Just enough education to perform

The Leeds Mashable meetup (narcissistic plug) threw up all kinds of debate on issues within the marketing communications industry. One which struck me the most was the notion of Social Media being taught on PR degrees.

I don’t think it should or even needs to be. Firstly here’s the disclaimer:

My knowledge of PR degrees is limited; I opted to read English at university. I came close, very close to doing a PR degree; in fact I even wrote my personal statement geared around the fact I wanted to study public relations.

Why didn’t I go on to study PR?

The MD, and PR director of an advertising agency told me PR degrees were the mickiest of mickey mouse academically vacuous. That wasn’t the full reason I went on to do English; the resonating message from these same people was to nurture what you were good at and what you enjoyed and with focus and drive; everything else should fall into place.

So if this post seems ignorant in any way to the content of PR degrees; that’s why.

The debate of whether social media should be taught academically on PR courses has more legs than the human centipede so I think I could probably write a book on it. Firstly, it questions the ownership of social media; if it’s taught on a PR course shouldn’t it be taught on Marketing, Business, Business Management, Web programming, sociology, psychology etc etc courses?

Maybe it should.

However the altruistic nature of social media means it is more practical to PR than any other discipline. Why? Because social media activity and public relations are built on akin fundamentals; they are both about the building and forming of relationships. Social media merely facilitates this on a mercurially mass scale through technology. So, because of their inherent characteristics; there aint really a need to ‘teach’ social media on PR courses.

But hey, wait… why not add the technology itself or social media strategy to the syllabus?

Good point. Or not. It doesn’t take much to familiarise ones self with the plethora of social networks out there; most young people are probably already on them, after all there’s over 314 million people using social networks worldwide. Their simplicity and exaggeration of innate human qualities is testament to the mass user-ship; if you have be taught how to ‘use’ social technology you probably shouldn’t be at University.

And onto strategy; I believe to be a successful strategist you must be creative, adaptable, aware and have the ability to think both rationally and logically. I think these skills, attributes, whatever you want to call them; can be cultivated on any academic course.

I do think that public relations education could benefit from a theoretical re-vamp; out with Grunig and Hunt and advertising value equivalents and in with sentiment analysis, the separation of human behaviour, epidemic models for viral marketing and SEO specific content.

Then again, all these things could probably be weaved into a social media module…

Sod it, who knows!

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2 thoughts on “Just enough education to perform

  1. Great post Anthony. But, as we both chose to start with an English Literature degree then move onto PR after, I’m not surprised we’d have very similar views!

    I agree that social media shouldn’t need to be taught, especially in terms of here’s how to use a blog, here’s how to comment, here’s how to talk to people online, etc – which is what the social media option modules I’ve come across were full of.

    This kind of monkey see monkey do teaching technique is what gives these courses (which are geared up to a particular profession) the negative connotations that you write about – that it’s a mickey mouse course, etc.

    But, I’m sure plenty of courses will suddenly be crammed full of social media modules, which in turn will probably sacrifice some of the important theory that’s so essential to making PR stand on its own as a profession – and not just being considered a fluffy element of the comms mix.

    • Cheers Becca! I think a lot of students are quick to point the finger at their University and courses for not giving them what they want; this is somewhat fair because of the extortionate tuition fees.

      However many students expect to be spoon fed, and that they will come out of Uni fully prepped for an ‘adult job’. I don’t think it works like that; a certain amount of intuition is needed as well as the ethic to push boundaries and enrich learning outside of the course. If students aren’t prepared to do that then surely there’s no point being at University… but it is a leggy debate!

      Hope the new job is going well 🙂

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