Social media training even more essential for graduates navigating a changing workplace

The Edelman New Media Academic Summit took place this week in Washington DC, with some 120 professors in attendance.

The Edelman New Media Academic Summit took place this week in Washington, DC, with some 120 professors in attendance. PRWeek is a sponsor of the event, which has evolved and grown significantly over the past three years, as has the very sector that it covers.

The goal of the summit has been to give academics a primer in social media techniques and strategies to take back to their classrooms. As I have found through my involvement with the College of Charleston's Department of Communication, there are important perspectives that active professionals bring to the PR educational environment. Edelman has successfully tapped its clients and other corporate and brand leaders to give their time to this endeavor.

But this is not the same summit it started out to be, even though the direction of discussions and sessions run along ostensibly similar tracks. Panels will address a broad range of new media channels, from both a practical and a high-level perspective, and there is still a great need for the pragmatic comprehension of how these tools are being deployed in the real world of corporate and brand reputation and promotion.

But after talking with many of the educators at this year's summit, I was struck by the realization that this year's graduates, and possibly next year's are looking at a prospective job market that is, at best, somewhat bleak. So what else is new, right? But this connects to social media training in a number of critical ways.

Most obviously, to be competitive students need to comprehend the applications of this new media universe more clearly and professionally from the outset. There used to be a joke about how new hires in agencies would start at 9:00 and be billing by 9:30, but I'm not sure there's even that much time these days to start making an effective contribution.

But there is a bigger issue that confronts these graduates entering the PR workforce, and that was apparent through the panel sessions where in-house leaders described their experience in integrating social media into traditional companies and attitudes.

The fact is that the corporate universe, in many unpredictable ways, is actually changing to adapt to social media, and is no longer simply trying to find ways to bring social media applications into existing structure. This is not limited to communications, either. Corporate governance, HR, financial reporting, and CSR are also transforming, and this has implications across the entire in-house organism.

Today's PR professionals are assimilating this, but the next generation may well be leading it, if the industry can continue to assert its rightful place in the digital pecking order. The education of students on social media needs to accelerate, not slow down as tools become more commonly understood and used. And the entire industry needs to take a vested interest in seeing that this happens.

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