I started in this teaching job a year ago today. So here’s my report (on myself and my role).
I enjoy teaching, and can bring some real world expertise to help students devise, plan and execute communications campaigns. Several students have written articles (and letters, see below) for publication as a result of my encouragement. So far, so good.
But we are judged not only on our success with the students we teach, but also by the dropout rate from the course.
Students have left the course, they tell me, because they are frightened of the debt. Understandable. They have left the course because it’s too demanding, intellectually. While disappointing, I can’t apologise for this – because I’ve yet to meet a PR practitioner whose job was dull and unchallenging. Another student has found the PR course ‘vague’ compared to the teaching of marketing or business studies. Possibly true, but again I find our position justifiable.
There is frequent criticism, voiced in PR Week and elsewhere, of the value of PR degrees. But the students I have been visiting on work placements have been receiving fulsome praise from their managers. In some cases, they have been stepping into more senior roles within a year because of the attrition of more senior managers around them.
But the most notable thing I’ve learnt in the last year has been the high demand from school leavers, postgraduates and PR practitioners to gain recognised qualifications in this discipline. The premise behind this demand is that there will be a desirable outcome (in terms of jobs and careers). While there’s nothing I can do to ensure that the economy will meet their aspirations in five or ten years’ time, there’s everything we can do to ensure that public relations practice continues its progress towards professionalism.
Today’s students assume that today’s practitioners will already have resolved these matters. They assume we know what we’re doing; that we can stand tall alongside HR and marketing directors; that we care about the reputation of PR.
So, do you know what you’re doing? Are you confident in your role within your organisation? Do you care about the wider profession?
Are you being honest?
The UK’s Institute of Public Relations has a president (Anne Gregory) whose mission is to champion our professionalism and professionalisation. These are questions that many existing practitioners turn their backs on – but which we need to deal with for the sake of the next generation of aspiring practitioners.