Inspiring the next generation of PR practitioners

The next generation of PR practitioners are currently studying… not necessarily public relations.

This post follows my first lecture, yesterday, to fourth year students at the University of the West of Scotland. Their course is Branding and Communications.

next generation of PR practitionersI was approached a few months ago by the lecturer developing the fourth year course and her ‘ask’ was around including practitioners in modern academic environment. I welcomed the idea and advised that for years I’ve been giving feedback to Scottish universities teaching public relations, that there needs to be a more collaborative approach, showing students how theory can be put into practice. For me to get the opportunity to talk about public relations in a non-public relations module, I was delighted!

Our industry is still rapidly changing and for us not to collaborate would mean a lack of real-life input into teaching the next generation of PR practitioners. It needs to be a two-way effort.

I’ve been asked to deliver four lectures this year into next, inspiring the said next generation of PR practitioners to understand more about public relations practice and indeed helping them to decide if PR is for them. The first was setting the scene. I talked about what PR actually is, does and its value to an organisation. I stressed the importance of ‘the process’, understanding business objectives, what the brand mission, vision and values were, defining audiences, and then went on to talk about evaluation. After all, it’s AMEC Measurement Month!

I think the students perked up when I started talking about evaluation – starting at the beginning, not the end. We discussed AMEC’s integrated framework and the biggest metric was impact. They totally ‘got’ that there can be a million outputs, but it’s the impact of the activity that matters. One of the students had even heard of AMEC’s tool, much to my surprise and delight.

We spent some time talking about the PESO model and how it works. Again, there was a lot of interest in this, as there was a realisation of the shift from traditional media to new platforms and channels, although we did talk about the role of local media and broadcast media for a short time. We didn’t talk too much about specific tactics as that’ll flow the other lectures I give.

When we moved on to discuss reputation and all the elements and scenarios involved, it was a comprehensive discussion around what affects reputation and the fact your reputation is what others say, not what you say it is. I used crisis management as an example, talking about the first stages of issues management, crisis plans, and repercussions of crisis events. The harsh reality for businesses, is that can affect the bottom line. The students seemed to appreciate the relevance.

The students have been given a virtual campaign to develop and after my lecture, I had left enough time for discussion and questions, so the students could pick my brains about their campaign. I found it interesting that they all seemed to hone in on strategy. This is good because it means the starting point for their campaign and for my first lecture was around strategy, so hopefully they’ll dig a bit deeper and work in their teams to do the groundwork.

If you’re reading this and perhaps a next generation of PR practitioner, you’ll find links throughout the blog and you’ll if you’re one of the UWS students, you’ll likely find this post interesting and most likely helpful 😉

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Laura Sutherland

MD of Aura PR, CIPR Council member and former CIPR Board Director. Former Chair of CIPR Scotland. Fellow and Chartered PR practitioner.

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