2006 Report Of The Commission On Public Relations Education


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2006 Report Of The Commission On Public Relations Education

  1. 1. Public Relations Education for the 21st Century The Professional Bond Education Public Relations The Practice The Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education www.commpred.org November 2006
  2. 2. Public Relations Education for the 21st Century The Professional Bond Education Public Relations The Practice The Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education www.commpred.org November 2006 Edited by Judy VanSlyke Turk, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA Director, School of Mass Communications Virginia Commonwealth University
  3. 3. The Professional Bond — Public Relations Education and the Practice Table of Contents 4 Acknowledgements 5 Executive Summary 11 Preface 13 Introduction 19 Research 21 Ethics 27 Diversity 31 Communication Technology 35 Global Implications 41 Undergraduate Education 51 Graduate Education 57 Supervised Experience 63 Distance Learning 67 Governance and Academic Support 71 Faculty Credentials 75 Professional and Pre-Professional Organizations 79 Professional Certification and Accreditation 85 A Call to Action 91 Members of the 2006 Commission 3
  4. 4. Acknowledgements The Commission on Public Relations Education gratefully acknowledges the valuable support for its 2006 report from the following: Funding Institute for Public Relations Public Relations Society of America Foundation Scripps Howard Foundation Report Research and Development University of Florida University of Maryland University of Miami Valparaiso University Virginia Commonwealth University Staff Support Public Relations Society of America The Commission is also grateful to its active members— those individual educators and practitioners who have played a central role in producing this report, thereby help- ing to strengthen the bond between public relations educa- tion and the practice. 4 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  5. 5. The Professional Bond— Public Relations Education and the Practice Executive Summary This report, like earlier reports of the Commission on Public Relations Education, presents recommendations for public relations undergradu- ate and graduate education. But beyond this traditional purpose, “The containing seventeen sections that are most rel- Professional Bond” report has also been devel- evant to his or her interests. The complete re- oped to demonstrate, facilitate and encourage the port is available in both “hard copy” format kind of linking of public relations education and and on the Commission on Public Relations practice that is the hallmark of any profession. Education website at www.commpred.org There is much to be done—by every public re- Selected highlights of the report follow. lations constituency—to complete this bonding. So, to emphasize the importance of this mis- Research for the Report sion, the Commission has prepared the special Based on five “waves” of research, the section, “A Call to Action,” as the conclusion of Commission concludes that there is substantial the report. agreement between educators and practitioners on what a public relations undergraduate stu- “The Professional Bond” report is not meant to dent should learn, and therefore be able to per- be prescriptive. Its recommendations are pre- form at the practitioner entry level. sented as objectives for excellence as identified by a cadre of distinguished educators and prac- Needed at this level: writing skills; critical titioners. And, developed in North America, it thinking and problem-solving skills; “a good at- is simply a point of reference for the develop- titude”; an ability to communicate publicly; ment of public relations education in other and initiative. parts of the world. There also was agreement that a public rela- Because it is so ambitious, the report is, neces- tions education should include an internship, sarily, lengthy. This summary is presented as a practicum or some other work experience in stimulant to the reader to partake of the entire the field. report or, at a minimum, to select those topics from among the report’s four basic categories The research also found considerable support 5
  6. 6. Executive Summary for interdisciplinary study in subjects such as Global Implications management and behavioral science. “Public relations is now arguably becoming a global profession in an increasingly connected Public Relations Ethics world where mutual understanding and harmony are more important than ever,” the report states. In addition to noting that professional ethics is largely predicated on the personal ethics of In recognizing that public relations varies, un- everyone in the public relations professional derstandably, with the society in which it is community, the Commission emphasizes that: practiced, the Commission in this section pres- ents seven levels of analysis to profile public re- ◆A consideration of ethics should pervade all lations education and practice in various parts content of public relations professional educa- of the world. tion. These levels of analysis are: cultural values and ◆ If a curriculum cannot accommodate a dedi- beliefs; laws and public policies; external cated ethics course, short one-hour courses or groups, organizations and associations; institu- mini seminars can provide a meaningful tional factors in the academic setting; interna- ethics forum for undergraduates. tional exchange programs; inter-personal factors within an institution; and intra-personal Diversity factors among students and educators. “Successful managers of organizations now rec- ognize that a diverse workforce—recruited, Undergraduate Education trained and retained—can deliver valuable in- “Undergraduate public relations education has sights and performance,” the report states. been shifting and repositioning itself in step This section presents an in-depth treatment of with the practice of public relations… When defining diversity, identifying its major ele- practitioners aid organizations in developing ments essential to public relations education mutually beneficial relationships among diverse and how, in the practice, public relations can publics, organizations thrive,” the report states. advance diversity in society. Therefore the Commission recommends more emphasis on ethics and transparency, new Communication Technology technology, integration of messages and tools, “Public relations educators must ensure that interdisciplinary problem solving, diversity, their students are prepared not only to be profi- global perspectives and research and results cient in the use of the most recent communica- measurement. tion technology, but also to understand and This section identifies a broad spectrum of appreciate the societal ramifications of its use. knowledge and skills that should be taught in Educators also must use this technology to the undergraduate public relations curriculum. maximize the effectiveness of their own in- struction,” the report states. Knowledge to be acquired ranges from commu- nication and persuasion concepts and strategies, The Commission therefore recommends that relationships and relationship-building and soci- the latest communication technology used in etal trends to uses of research and forecasting, the public relations practice be integrated into multicultural and global issues and manage- coursework to the extent that institutional re- ment concepts and theories. A similar sampling sources will allow; and that student proficiency of the skills to be attained ranges from mastery with such technology may be achieved largely through internships. of language in written and oral communica- 6 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  7. 7. ◆ Public tions, issues management and audience seg- relations writing and production mentation to informative and persuasive writ- ◆ Supervised work experience in public ing, critical listening skills and applying relations (internship) cross-cultural and cross-gender sensitivity. ◆ An additional public relations course in law The Commission has identified the following and ethics, planning and management, case courses for an “ideal” undergraduate major in studies or campaigns public relations: ◆ Introduction to public relations (including Graduate Education theory, origin and principles) In qualitative research conducted for this re- ◆ Casestudies in public relations that review port, 18 public relations leaders supported sev- the professional practice eral types of graduate public relations programs rather than endorsing the MBA or dismissing ◆ Publicrelations research, measurement and public relations graduate education as unneces- evaluation sary. The Commission’s research suggests that ◆ Public relations law and ethics graduate education should move toward under- standing business, management and public re- ◆ Public relations writing and production lations as strategic management functions. ◆ Public relations planning and management MASTER’S LEVEL ◆ Public relations campaigns The graduate student should master the follow- ◆ Supervised work experience in public rela- ing content areas beyond undergraduate com- tions (internship) petencies: ◆ Directed electives ◆ Public relations theory and concepts “Although some academic programs will find it ◆ Public relations law difficult to offer seven courses devoted entirely ◆ Public relations ethics to public relations, the Commission believes the topics covered in the courses above are essen- ◆ Global public relations tial for a quality public relations education. ◆ Public relations applications While these topics could be combined into courses in different ways, and some of these ◆ Public relations management courses might also address additional topics, a ◆ Public relations research major should offer sufficient courses to address the knowledge and skills identified as neces- ◆ Public relations programming and production sary for success in the field,” the report states. ◆ Public relations publics The report continues: “A minimum of five ◆ Communication processes courses should be required in the public rela- tions major.” An academic emphasis should ◆ Management sciences minimally include the following courses: ◆ Behavioral sciences ◆ Introduction to public relations (including ◆ Internship and practicum experience theory, origin and principles) ◆ Thesis ◆ Public and capstone project and/or relations research, measurement and evaluation comprehensive exam 7 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  8. 8. Executive Summary The Commission also notes courses such as Distance Learning these can be configured in three different mod- Commission research determined that despite els, depending on student intent—doctoral pro- the rapid growth of online education (distance gram, advanced career preparation or a learning) in the United States, no complete un- specialization in public relations. dergraduate public relations online program ap- pears to be available at the time of its research. DOCTORAL LEVEL However, the six universities in the Tennessee The Commission notes that the production of Board of Regents System offer a five-course pub- doctoral graduates has not kept pace with the lic relations sequence (principles, writing, re- need, either in education or in the practice. So search, case problems and campaigns) in their it recommends academic credentials and “in- organizational leadership concentration for an creased partnerships with professionals [practi- online bachelor of professional studies degree. tioners] and professional organizations to help At the graduate level, there is no entirely public educators stay current with the practice of pub- relations program that is totally online. lic relations.” In summary, the Commission suggests that It also recommends “the development of addi- “public relations in the next decade will need to tional doctoral programs where undergraduate include online education in its mix of delivery and master’s degree public relations program methods if it is to keep pace with professional strength and faculties exist” and lists a series of education.” To introduce quality online pro- initiatives to help achieve this outcome. grams, public relations program administrators and faculty must address resources (incentives, Supervised Experience design and development costs), pedagogy and quality assurance. This section provides a valuable checklist of 16 issues to be confronted in developing intern- ships appropriate to the academic institution Governance and Academic Support and its students. In addressing the difficult sub- The placement of academic programs within ject of paid or unpaid internships, the Commis- the administrative structure of universities seri- sion notes that “students almost always select ously affects the ability of such programs in the organizations to which they apply for in- public relations to independently respond and ternships, and organizations offering pay attract adapt to the needs of the public relations pro- the best candidates.” fession. For this and other reasons, the Commission rec- “Too, a dominant influencing factor at an insti- ommends that “sponsoring organizations of all tution of higher education is the degree of out- types—companies, firms, government agencies side funding support provided for, or, in some and nonprofits—pay public relations students cases, state legislative direction in political re- for internships.” sponse to a profession,” the report states. Among its other recommendations: academic The Commission therefore cites two critical credit for internships should be reserved for needs if public relations is to achieve status as a profession with generally accepted education workplace experiences that include an on-site requirements for performance: supervisor knowledgeable in public relations, and organizations should assign student interns ◆ Increased economic influence to supervisors who will routinely and clearly in- ◆ Increased involvement of professionals and struct students and evaluate their performance. 8 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  9. 9. the profession to influence the development dent-managed firms through universities and of public relations education. opportunities for scholarships, awards and other support by organizations such as The This section recommends specific steps that LaGrant Foundation (internships and scholar- will increase responsiveness and accelerate ad- ships for minority students studying public re- vancement as well as intra-institution structural lations), the Council of PR Firms, the Arthur commitments that will strengthen public rela- Page Society and PRWeek magazine. tions programs appreciably. Program Certification and Accreditation Faculty Credentials Many public relations academic programs benefit There is a shortage of qualified public relations by being certified by the Public Relations Society educators, being made more acute by the in- of America (PRSA) and/or accredited by the creasing number of public relations students. Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). This challenge for the profession is com- pounded by the fact that colleges and universi- These programs gain from the extensive self-ex- ties are being pressured by accrediting bodies amination against certification and accredita- to fill faculty positions with Ph.D.s. tion standards of excellence. And they also acquire stature for having met these standards. The Ph.D. degree prepares faculty not only as teachers but also as scholars who conduct re- PRSA Certification examines the public rela- search using multiple methodologies to help tions program exclusively while ACEJMC ac- build theory that adds to the public relations creditation is a “unit” examination, i.e., it body of knowledge. reviews all mass communication programs at the institution, which often include print and “While the Commission believes there is a electronic journalism, advertising and public re- place in the academy for former practitioners lations. with substantial and significant experience, those practitioners may be expected to earn Both programs are voluntary. Each has nine their terminal degrees, i.e., their Ph.D.s, as a standards of review with recent added empha- credential for becoming full-time faculty,” the sis on diversity and outcomes assessment. report states. Currently, public relations programs at 14 U.S. universities, one Canadian college and one uni- Professional and versity in Argentina are certified by PRSA. Pre-Professional Organizations ACEJMC currently has granted accreditation to 88 mass communication units with public rela- Students studying public relations in the United tions programs. States have the opportunity to join any of a number of professional organizations or pre- The Commission recommends that more public professional organizations before they graduate. relations programs seek certification and/or By becoming active members of such organiza- accreditation and that more practitioners volun- tions, they can begin to see how they might fit teer to serve on site visiting teams for these im- into the profession and, perhaps, form a link to portant evaluations of academic excellence. In an entry-level position. addition, it urges public relations associations not now members of ACEJMC to consider join- This section provides detailed information on a ing the Council, thereby increasing public rela- number of U.S. and global organizations that assist students in such orientation. The section tions’ “share of voice” in this important also presents information on establishing stu- endeavor. 9 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  10. 10. Executive Summary A Call to Action tional support to public relations programs. Contemporary public relations education is still “Today, there are too few ‘angels’ young, searching for its “home”—and often its supporting public relations education, legitimacy—in academe. The field is largely but just a few can lead the way.” populated by practitioners who never had an Betsy Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA opportunity for its formal study, thus learning 50-year public relations executive and donor their craft primarily from lengthy experience. “What a wonderful service you have That picture is changing. Graduates from public done for public relations in compiling relations academic programs are entering the the list of major gifts to forward public field in increasing numbers. relations education” Harold Burson, APR, Fellow PRSA “While the record of broad support for public Burson-Marsteller relations education by professional groups is growing, there is a critical need for similar ac- tion by individual practitioners and the firms, A Good Place to Start companies and organizations with which they Here’s how: are associated and in which they are influen- tial,” the report states. Contact the development staff at your alma mater if it has a public relations program. If “Too few are contributing financial support to not, select a program from the list of PRSA- public relations programs in colleges and univer- certified units in the Program Certification sities of their choice,” according to the report. and Accreditation Section (http://prsa.org/_ This final section is the Commission’s clarion About/overview/certification.asp?ident= call to practitioners for a new level of commit- over5) or from the list of ACEJMC accred- ment to public relations education. It enumer- ited units (http://www2.ku.edu/~acejmc/ ates eight specific actions—some financial, STUDENT/PROGLIST.SHTML). A third op- some “in kind”—that practitioners can take to tion is to identify a program that sponsors strengthen the professional bond between edu- one of the more than 270 chapters of the cation and the practice. And, the Commission Public Relations Student Society of America notes, educators likewise can have a vital role (www.prssa.org). in strengthening that bond, mainly by taking Any of these first steps will put you on the the initiative to establish or nurture relation- road to supporting not only the individual ships with practitioners and their organizations. public relations program but also The Professional Bond—Public Relations The “A Call to Action” section also presents the Education and the Practice. first known “Sampling of Major Gifts to Public Relations Education,” a valuable compendium www.commpred.org of such largesse provided to stimulate addi- 10 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  11. 11. The Professional Bond — Public Relations Education and the Practice Preface This report is required reading for everyone who thinks public relations professionalism matters: practitioners, educators, students and university administrators. If you work in public relations, or teach it, you tors as they develop public relations curricula probably have used the word “profession” from and administer programs in this field, the time to time. Indeed, when we define public re- Commission on Public Relations Education be- lations in its broadest sense—as an essential lieves that this report will have value for a management function that helps an organiza- broad spectrum of other audiences as well: tion and its publics build relationships that en- ◆ Public relations practitioners, as employers in able them to understand and support one virtually every kind of institution. They will another—a case can certainly be made that pub- gain a clearer picture of how public relations lic relations is a profession. education prepares today’s students to match Many scholars argue that an occupation be- practitioners’ criteria for entry and growth in comes a profession only if certain conditions the field—and perhaps conclude that practi- exist, among them: tioners must increase their support for public relations education. ◆ a substantial body of research-based knowledge; ◆ Business, government and nonprofit leaders. ◆ standardized education systems to help create This audience may find new insights into and disseminate that knowledge; how public relations can help organizations ◆a commitment to lifelong professional learning; build and maintain robust, mutually benefi- cial relationships with stakeholders at a ◆ core ethical principles; time when the challenges of globalization, ◆ and technology, diversity and ethics have never a fundamental sense of responsibility, in- been greater. creasingly global in scope, for bettering our civil societies. ◆ Students who are studying or considering public relations at the undergraduate and While it might seem that The Professional Bond has been developed primarily to assist educa- graduate levels. They will learn the intellectu- 11
  12. 12. Preface ally challenging, socially significant field that eties in the field of public relations and commu- awaits them—where job prospects are bright- nication. The Commission published its first est for those who have experienced a curricular guidelines in 1975. The 2006 report thoughtful, well-rounded curriculum that pre- marks the fourth revision over three decades. pares them for what lies ahead. The last report, issued in 1999, carried the title ◆ Universityadministrators who may develop a A Port of Entry. That report articulated its mis- stronger appreciation for the growing appeal sion as providing guidelines, recommendations of public relations study, as evidenced by in- and standards for public relations education— creasing enrollments. They will perhaps be undergraduate, graduate and continuing—for moved to channel increased support to such the early 21st Century. programs. The 2006 report seeks to surpass even the ambi- This report is structured for all of these audi- tious mission of 1999 in connecting public rela- ences. An executive summary, available in both tions education more closely with the practice. print and online, aims to satisfy those who seek This new effort reflects two years of national re- to quickly grasp the overall direction and im- search and study conducted pro bono by the portance of the Commission’s recommenda- Commission’s educators and practitioners. It tions. Readers in search of more depth will will be judged a success if intended audiences want to review the complete report, which also conclude that public relations education today is available in print and online. is more attuned than ever to helping the profes- sion build understanding, credibility and trust The Commission on Public Relations Education includes representatives of 12 professional soci- between organizations and their publics. 12 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  13. 13. The Professional Bond — Public Relations Education and the Practice Introduction The Commission on Public Relations Education said in its October, 1999, report, A Port of Entry, “The changes in public relations practice since the 1987 Commission on Public Relations Education report are numerous and profound…. By any measure, the growth of the public relations profession over the past decade has been astonishing.” This is an understatement when the growth ments. It is also occurring relative to other areas within communication, journalism and and changes occurring since the 1999 report are related fields such as marketing and manage- examined. This growth and five major areas of ment. For example, the May 2005 AEJMC change inform this 2006 report. Newsletter of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication [AEJMC] Growth reported that in just the 197 universities re- This report began as an interim effort on the sponding to a survey, there were “281 pro- way to a new full report in 2009, 10 years after grams—133 in public relations, 95 in the last report. Commission members soon dis- advertising and 53 advertising-PR joint pro- covered, however, that the practice of public re- grams. Since 1992-93, the number of public re- lations has grown and changed so much since lations programs increased by 14, while 1999 that an interim report would have been advertising dropped 25.” On yet another and inadequate. For example, in a field that was very important front, the Public Relations once predominantly male, females now consti- Student Society of America has grown to more tute almost two-thirds of all practitioners and as than 270 chapters. much as 70 to 80 percent of undergraduate en- Another sign of growth: journalism as a profes- rollment in some university programs, an im- sion appears to be losing ground to public rela- balance that has been increasing since 1999. tions as reflected in projected growth in Growth in public relations education is not just employment. The 2006 Bureau of Labor a matter of raw numbers, such as those re- Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook flected in ever-increasing classroom enroll- (http://www.bls.gov.oco/ocos086.htm) pre- 13
  14. 14. Introduction dicts that public relations employment will qualified faculty with both theoretical and ex- periential credentials. grow from 18 to 26 percent between 2004 and 2014 while jobs for “news analysts, reporters In addition to growth, the Commission identi- and correspondents” are expected to be rela- fied five major themes that characterize the de- tively flat over the same period, growing only 0 velopment of public relations since the last to 8 percent. report: strategic emphasis, internationalization of the practice, the importance of diversity, an essential emphasis on ethics and social respon- … (T)he field of public relations has grown sibility, and increased questions about curricu- lar and structural independence on some and changed so much since 1999 that an campuses. interim report would have been inadequate. Themes Strategic Emphasis and Professionalism One downside of such growth has been the The Commission recognizes how rapidly public teaching of public relations-related course con- relations is developing from a set of technical tent in management, marketing and corporate skills into a much more strategic, professional communication programs by faculty not experi- and management-focused endeavor. Public re- enced in public relations nor properly creden- lations is moving up the corporate and public- tialed to teach the subject. As a result we now sector ladders. As a result: understand that: ◆ While fundamental writing skills remain at ◆ Once-a-decade Commission reports may be the core of public relations education, busi- inadequate. ness and industry have become so strategi- cally oriented in the information age that too ◆ Ratherthan simply reporting its growth and much focus on technical skills in a curricu- progress, public relations education has lum may actually disadvantage graduates reached a point where it needs to develop who need greater research, problem-solving, new management strategies. strategic thinking, planning and management A paramount issue in the management of and counseling skills. growth in public relations education is finding ◆ Departments and programs that rely on su- ways to answer the need for more public rela- perficial similarities in writing style by hiring tions instructors trained in and committed to technically trained journalism, English and the field. In the past, teaching vacancies in the business writers in place of credentialed pub- field have too often been filled with instructors lic relations instructors are failing to provide without the Ph.D. or research and theory their students with a modern, competitive knowledge, without actual practitioner experi- public relations education. ence or both. Absent documented and specific public relations experience or graduate study in ◆ Training in research methods should now be public relations, a degree in English, business, only a half step behind writing training as a advertising, journalism, mass communication priority in the public relations curriculum be- or other professional fields is not evidence of cause sophisticated research is central to preparation to teach public relations. Indeed, as strategic planning and evaluation. Both quan- the field of public relations continues to grow titative and qualitative approaches should be and become more complex and professional, it taught as required core skills in all public re- is increasingly important to recruit only highly lations programs, but the most advanced pro- 14 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  15. 15. grams will emphasize multi-methodological Diversity research for both planning and evaluation. To lead strategic communication efforts in an increasingly diverse society, public relations Internationalization must meet three diversity challenges. First, Public relations has become increasingly inter- public relations must become more diverse in national and intercultural in the last few the composition of its student and practitioner decades. The Commission’s 1999 report was populations. Second, public relations must be- mostly silent on international practice and edu- come more sophisticated in meeting the com- cation in public relations, partly to avoid munication needs of diverse communities. Commission members being seen as arrogant Third, public relations must draw on the diver- Americans. Today, public relations educators sity of the nation as a resource to strengthen readily acknowledge how much they have corporate, governmental and nonprofit commu- learned, individually and collectively, from nication. Therefore: practitioners and academics from other cul- ◆ Public relations education programs should tures, and the Commission recommends an on- reflect in their faculty and student composi- going and expanding exchange. tion the racial and ethnic makeup of the soci- Current curricula must be updated to reflect the ety and the campus to which they belong. In international and intercultural reality that is some cases, this might require new ap- modern public relations today: proaches to recruiting, while in others, inno- vative course offerings may be needed, and in ◆ Public relations educators in the United States still others, changes in policies or practices should integrate the experiences of practition- may be needed to attract and retain good mi- ers and teachers in developing areas of the nority students. world into their curricula, including lessons learned from portions of non-Islamic Asia, the ◆ Major issues in diversity, such as the unique Islamic world, sub-Saharan Africa, South economic, employment and health-risk issues America and Eastern Europe. confronting minority communities, should be addressed in the public relations curriculum ◆ An emphasis on globalization, intercultural so that public relations students are better studies and international programs can now equipped to understand the needs of diverse be found in the strategic plans of most uni- publics. versities. No academic field on a campus, ex- cept perhaps international studies, is more ◆ Public relations curricula also should help inherently international than public relations. students develop a sophisticated understand- Public relations curricula should reflect this ing of the particular communication chan- fact, and public relations academics should nels, strategies and customs of minority play an active role in helping to international- publics to facilitate more sensitive and effec- ize their campuses. tive campaigns in both minority and majority communities. ◆ Because strategic communication campaigns are one of international terrorism’s primary Ethics and Social Responsibility weapons, public relations academics have a As public relations evolves into a more strate- special responsibility to contribute to anti-ter- gic and international practice, it affects more rorism initiatives on their campuses and to people more profoundly, does so in more coun- use opportunities to educate colleagues on tries and cultures and does so more quickly the requirements of ethical public relations campaigns. than ever before. As a result, public relations 15 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  16. 16. Introduction practitioners and academics alike have ele- relations students often do not get used to hire vated their concern for ethics by, for example, well-qualified public relations faculty or to offer impanelling a National Ethics Commission and needed writing, research and practicum authorizing a major revision of the PRSA Code courses. This means in some cases that public of Ethics in 2000. relations programs have been, or may be, un- able to fully implement recommendations in ◆ Revisions of the PRSA Code (first adopted in the 1999 and 2006 Commission reports. 1951), as well as the wording of the Code of Ethics of the International Public Relations The Commission recognizes department and Association (IPRA), reflect an increasing con- university administrators have to make re- cern for the social, as well as the economic, source-allocation decisions based on a variety role of public relations. of student needs so that using public relations- generated resources to support other programs ◆ Much of the tremendous expansion and accel- is sometimes appropriate. Nevertheless, when eration of public relations practice over the tuition dollars of public relations students are past decade can be traced to new information used to fund other subject areas, the effect is to technologies, such as the Internet. As a result, give public relation students a smaller return on public relations curricula will need to develop their tuition dollars than students in other areas more sophisticated ethical analyses to help of journalism, mass communication or (speech) guide practitioners in ethics and the use of communication. Thus: new information technologies throughout and within other cultures. ◆ Decisions to use tuition funds from public re- lations students to help fund other areas of a program should be formally and periodically ...(C)ontinued growth and reviewed and disclosed to the public relations faculty and students involved. success in public relations requires ◆ The Commission takes no position on lifelong learning. whether independent departments of public relations are desirable. Such decisions should be based on careful consideration of institu- Curricular and Structural Independence tional missions and program goals as well as The Commission found an amorphous but an evaluation of how to achieve quality pub- growing sense that public relations might bene- lic relations education and professional prepa- fit as a profession and in its educational devel- ration of students. Independence might offer opment by sometimes being taught outside of great opportunities in some cases and great journalism/mass communication and (speech) risks in others. communication units, the traditional academic ◆ In this era of decreasing tax support for pub- homes of public relations education. One con- lic education, the level of practitioner support cern of public relations educators and students an occupation enjoys is viewed as a major in- is that the Commission’s recommended curricu- dicator of the social value of the field. Public lum revisions, intensive writing training and relations has succeeded in building several ef- practitioner links that are needed in public rela- fective bridges between the practitioner and tions may not be feasible in combined journal- academic communities, although still more ism, mass communication or communication are needed. For example, this Commission is departments where public relations’ large en- a joint academician-practitioner body. Public rollments often are used to fund other subject areas. As a result, funds generated from public relations practitioners need to substantially 16 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  17. 17. upgrade their level of financial and other sup- report is divided into 17 sections to facilitate finding the specific content a reader may need. port for academic programs, however, if they These sections are: are to assure adequate university program support for their profession. Executive Summary Preface A Call to Action Introduction Finally, the Commission wishes to note two Research critically important subjects of significance to Ethics today’s—and tomorrow’s—public relations practitioners. The Commission suggests that Diversity practitioners and educators pay special atten- Communication Technology tion to the “A Call to Action” section of this re- Global Implications port which presents a range of initiatives that Undergraduate Education individuals and organizations can undertake to strengthen the bond between public relations Graduate Education education and the practice. Frankly, practi- Supervised Experience tioner support of public relations education has Distance Learning been inadequate. It is time to remedy this Governance and Academic Support shortcoming! Faculty Credentials Too, the Commission notes that, as in all pro- Pre-Professional Organizations fessions, continued growth and success in pub- Professional Certification and Accreditation lic relations requires lifelong learning. The opportunities for such professional develop- A Call to Action ment, too many to be identified in this report, While this report benefits greatly from the are as varied as they are vital—with many such overall editing of Judy VanSlyke Turk, Ph.D., opportunities provided by the professional soci- APR, Fellow PRSA, the reader will note that the eties that are represented on the Commission. sections of this report vary somewhat in writ- The Commission urges every public relations ing style and structure. This is intentional, professional to commit to such study, not only both because it gives the reader some flavor of for personal achievement, but also for further the variety of practitioner and academic bodies development of the public relations profession. that comprise the Commission and, we hope, because it helps reach a spectrum of public re- Structure of the Report lations-related audiences with a variety of Recognizing that Commission reports often are voices from both public relations education used more as reference works than as texts, this and practice. 17 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  19. 19. The Professional Bond — Public Relations Education and the Practice Research This report of the Commission on Public Relations Education draws on the findings of five research projects conducted in the United States by Commission members: ◆A survey of public relations practitioners and survey about internships for public relations educators. Randomly selected practitioners students at their colleges and universities. and educators were surveyed on the state of ◆A survey of leaders of public relations aca- public relations education’s student outcomes demic programs at colleges and universities. and curricula at both undergraduate and Program heads were asked to report on the graduate levels. growth and expansion of public relations cur- ◆ Personal interviews were conducted with ricula and enrollment at their institutions. leading senior practitioners and educators. There was substantial agreement across the five Telephone interviews were conducted with a studies and between practitioners and educators purposive sample of leading practitioners about what public relations students should from corporate, agency and nonprofit public study and learn, and about what public relations relations. They were asked their perspectives practitioners should be able to do at both the on public relations practice trends and how entry level and in senior positions. There also public relations undergraduate and graduate was substantial agreement between these 2006 education could best contribute to improving studies and those conducted by the Commission the practice of public relations. in 1999 prior to its Port of Entry report. ◆A survey of leaders of public relations firms. Members of the Council of Public Relations What Skills Practitioners Need Firms were asked their perceptions of the This body of research findings indicates that value of public relations education as a hiring the top-rated competencies sought in hiring credential and as preparation for employment. entry-level practitioners are writing skills, criti- ◆A cal thinking and problem-solving skills, a good survey of faculty advisers to the Public attitude, the ability to communicate publicly Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Advisers were asked in a Web-based and initiative. For practitioners at a more ad- 19
  20. 20. Research vanced level, research skills, the ability to han- lic relations education should include an intern- dle the media professionally, work experience ship, practicum or other work experience in the in public relations, knowledge of the role of field. The survey of faculty advisers to PRSSA public relations on the management team and Chapters indicated that virtually all public rela- knowledge of issues management are the most tions students complete at least one internship. prized characteristics. At the graduate level, the research showed con- All too often, however, those competencies and siderable support for interdisciplinary study skills are weak or missing in both entry-level that might, for instance, include communica- and more advanced practitioners. Writing skills, tion, management and behavioral science. understanding of business practices and critical thinking and problem-solving skills were identi- Trends Affecting Public Relations Practice fied as deficiencies in entry-level practitioners, These curriculum recommendations were con- while research skills, a global perspective and sistent with what both practitioners and educa- experience with a variety of cultures were prob- tors identified as trends in the practice of public lematic among more experienced practitioners. relations. The public relations knowledge and skills they identified as essential would prepare What a Public Relations Curriculum students to succeed professionally in the con- Should Include text of these trends: A public relations curriculum that would prop- ◆ the need for transparency and accountability erly prepare undergraduate students to meet the expectations and challenges of public rela- ◆ the increasing value of public relations to tions careers would, according to this research, top management include this essential course content: ◆ thedemand for public relations research ◆ writing and speaking skills methodology, measurement and metrics ◆ the fundamentals of public relations ◆ globalization ◆ strategic thinking skills ◆ an increasingly complex and difficult ethical environment ◆ research skills ◆ challenges to institutional trust and credibility ◆ planning and problem-solving skills ◆ rapidly changing media ◆ ethics ◆ technological change ◆ thefundamentals of how organizations operate ◆ the increasing importance of internal audiences ◆ liberal arts and sciences ◆ the need for organizations to integrate There also was substantial agreement that pub- their communication 20 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  21. 21. The Professional Bond — Public Relations Education and the Practice Ethics In today’s practice of public relations, ethical conduct is quintessential. Modern public relations is defined by ethical principles, and no public relations practice should exist in contemporary society without a full commitment to ethical practice. Ethics for the public relations profes- sion can be defined as a set of a priori principles, beliefs and values that should be followed by all who engage in public relations practice. Ethical conduct transcends geographical and Recent business and communication scandals have emphasized the importance of honest, geopolitical boundaries, and a common stan- fair and transparent public relations, which is a dard for ethical conduct should apply across must in today’s business environment. One of different countries and regions. Thus, interna- the greatest challenges for public relations pro- tional ethical standards should be closely ex- fessionals is to demonstrate and prove that amined and followed. Of course, cultural new ways of thinking and new practices are in- variables must be considered when public rela- deed founded on ethical principles. New-gener- tions professionals practice abroad. However, ation professionals should follow honest practitioners should be cautious about deter- practices to build a fundamental trust between mining that questionable practices are “cultur- publics and organizations. This transparency ally bound.” Rather, public relations requires ethical decision-making and an in- professionals should carefully examine creasingly influential role at the table where whether these practices are indeed commonly decisions are made. adopted within a culture and are considered to be ethical by the majority of local profession- The successful public relations practitioner is als. Also, a practice is not necessarily ethical highly intelligent, literate and well-read, an ed- just because it is widely adopted in one or ucated global citizen with an extensive knowl- more countries, as research on international edge of both the history of civilization and of media transparency has pointed out global current events. The practitioner pos- (Kruckeberg & Tsetsura, 2003; Tsetsura, 2005). sesses excellent professional communication 21
  22. 22. Ethics skills and has both exceptional depth and Summary of Recommendations in the breadth in public relations theory. Commission’s October 1999 Report The October 1999 Report of the Commission on Equally as important as this professional com- Public Relations Education identified ethical is- petence is public relations practitioners’ ethical sues as a component of requisite knowledge in conduct in both their professional and personal an undergraduate education, i.e., as a part of lives. Reflexively, the traits of successful practi- what graduates should know and understand. The report also identified ethical decision-mak- …(W)hile public relations professional ing as a necessary skill. For graduate education, the October 1999 report identified public rela- education… cannot make students ethical,… tions ethics as a content area that should be such education can define and teach mastered at a level beyond that expected of un- dergraduates, recommending a seminar on pub- professional ethics. lic relations ethics and philosophy in a sample 30-hour program. Significantly, the October 1999 Commission report listed as first among tioners help to assure that these professionals its 12 assumptions: “The ethical practice of are capable of making informed and well-rea- public relations is the context in which and for soned ethical decisions. Practitioners also must which education must occur.” appreciate the societal, organizational and per- sonal necessities for abiding by the highest eth- The report further declared that graduates of ical conduct. And, while public relations public relations programs should be “ethical professional education perhaps cannot make leaders appreciative of cultural diversity and students ethical, either professionally or per- the global society,” further noting, “Public rela- sonally, such education can define and teach tions practitioners and educators should be professional ethics. It can provide a body of leaders in building understanding that public knowledge about the process of ethical deci- relations has a fundamental responsibility to sion-making that can help students not only to society and adds value to society.” The study of recognize ethical dilemmas, but to use appro- codes of ethics in public relations, as well as in priate critical thinking skills to help resolve other professions, was considered to be essen- these dilemmas in a way that results in an ethi- tial in undergraduate education. Specific legal cal outcome. issues such as privacy, defamation, copyright, product liability and financial disclosure were Educators and their institutions, in communica- to be studied as well as legal and regulatory tion and consultation with practitioners, also compliance and credibility. The 1999 must identify and resolve their own profes- Commission report further suggested that at sional ethical issues related to public relations least one course in public relations law and education. Such issues revolve around the ethics should be included in the curricula of types and numbers of students recruited for public relations programs. this professional education and the likelihood The October 1999 Commission report identified of these students’ success, as well as the num- some ethical issues that merited attention in bers and credentials of faculty who are as- graduate education: signed to public relations professional education and the budgetary and other re- ◆ philosophical principles sources that colleges and universities invest in ◆ international ethical issues public relations education. 22 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  23. 23. ◆ concealment vs. disclosure need for transparency and the increasing trend in accountability, with ethics a more complex ◆ divided loyalties and social responsibility consideration today. The Commission’s quanti- tative research echoed these concerns. ◆ accountability And it has become abundantly obvious that ◆ professionalism public relations cannot be viewed as a “mass ◆ codes of ethics media” career bound by traditional media ethics. Rather, it must be seen as a profession ◆ whistleblowing of counselors who help to create and maintain ◆ confidentiality an organization’s relationships with its stake- holders and with society at large through ◆ ethical dealing with the media means that extend far beyond practitioners’ his- ◆ solicitation of new business toric expertise in sending messages through the mass media. Public relations practitioners are ◆ ethics of research counselors who are knowledgeable–theoreti- ◆ logical arguments cally as well as technically–about communica- tion in its broadest and most philosophical ◆ multicultural and gender diversity sense. The ethical issues of public relations, The report urged Ph.D. candidates to conduct therefore, extend beyond those of the mass dissertation research that would help to address media. Coursework and instruction dedicated such important public relations issues as social to mass media ethics cannot fully satisfy the responsibility. needs of public relations professional educa- tion. Progress and Change Since the 1999 Report 2006 Recommendations Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that pub- 1. All learning objectives in public relations edu- lic relations educators and professionals are cation must be placed within the framework recognizing the increasing importance and and context of public relations ethics. complexity of public relations ethics in the 21st Professional ethics must not only be inte- Century. Exciting new research is being re- grated into all coursework in public relations, ported not only by senior scholars, but also by but must also be given priority as a discrete younger scholars who have made ethics an im- component of the public relations curriculum. portant and, in some cases, primary part of Public relations ethics are critically important their research agendas. because public relations practitioners share with other professional occupations not only the ability to significantly help (or hurt) their New Research Findings and Analysis clients, but also the ability to greatly influ- The Commission’s most recent research ence stakeholders and society at large. strongly indicates that, given the organizational crises of recent years, ethics and organizational 2. Public relations practitioners have an un- transparency are key issues frequently dis- questionable moral obligation to act profes- cussed by both practitioners and educators. sionally, i.e., in a socially responsible Qualitative research participants urged under- manner, within their own societies as well as graduate education programs to include an ex- within an emerging global community. To do amination of ethical issues and societal trends so, the community of public relations profes- in their curricula. These participants noted the sionals, both practitioners and educators, 23 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  24. 24. Ethics must publicly define their relationship to so- lidity of the recommendations of the October ciety as earning a position of trust. Their be- 1999 Commission report, but with even more havior must be consonant with the emphasis. Specifically: expectations of society, although they have ◆ The Commission recommends that a consid- the freedom and responsibility to determine eration of ethics pervade all content of public what they ethically may and may not do as a relations professional education. This ethics content should be a readily identifiable com- ponent that is well-contextualized and inte- … (N)o public relations practice should grated, particularly in introductory, campaigns and cases courses in public rela- exist in contemporary society without a tions, as well as in law and ethics courses. full commitment to ethical practice. The last must extend beyond the law and ethics of mass media to include public rela- tions law and ethics. Indeed, the Commission professional community within their soci- urges that every public relations course begin ety’s moral parameters. These professional its syllabus and its first class with the state- ethics must consider both the wider moral ment that every true profession recognizes values of society as well as the aims of pub- that a fundamental priority of any profession lic relations practice. is its responsibility toward society at large. Of course, this “professional” role with its ◆ While public relations curricula may not have accompanying need for professional ethics room for a dedicated public relations ethics necessarily elevates public relations practi- course, one-hour short courses and mini-sem- tioners above the organizational role of obe- inars on public relations ethics at the under- dient technicians who blindly do the will of graduate level can provide a meaningful managers. Complex organizations depend on forum for contemporary ethical issues. a range of professionals who have unique ◆ At the graduate level, seminars in public rela- knowledge and skills and who exert great in- tions ethics are recommended, and graduate fluence over the behavior of these organiza- students, particularly at the doctoral level, tions through their professional ideologies, should be encouraged to consider public rela- theories, values and worldviews. tions ethics as a primary area of scholarly in- 3. The ethical values of such public relations quiry. professionals influence the behavior of their ◆ Educators and their students, particularly organizations, and thus their professional their graduate students, have an obligation to values become organizational values. Those critically examine and add to the body of in the public relations professional commu- knowledge of public relations ethics through nity must develop, continually refine and their research and other scholarship. publicly acknowledge their professional ide- ology, values and belief systems to fulfill ◆ Educators and their institutions also must their professional responsibilities. These val- identify and resolve their own professional ues can and must be taught to students who ethical issues that are related to public rela- hopefully will accept and assimilate these tions education. Those providing public rela- common values that result in a morally de- tions education must fully appreciate: fensible body of professional ethics. – the importance of public relations as a pro- The Commission recognizes the continuing va- fessional occupation in the 21st Century; 24 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  25. 25. – the knowledge and skills required for a adequacy of the numbers and credentials of successful career in public relations in faculty who are assigned to public relations today’s society; professional education as well as the budget- ary and other resources that institutions in- – the extreme competition for public rela- vest in public relations education. tions positions; – the fact that only the most qualified and The Commission notes that professional ethics best educated students realistically can are predicated upon the personal ethics of compete in this career. everyone who is part of the public relations professional community. Public relations icon ◆ As well as course content, academic rigor also Betsy Plank, who has been a leading member must be ensured through normative stan- of the Commission since its inception, perhaps dards. Preparation for a professional career in says this best: public relations demands rigorous profes- sional education. In professionalized occupa- In recent years, the more I have been tions, e.g., law and medicine, the needs of concerned and thought about profes- society are of first concern, followed by the sional ethics, the more I am convinced professional community’s judgment of an in- that they must–inevitably–be grounded dividual aspirant’s worthiness to join that in personal behavior and character. professional community. The goals of the in- What does it profit us if students can dividual student are of tertiary concern. This recite ethical codes and be critical of should also be true for the profession of pub- untrustworthy corporate behaviors but lic relations. succumb to cheating, plagiarism, et al…? Or if faculty are not vigilant about ◆ Finally, colleges and universities providing public relations education must ensure the penalizing such behavior? Notes Kruckeberg, D. & Tsetsura, K. (2003). International index of bribery for news coverage (Institute for Public Relations). Abstract retrieved September 3, 2006, from http://www.instituteforpr.org/index.php/IPR/research_single/index_of_bribery/ Tsetsura, K. (2005). Bribery for news coverage: Research in Poland (Institute for Public Relations). Abstract retrieved September 3, 2006, from: http://www.instituteforpr.org/index.php/IPR/research_single/bribery_for_news/ Plank, Betsy. Fax to Dean Kruckeberg, July 22, 2006 25 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE
  27. 27. The Professional Bond — Public Relations Education and the Practice Diversity The growing commitment to diversity within the public relations profession—in both education and the practice—is a reflection of the change and progress in society since the Commission’s 1999 report. Successful managers in all types of organi- practice, public relations can advance diversity in society. zations now recognize that a diverse employee workforce—recruited, trained and retained— can deliver valuable insights and performance Critical Definitions and Outcomes not only in terms of human resources and All public relations practitioners, educators and marketing but also in such C-suite functions students should be aware of the following as strategic planning and issues manage- terms related to diversity and their application ment. to modern public relations practice. The higher education establishment also has Diversity—Essentially, diversity is defined as recognized the importance of this “culture of all differences that exist between and among inclusion” and has encouraged it—one might people. Typically, diversity is divided into pri- say, mandated it—with new standards for ac- mary and secondary dimensions, primary being creditation of schools of journalism/mass com- characteristics that are innate and can’t be munication and certification of public relations changed (such as gender, age, nationality, sex- programs. And public relations professional so- ual/affectional orientation, ethnicity and race) cieties, trade associations and research founda- and secondary being characteristics that can be tions are emphasizing diversity via many altered (such as religion, geographics, marital offerings to their members. status and military service). Understanding the role these dimensions play in how people com- The Commission decided that although diver- municate is as essential as ensuring that organi- sity is addressed in other sections of this report, zations demonstrate inclusiveness toward the the subject is worthy of a focused, in-depth diversity of their employees, volunteers and treatment here. So this section will define diver- other key publics. sity, identify its major elements essential to public relations education and suggest how, in Culture—Often diversity is confused with cul- 27
  28. 28. Diversity ture, because some dimensions of diversity, es- fulfilling prophesies and lead to prejudice. Use of stereotypes often reinforces misinformation pecially race, ethnicity, regionality and nation- and causes problems even if stereotyping is ality, have cultures of their own. Culture is done unwittingly. Stereotyping can be just as typically defined as the sum total of ways of liv- dangerous as prejudice, which is an irrational ing, including behavioral norms, linguistic ex- dislike, suspicion or hatred of a certain demo- pression, styles of communication, patterns of graphic group. Prejudice is often manifested as thinking and beliefs and values of a group large racism, sexism and homophobia, creating nega- tive actions, policies, words and beliefs based (P)ractitioners, educators and students on race, gender or sexual orientation. Public re- lations practitioners also need to recognize the must develop an introspective awareness dangers of being ethnocentric in their thoughts of their own individual cultures, and approaches to managing public relations projects and teams. Ethnocentrism is the nega- socialization and privileges... tive judgment of other cultures based on the belief that a particular cultural perspective is better than others. enough to be self-sustaining and transmitted over the course of generations. Frequently, cul- ture plays a greater role in determining commu- PR’s Strategic Role in Diversity nication behavior than race, ethnicity or other Diversity in public relations often takes two diversity factors and is what creates conflicts forms: intercultural/multicultural communica- because of differences in communication styles tion and diversity management. The intercul- associated with those cultures. tural/multicultural communication aspect of diversity relates to the practice of public rela- Segmentation—Regardless of the different tions particularly when the organization is com- groups to which individuals may belong, public municating with one (intercultural) or more relations practitioners must learn how to iden- (multicultural) cultural groups different from its tify what elements of diversity are salient in own. Learning how culture and diversity play a various situations and must acknowledge that role in each aspect of a public relations project saliency often is based on whether individuals (research, planning, communicating and evalua- identify with the culture or characteristics asso- tion) is therefore critical for intercultural/multi- ciated with that dimension of diversity. Often, cultural communication. people ascribe identities to people in particular demographic groups or cultures based on what The diversity management aspect of public rela- a person looks or sounds like or on where an tions involves human resource, staffing, team, individual resides or was born. Such an ascrip- vendor and personnel functions. Managing di- tion can lead to stereotyping and other prob- versity well will improve the retention of diverse lems that make communication difficult and teams, which is considered beneficial to devel- problematic. oping innovative solutions and campaigns. Public relations practitioners and scholars must Stereotypes—Stereotypes are judgments become familiar with, be able to apply and be about an individual based on that person’s willing to research the best practices in both as- membership in a particular classification. Even pects of diversity within public relations. though stereotypes can be positive as well as negative, they often are harmful because most Contemporary organizations increasingly have are typically incorrect, apply general beliefs un- had to deal with diversity issues and needs, fairly to individuals, can lead to negative self- and public relations practitioners should be at 28 THE PROFESSIONAL BOND — PUBLIC RELATIONS EDUCATION AND THE PRACTICE