October 11, 2012
If there’s ever a lull in a client or colleague meeting, then ask the question: “Who believes in the value of PR continuing education?”
Depending on the group members’ backgrounds and demographics, you likely will hear two replies. Younger practitioners will support it since they see value in advanced degrees, certificates and online PR content. More senior-level practitioners likely will question its value and vote for work experience and business instincts.
Why the difference?
As a result of the 24/7 global news cycle and the effects of social media, career-oriented younger practitioners believe that they must understand and apply the latest technologies and PR theories, research, objectives, strategies, tactics and measurement to succeed and to best serve their clients or employers. They are familiar with technologies that give them instant access to what they need or want to know and to lessons learned from PR successes or crises.
Veteran practitioners think that they already know the basics and suspect that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Basic PR knowledge and techniques apply regardless of the technology.
The two groups might be closer to agreeing than they think.
PR continuing education today exists in many forms and presents ample opportunities to advance practitioners’ careers at any age and level and to enhance the profession through effective and transparent practices. From popular culture to traditional on-site graduate and certificate courses and conferences; to webinars and tuition-based or free online degree programs or courses; and to social media conversations and collaborations, continuing education in public relations surrounds us.
Traditional PR continuing education programs are thriving. For example, the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU SCPS) on-site Master’s Degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communication program has record enrollments of students from the United States and abroad, including Fulbright scholars and Phi Beta Kappa members.
To offer continuing education students a life-work-education balance, many colleges and universities now make degree, certificate and noncredit courses available online — even as downloads to smartphones and tablets. Business schools now see the value to their students and to enterprises of strategic communication and reputation management.
The need for PR continuing education is clear. At least one student each semester in my NYU graduate courses asks me, “Why do these people [clients or employers] keep making the same public relations mistakes when they know the consequences?”
Do they? Or do they think this time it will be different?
Clients and employers who are not learning life’s PR lessons — and perhaps not heeding counselors — account for the profession’s growth.
Practitioners must pursue lifelong PR continuing education to provide effective counsel in today’s dynamic 24/7 communication world. With one or more of these credentials, practitioners won’t be just a face in the PR crowd.
PRSA launched its University Partners program in 2011. With the NYU SCPS graduate PR program as the charter member, the collaboration has grown to include eight other communication programs, each with its unique approach to continuing education from executive management to integrated marketing communications.
PRSA’s 2012 continuing education initiative includes selecting five leading U.S. business schools to join a pilot program to enhance strategic communication and reputation management education of M.B.A. candidates. The schools have shown a commitment to teaching public relations’ strategic value at the MBA level and also offer or have offered PR coursework.
The “Learning” section of PRSA’s site also provides extensive continuing education opportunities from webinars to in-person training sessions. Whether you are new to the profession or a senior-level practitioner, one of the many forms of continuing education available today will benefit your clients and your career.
NYU is a PRSA university partner.