First thing, I’m not an objective commentator as I’m paid to teach on large public relations programmes. Second thing, degree level education is about providing the tools to help people work things out for themselves. And Richard’s certainly smart enough to make the best choice (judging him purely on his presence on PR blogs). But what do I really think? Some of the following points are contradictory, but I believe them all…
- The public relations sector still has a skills shortage, and good people continue to progress very quickly. This includes PR graduates, but doesn’t exclude others with talent and energy.
- Degree education is still primarily about thinking and only secondarily about skills. Charles Handy, in his memoirs, quotes Scottish philanthropist Tom Hunter saying ‘I Do works better than IQ’. Handy adds: ‘experience without reflection, however, doesn’t help either.’ (Handy himself studied Greek and Latin – ‘Greats’ – at Oxford as a prelude to a successful life in management education.)
- Lessons and experience should be tied together. I’m not embarrassed to state that the best part of our degree course is the year our students spend away from the classroom on work placements. (I follow some of their careers in my occasional contributions to Forward.)
- Public relations is not a pure discipline. It’s an applied subject drawing on many others (social psychology, philosophy, media studies etc). Public relations depends on its organisational context so it’s up to you to choose your sector and interpret the lessons within this context.
- You don’t need to be an academic to succeed in public relations, but I’ve noticed that there are many intellectuals amongst senior practitioners. (Read Neville and David, for example.) Education doesn’t stop when you receive your degree certificate: that’s when it really begins. You need to keep reading, well beyond the textbooks.