A valuable lesson in gauging the best PR education programs

PR prides itself on innovation. Schools that teach PR must do the same.

It’s early October. Many of you are putting – or have just put – the finishing touches on your PRWeek Awards entries. Some of you might have noticed that one particular category was notably updated this year – PR Education Program of the Year.

And while only schools are eligible to enter it, all of you should take an interest because this year’s revised criteria – crafted in conjunction with leading academics and industry leaders we convened in early July for this purpose – do more than simply offer guidance on how to win a trophy. They also underscore what it means to be a superior PR education program, the type that supplies all of you with great new talent that will lead this sector in the future.

PR prides itself on innovation. Schools that teach PR must do the same, so a focus on new courses and facilities offered to students is a telltale sign. High grades could certainly be given to schools that create student-run agencies. And in an age of integration, our council emphasized the importance of a clear intersection between the communications program and other departments at the school, such as business, technology, law, psychology, or journalism.

When attention turned to faculty matters, our advisers placed emphasis on new hires made in the past year or so, as well as the professional credentials of full-time and adjunct professors. You can get a sense of whether any organization is trending positively or negatively based on the caliber of individuals who are joining it. Industry leaders want to join entities that are considered among the elite in their field. PR education programs are no different.

But when it comes to universities you want to know their direct workforce impact. It’s important to see the placement percentage of graduating students, but it’s more vital to know where they’re being placed and in what posts. It’s about quality, not just quantity.

I bet when you read the opening paragraph you thought this would be a call for entries. And if it serves that purpose, I won’t complain. However, in the years I’ve been involved in the PRWeek Awards, I’ve learned that our criteria transcend the judging process.

They are a useful checklist. In the case of this particular category, I welcome you to review the entry kit that can be found on prweek.com. The next time you wonder if a university stands out from the crowd, the aforementioned document will prove educational.

Gideon Fidelzeid is managing editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at gideon.fidelzeid@prweek.com.

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