Monday, April 24, 2006

The education of PR students

This is a simple question. What should the academic institutions offer to aid the Public Relations industry including undergraduate and post graduate as well as practitioner students when it comes to new media?

The Department of communications and journalism at Auburn University is a great enterprise and Philip Young at Sunderland has a considerable capability.

They are teaching skill sets that anyone who is going to be serious in communication needs to know.

But for a university, teaching skills is one thing, teaching the principle is a completely different.

The skills will come and go. Usenet is unheard of today in the post blogging era and the discussion about the demise of email\last week was a similar pointer.

To help practitioners today and tomorrow, we have to look ahead to see what underlies these drivers in communication and technologies.

Do we teach the technicalities, the components of HTML, XML and the finer points of how RSS works?

Should we focus on the the convergence of new communications tools and their relevance to communication or relationship building?

Transparency is changing the way organisations conduct business. It is profoundly changing management practices. The mashup of management demands active involvement to embrace the human forcefields of change. Should we cover such new fundamentals in the academies?

Alternatively, is the role of academia to point to the effects of these new and many channels for communication as they change the way people and organisations interact; how this changes the public and private institutions. Do we demonstrate the immense impact this is having and will continue to have as widespread, multi-channel global and always on ICT changes the international economy and its cultures.

Compare this decade with the 1990's. The web was new, email was new, Windows operating system was new and cell phones, blogs, wikis, VoIP and MP3 have now all arrived. Nearly all of them were not in common use even ten years ago. The young professional of 2010-19 will need skills in use an application of so many channels for communication. Some available now, many available in the future.

But, compared to the last decade, will practitioner need to be able to make sense of the revolution more than making the tools work? And if we do, is the commercial world, the public sector or the culture we bring these ideas to, able to cope with such concepts?.

And, as a parting shot – how should it all be taught?