative and demonstrates a lack of understanding of our determination to educate our students in strategic public relations rather than only train them in tactical solutions.
    Finalists used to create proper strategic plans in the last couple of years for real clients without payment. We think that the payment helps clients to be even more demanding, which will keep our student consultants on their toes.
    We don’t measure results in column inches nor is the strategic planning exercise aimed at this. The projects focus on organisational positioning, problem/solution analysis with objectives and indicators related to an organisation’s overall strategic position and objectives. We’re complimented by people such as Prof Jon White and Dr Jacquie L’Etang for our high quality approaches and strategic content offerings at both under- and postgraduate levels
    I’m surprised to note that LMU staff make those observations without knowing the excellent quality of those projects. It would be best to visit us and have a look rather than critising something that indeed might be innovative and competitive in the HE sector. Speak to our student consultants and see how professional they are and how they enjoy the experience.
    We’re confident that our graduates contributes to a better more strategic public relations practice.

  2. Paul Elmer 28/10/2003 at 7:22 pm #

    From the outset, I believed that UK Progress would stand or fall on two key factors; on the quality of the projects, and on the quality of the student learning and achievement.
    On the first count I have rejected any project that did genuinely challenge both UK Progress and our clients – no column inches for us, thanks. On the second, we simply have no case to answer. Our academic base is more secure than at any time in recent memory, and now the S3 consultants are experiencing additional interest from future employers, from clients seeking repeat work, and from potential students seeking to swap from other institutions.
    The experience is not an easy one, and is perhaps rather more complex in its pedagogical requirements, both of staff and students, than Richard has appreciated from scanning the trade press. It is, however, proving to be as rewarding as it is demanding, and as exciting as it is innovative.
    Paul Elmer
    Managing director, UK Progress

  3. Stephanie Ferguson 29/10/2003 at 4:40 pm #

    Do I detect a whiff of sour grapes in the comments made by Richard Bailey? As a working journalist ( not easily duped) and a PR consultant ( not one to do any duping) I can assure him that UK PRogress is in capable hands.
    Of course our students work for real clients in year one as well. Only they offer their services free. The difference is that our third years are working in a real, paid-for environment and running a commercial business.
    It works brilliantly well in Utrecht and we hope it will be just as successful here.
    If Paul Elmer, also a journalist and PR practitioner, has managed to generate positive coverage then surely that’s a good thing? Are you telling me that you would not have blown your own trumpet if you were doing this in Leeds?
    Why so negative? Seconds out, round two….
    Stephanie Ferguson
    Creative Director
    UK PRogress
    University of Central Lancashire

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