We’re about to welcome many new students onto our various courses, and one of our key tasks will be to shape their understanding of public relations as distinct from journalism, advertising, human resources and the many other disciplines it sometimes overlaps with and can be confused with.
First, event management. (For the sake of brevity, I’ve no intention of providing a reasoned and balanced view: this is a partial account based on personal experience.)
Event management skills and experience are useful in public relations: especially the ability to conceive and manage an event involving customers, media, staff or other stakeholders. But these skills are probably less useful today than they were 20 years ago because of the rise of technology and the expense of face-to-face meetings.
In brief, here’s the key difference in the disciplines. Public relations practitioners deal in ideas (shaping them, communicating them, persuading others of them); event managers deal in the practicalities of project plans (risks, costs, deadlines, dealing with suppliers). The two skills (ideas; planning) tend in my experience to be opposites. (I can only think of one colleague I’ve ever worked with who had equally strong skills in writing and in project management.)
Certain industry sectors are still very event-driven (eg motor industry launches; travel and tourism; fashion) but in general events are not an everyday occurrence in public relations (don’t believe the TV myth of celebrity parties). And not all events are media events.
Some students on my course will regret their choice and seek to move to event management (which they can also study at this university). I’m happy if this is their choice, though I also think there are great opportunites for public relations graduates in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.