In our society nowadays, there are a lot of people believe that when it comes to professionalism, “it is not what you know but who you know that counts” (Telegraph, 2013). Some surveys actually have been done and given out a result of a majority of people agree with the statement (BBC, 2013). It seems that Public Relations (PR) is no exception.
When debating about whether or not PR Degrees are a must-have to any PR practitioners, it is not necessary to eliminate the positive role of education in helping any PR practitioner build their knowledge on this field per se. The term “PR degrees are a waste of time” here implies that “getting a diploma on PR from universities might mean that whoever has that “degree” can be called a PR practitioner, but it is not a guarantee for whether he/she could actively work as a PR practitioner or not. He/she needs to know who to contact to get his/her job done while what he/she knows is not enough.” This is quite a true implication, especially in this period of time.
Firstly, when talking about education, it is easy to notice that there are changes in the core academic books on PR (newer versions, up-to-date journals are being published) but they still more or less follow the main idea about PR that was set out by the “legends” in the industry like Bernays, Grunig, L’Etang…and we still can apply the things they’ve written years ago into practices. The fact that we still apply the communication models by Grunig in 1984, or talking about five important considerations in the PR process, which were mentioned in a conference of PR in Mexico in 1978 (Baines, Egan, Jefkins, 2003), have shown some examples that the concept of PR has not changed much. Knowledge about PR could be found in all the books on PR, so the PR practitioner might more or less be able to learn it through without having to apply for one academic course in Universities to get some degrees on it. Moreover, when someone tends to have a job in PR, he/she could apply for the courses designed by many online/offline PR institutes or organizations such as CIPR or PRCA in order to learn PR skills through webinars or training sessions, which in the end, will not issue them a degree on PR, but provide them with the knowledge on this field.
Secondly, on the websites of PR organizations such as PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) or PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America), there are a lot of conferences, events that are hosted monthly to let their members “meet up and share insights in a relaxed environment” (PRCA, 2016), or connect with other members, develop your professional skills and expand your network” (PRSSA, 2016). PRCA even has something called “monthly cocktail” in order to help their members meet up and exchange knowledge and build their own networks. By hosting those events casually, these organizations have shown that networking is crucial to building a career in PR. They have shown that networking plays a really important role in building any PR practitioner’s career, and it is the event like this, like what they’re hosting, is an opportunity for the PR practitioners spread their contact lists.
In summary, it is good to have a higher education in PR, but when it comes to professionalism, it is not just simple as applying all knowledge into practices. In order to fulfill the tasks, PR practitioners have to know who they are going to meet with, who they are going to persuade first, then decide which is the best way to make it successful. Baines, Egan and Jefkins also wrote in their book that: “it is a mistake to send any story to every possible publication in the vague hope that it may get published. Rather, the fewest necessary publishable stories are sent to only those publications most likely to print them” (2003, p163a) and “the finest news release is useless if it is sent to the wrong media” (2003, 183b). So, “who to go for” needs to be considered first. It’s the “Relations” with Public that count, not the Degrees. I think that is why it is called Public Relations, not Public Knowledge.
BBC (2013). ‘Who you know’ counts, survey says. BBC UK Politics, 24 June. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23019808 [Accessed 3 March 2016].
Baines, P., Egan, J. and Jefkins, F. (2003). Public relations: Contemporary issues and techniques. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heineman.
Bingham, J. (2013). It’s still ‘who you know not what you know that matters’, say two-thirds of Britons. The Telegraph, 24 June. Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10137928/Its-still-who-you-know-not-what-you-know-that-matters-say-two-thirds-of-Britons.html [Accessed 3 March 2016].
PRCA (2011). Member events – monthly member drinks – April. Available from http://www.prca.org.uk/april-member-drinks [Accessed 3 March 2016].
PRSSA: PR student national and local networking events (2015). Available from http://prssa.prsa.org/events/ [Accessed 3 March 2016].
Ragan Communications (2014). Why the press release is not dead . YouTube. YouTube. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_is-t3jarzQ [Accessed 2 March 2016].
Tench, R. and Yeomans, L. (2006). Exploring public relations, 3rd ed. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
What is PR? (2015). Available from http://www.cipr.co.uk/content/careers-advice/what-pr [Accessed 2 March 2016].
http://www.cipr.co.uk/calendar/agenda [Accessed 4 March 2016].