Posts Tagged ‘PR education

Recently, I undertook research with Dr Chindu Sreedharan, for the Institute of Public Relations on the skills and training needs of future senior communicators. It was a study amongst top corporate and consultancy communicators in Europe and North America to identify the skills future leaders needed, and training and education to prepare them. A video of my presentation of the report was recently made for the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

One of the key comments that framed the study came from a top European corporate communicator: “It’s no longer sufficient to have a communications background only. Senior communicators need to understand business environment and management styles to be seen as trusted advisors.”

This view that top-level communicators had to understand all the operations of a major organisation was widespread and pointed towards practice developments and education that focus on strategy development and the integration of communication objectives with organisational objectives and KPIs.  The report had three groups of conclusions for early implementation:


  • Communication strategy must be linked to or part of business strategy
  • Communicators should understand the whole business environment, not just media and communication
  • Operational experience needed; They need to speak language of the business

 Training and Education

  • Key subjects are business strategy, financial literacy, economics, public affairs and public diplomacy, and relationship management
  • Stronger focus is needed on research and business analysis skills

 Proof of Performance

  • The ability to interpret and apply the most appropriate research methods is more important than technical measurement skills
  • Evaluation frameworks need to be developed for judgement on organisational impact, not clip measurement
  • Planning skills need improvement

 The full report is available at:


In a cross between crowd-sourcing and Eurovision voting, the 100+ delegates at the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon voted for five draft statements of needs that may end up in the Measurement Agenda 2020.

This will be the next stage of international policy development in PR measurement and evaluation, following on from the seven Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles agreed last year.

The statements are:

  • Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement;
  • Identify how to measure the Return on Investment of PR [a crowd source suggestion];
  • Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit;
  • Institute a client education program such as clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs;
  • Define approaches that show how corporate reputation builds/creates value.

The statements will go to conference delegates in mid-July for further comment. They were chosen from statements prepared from responses to an informal survey of delegates and other practitioners undertaken in recent weeks.  The wide range of academic research on PR measurement wasn’t taken into account.

This seems to be a less-than-robust method of data collection for policy-making when, for instance, a Delphi study amongst leading practitioners could have developed the propositions with greater certainty of future application.  Perhaps Barcelona Principle 7: “Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement “, should have been kept in mind.

Is there a specific “PR personality”? I don’t think there is and the issue is debated in the latest PR Moment  in Are you a natural at PR? It also features research from Bournemouth University BA Public Relations student, Shannon Bailey.

– Leading historians will set the scene

 Two leading historians of public relations – Dr Karen Miller Russell and Dr Jacquie L’Etang – will be the keynote speakers at the First International History of Public relations Conference (IHPRC) to be held at Bournemouth University on July 8-9, 2010.

Karen Russell will make the opening address to the conference on Thursday, July 8. Her topic will be “Embracing the Embarrassing,” a discussion of propaganda and press agentry as legitimate, if sometimes unethical and embarrassing, aspects of public relations history.

Dr Russell is an associate professor at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in the University of Georgia where she teaches public relations and media history. She is the author of The Voice of Business: Hill & Knowlton and Postwar Public Relations (University of North Carolina Press, 1999) and has published research on public relations and media history in Journalism and Communication Monographs, Public Relations Review, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Business History Review, and the Journal of Public Relations Research.

Dr Russell is currently the editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research and has made more than 25 refereed paper presentations on public relations at major business and journalism history conferences.

Dr Jacquie L’Etang will be the keynote speaker at the start of the second day of IHPRC on Friday, June 9. Her topic will be “Thinking about PR History”. She is Senior Lecturer in the Film, Media & Journalism department at the University of Stirling and a member of the Stirling Media Research Institute.

Dr L’Etang is the author of Public Relations in Britain: a history of professional practice (LEA, 2004) which was the first comprehensive study into the development of the PR industry in the United Kingdom. It was based on extensive documentary research in the archives of the History of Advertising Trust and oral history interviews with nearly 70 practitioners from the 1940s and 1950s.

Other titles include Public Relations: theory, practice and critique (Sage, 2008), which is being translated into Croatian, Czech and Spanish. She is co-editor and co-author of Public Relations: critical debates and contemporary practice (LEA, 2006) and Critical Perspectives in Public Relations (ITBP, 1996). She is currently writing Sports public relations: concepts, issues, practice and critique (Sage).

Dr L’Etang has also published around 40 articles and book chapters (largely individually authored) on research topics including anthropology, corporate social responsibility, ethics of communication, propaganda, public diplomacy, rhetoric, sport and tourism.

Further information about IHPRC can be found at

I have just started a research project for the Institute for Public Relations, sponsored by Coca-Cola, on the skills and competencies needed for senior corporate communicators and PR advisors, looking five to 10 years ahead.

Here’s the URL to the Institute for Public Relations website on which I discuss current communication scenarios and the future needs for developing top communicators. What’s your view on this?

The First International History of Public Relations Conference is to be held at Bournemouth University in England on July 8 and 9, 2010. The Conference was announced recently and already has had very positive indications that people and papers will be coming from afar afield as Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Germany, North America and the UK.

The Call for Papers  (below) is now being distributed and it offers a very wide range of PR history themes and the opportunities to present Research Papers, Working Papers and Posters.



 8-9 July 2010

Centre for Public Communication Research (CPCR)

The Media School, Bournemouth University

Poole, England

Academics, practitioners and research students are invited to submit competitive abstracts and papers for presentation at The First International History of Public Relations Conference.

This conference will be the first international opportunity for academic researchers, historians, interested practitioners and research students to meet, present papers and discuss this emerging area of research.

Full Papers – 3000 to 6000 words

Working Papers – 1500 to 3000 words


Papers and posters for presentation at the conference will be selected, after peer review, on the basis of abstracts, of no more than a single page length. Author details must be printed on a separate sheet and the author(s) should not be identified in the abstract.

Manuscripts of the selected papers are to be submitted using Harvard referencing and according to the Journal of Communication Management editorial style found at: . The manuscript should be in MS WORD format, in 1.5 line spacing and 12 point font size.


Submission of abstracts: December 7, 2009

Acceptance notification (by email): January 18, 2010

Submission of selected papers: April 26, 2010

All accepted abstracts will be published in the conference programme, which will be available online. A selection of full papers will be published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Communication Management in late 2010.

Conference Themes

As this is the first international conference on the History of Public Relations, the range of conference themes is wide and those listed below are the starting point for consideration, rather than a finite list.

  • Public relations in history before it became a named or defined discipline
  • Alternative approaches to the history of public relations, e.g. on the basis of culture (personal networks and influence) or via definitions of public relations
  • The evolving naming of the field from propaganda and press agentry to corporate communications
  • The history of public relations and its developing or diverging relationships with other disciplines like marketing, HR, legal and corporate governance
  • The evolution of public relations in nations or parts of government or industry
  • Seminal personalities or events that shaped the formation of public relations as a discipline (This can also include challenges to the “Great Man” or “Great Woman” approach)
  • Key books or articles (or series of both) that have influenced public relations
  • The history of political public relations and lobbying
  • The history of public relations education
  • The evolution of public relations theory(ies) over time – from propaganda to dialogue; the history of schools of thinking in public relations
  • Formative influences on public relations theory and practice, such as in or by government, industry or consultancy
  • The formation of industry and professional bodies and their impact, over time, on public relations practice and education
  • The evolution of public relations education, training and continuing professional development
  • The impact of technology, over time, upon public relations practice and theory
  • Archival sources for the history of public relations
  • The theories and processes of researching the history of public relations
  • Oral histories of public relations; the role of this methodology

Please send abstracts to Dr Tom Watson, Conference Chair, The Media School, Bournemouth University, email:

One of the early speeches at IPRA Congress in Beijing was from industry doyen, Harold Burson, President of Burson Marsteller, who called for changes in PR education, away from a highly industry focused model to a more generalised education. Here are some of key paragraphs from his call for a deeper and more focused educational preparation for young people entering careers in public relations.


“My starting point would be to recognize public relations as an applied social science with a vast body of behavioural, cultural and motivational knowledge on which to draw. The curriculum should include basic courses in behavioural psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, history, economics and politics. There should be greater emphasis on writing than is now the case. Graduates should have a sense of the role of public relations in society and some historical underpinning on the evolution of public relations as a management function.


“In addition to adding courses in social sciences, I would devote a full year to one of four to five years of employment specialisation. In fact, one large American university has done just that for 10 years or more. Students choose among business, technology, health care and government (public affairs) as part of their public relations curriculum, devoting a full school year to that one area of specialisation.


“Increasingly, I find that employers (including our own company) are seeking from job applicants a knowledge base that is in addition to public relations experience. Increasingly corporate employers want its public relations people to know what business is all about. Information technology employers and agencies want their public relations people to know what’s in the back box. Health care companies seek employees with hospital experience or who know how pharmaceuticals are marketed or what the regulatory agencies which oversee their business are all about.”


What Harold Burson says is at variance from industry feedback in the UK which has a strong emphasis on employability skills. Indeed, I have had at least one international consultancy CEO (from one of BM’s main competitors) say to me that PR graduates need ‘de-programming’ on theory and ethics when they start their first jobs. There are also important differences between the structure of US programmes and PR degrees in other countries. In the US, students study for four years with a predominantly liberal arts framework at the outset of their studies with PR coming later. In the UK (and many other countries), PR degree programmes are usually of three year duration with PR taught from the first weeks, although business and political units accompany them.


I’d be interested in your comments.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 18 other followers



Subscribe in NewsGator Online


Tom Watson

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.