Education key to maintaining PR's pipeline of talent

Anyone running a PR business knows that talent management - be it recruiting, retaining, or training - is foremost in your growth plans.

Anyone running a PR business knows that talent management - be it recruiting, retaining, or training - is foremost in your growth plans.

And, as I have been hearing consistently when visiting our members around the country this year, the better the growth prospects for the business, the more acute the talent needs.

One way to address both short- and long-term talent demands is making sure the pipeline is stocked with smart, able professionals. Colleges and universities today play an increasingly important role in preparing the future practitioners in this country; an estimated 270 schools currently offer at least basic undergraduate study in PR.

Council Talent Survey

The Council surveyed its members recently to better understand the talent picture at leading PR firms, as well as to gather opinions on the state of PR education. We asked member firms what was most important to them - education-wise - when considering entry-level talent. Approximately 70% indicated that a bachelor's degree in PR is preferred, or on a short list of preferred degrees. Conversely, 14% said they prefer to hire a candidate with a degree other than PR.

Not surprisingly, the 70% number dropped when we asked our members how much they consider a candidate's PR education when hiring at the mid-level. While 20% said it was still important, 57% answered that is was only a small part of the evaluation process, and 23% reported that it wasn't important at all. 

Finally, we asked whether entry-level candidates with a bachelor's degree in PR possess more, fewer, or the same level of agency-ready skills than candidates with liberal arts degrees or other educational backgrounds. Among respondents, 36% said they possess more, while 55% said each comes equipped with the same level of skills.

PR firms play a key role in the practical education process through the extensive internships they offer, which have never been more competitive. Interns not only get invaluable experience, but are in a better position to secure a job at the firm. The Council also developed an "agency management" curriculum, which is available to schools interested in offering a course in the business of PR.

Commission on Public Relations Education

Next month, the Commission on Public Relations Education will issue its latest set of recommendations for both undergraduate and graduate-level education. This report, "The Professional Bond - Public Relations Education and the Practice," is aimed at PR pros, business, government and nonprofit leaders, students, faculty, and university administrators. In its earlier groundbreaking reports, the commission recommended the five-course "minimum" for a PR major which also became a basis for Public Relations Students Society of America chapters. Through the commission, the Council has discussed the talent needs of PR firms with educators and has promoted the aforementioned curriculum for use by schools.

The link between PR practice and education is crucial. This 90-plus page report will analyze everything from the importance of teaching PR ethics, diversity, and developments in communications technology to "global implications" and faculty credentialing.

The commission's full report will be available in hard copy or online at www.commpred.org on November 12. The commission is comprised of 35 reps of 12 professional societies in the field of PR and communications. The commission published its first curricular guidelines in 1975. The 2006 report marks the fourth revision.

Kathy Cripps is President of the Council of Public Relations Firms and is a board member of the Commission on Public Relations Education.

The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of PR firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our Web site at www.prfirms.org.

This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.

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