A rebuttal: Why PR majors definitely should focus on writing

If anything, aspiring PR professionals should work to develop their writing skills even more, argues MindSHIFT's Richard Young.

I nearly fell out of my chair upon scanning a recent PRWeek headline: "Why PR majors no longer need advanced writing courses."

As soon as I got back up, naturally, I had to click through — solid work, headline writer.

That said, I also give major props to the columnist, Shannon Bowen, for taking such a provocative stand with respect to the core curriculum of public relations majors.

Bowen opens the piece: "The PR function has clearly evolved into a management discipline, as opposed to simply a communications function. As such, there is simply no need for multiple writing courses as an essential part of PR majors."

I begged for more and learned that "most programs have at least two required writing courses, a journalism-writing course and a PR-writing course. Many schools also offer a third – an advanced writing course."

Now, I do not profess to know the inside baseball workings of credit hours as Bowen outlines, but her conclusion boils down to this: "Something needs to give, and that something should be writing in favor of ‘topics more relevant in modern PR.’"

Bowen believes more time should be spent on educating the future entry-level PR professional on management, leadership, and investor relations, to name a few areas.

This is precisely where she lost me — and I presume many other readers with real-world PR and marketing hiring experience.

I absolutely agree we need to educate the future entry-level PR pro on modern day trends, applications, strategies, and tactics of the PR and communications discipline. It’s just that most of what Bowen outlines as important course work is exactly unimportant for the entry-level PR pro.

Here’s the deal for us hiring managers looking to build star-studded PR and marketing teams – we want the junior staff to be exceptionally creative writers and communicators, to work well in collaborative environments, and to identify messages that will resonate with diverse audiences.

We also want them to have a working knowledge of various forms of media and strong proficiencies in the latest digital tools and codes, and to have the ability to fine-tune attraction strategies of prospects to the business.

We’re not hiring her because she’s expert in labor relations or knows a thing or two about conflict resolution because she wrote a term paper on the topic.

We’re hiring her because she:

  • Launched a blog that reviewed nearby campus restaurants and bars, told from a student’s perspective.
  • Understood the importance of knowing her audience.
  • Translated this knowledge into relevant content with a catchy tone in a beautiful design.
  • Noticed traffic patterns, analyzed referral paths, and made decisions on where and when to advertise on Google and Bing.
  • Turned that data into revenue by approaching the nearby campus bars, pizza joints, bookstores, drug stores, and bike shops to advertise.
  • Couldn’t handle the titles publisher, managing editor, sales executive, reporter, and copy editor anymore, so she hired classmates to help with the content volume and general business operations.
  • Built such a loyal following that trusted what the blog had to say, that she identified additional revenue streams with daily and weekly newsletters, student surveys that she then used for quarterly reports sponsored by deep-pocketed eateries, licensed the blog’s name, and branched out to other college-towns.

Now that’s some modern day integrated PR and marketing at work to achieve the only end result that matters – creating a customer and building revenue.

And it all started with having a knack for writing among other applicable skills.

Richard Young is marketing director at MindSHIFT, a Ricoh company. 

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