"Ya Say Ya Wanna Revolution?"

Monday, June 5, 2006 | comments

This recent question by a PR student named "Lindsey" was too wrenching to let fester in the Comments section of a months-old post about "Fixing PR Undergrad Programs." The topic seems relevant all-over-again, with the increased industry-wide interest in "PR 2.o" themes. (Lindsey's comment has been edited for length):
"Maybe I am inexperienced and naive, but why can’t (your ideas) be implemented? As an undergrad majoring in PR, I am completely terrified that while the school’s reputation might add some attractiveness to my resume, my real-world skills will be terribly lacking. Internships only tend to reinforce the concepts that PR intro classes teach (like how to write a press release), but they fall short in terms of providing a meaningful connection with the professional world as a whole.

"So I’m stumped. If I can’t receive much significant in the way of actual, workable knowledge in undergrad, grad school, or internships, then it follows that the people providing the jobs should help cultivate me.

"If the PR firms and departments are dissatisfied with the pseudo-educated graduates flocking in for interviews, why don’t they have a right to work closely with colleges and universities? Why is this such a utopian idea, Todd?"
Wow. (Umm, Lindsay - call me 1st, upon graduation! Your thoughtfulness and sincerity light up your comment.)

To address the core question: "Why don't PR firms work closely with universities to ensure that their graduates are up-to-speed on both core skillsets and forward-looking social media concepts?" --- I think it's a combination of factors:
  • PR pros at-work in the industry are too dang busy to give the educators any assistance.
  • PR educators --- in the past, anyway --- were happy to ensconce themselves in the "ivory tower." They did not bother to reach out to agency employers.
  • It was easy for both educator and employer to ignore one another because it was "good enough" for agencies to get raw recruits who had at least demonstrated a legitimate commitment to the trade.
It's starting to change, though. I was encouraged when Boston University's Professor Edward Downes, of the prestigious College of Communication, started to teach our Social Media Press Release to his students. I am encouraged by Auburn University's Forward blog and by the work of Robert French, also at Auburn, who plans to "have (his) students create samples (of a Social Media release) in a wiki over the coming weeks."

Mostly, I am encouraged by y-o-u, Lindsey. You give a shit. That counts for something. And in all likelihood, the "MySpace Generation" needn't worry much about "grokking" the Social Media phenomenon --- YOU will push US (both employers & educators).

This is how revolutions are born --- through the student population.
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