Last Thursday I set off on a small adventure to London to attend the Industry Vs Academics PRCA debate. I had never really realised the division between the two sides before or at least I’d never considered it a divide. I’ve always seen the PR industry as one that is hugely diverse that you can join from almost any background and that’s one of the elements that I believe makes it fun to work in. Everyone has different experience and has a different approach to briefs, which is definitely refreshing.
Although I’ve only worked in the industry for a short time, part-time alongside university, everyone I worked with had a different history. Some had studied English literature, others had studied music promotion and others had studied journalism. The truth is that because PR covers every sector there’s room for everyone.
So what does having a degree in PR mean for me?
I believe it’s through experience and studying PR that you learn the most effective and successful ways to tackle different problems. People who join from other backgrounds may have the know-how of the sector, if that’s what they’ve studied before, but do they know the best way to engage with their audience via social media? Do they know how to structure and produce a press release?
I’d argue that for me now, after studying PR for almost three years and with around a years worth of experience in the industry, that a substantial amount of PR procedures have become common sense to me. Why wouldn’t you use social media to promote when it’s free and worldwide? Why wouldn’t you involve bloggers, celebrities and influencers (PewDiePie is another topic) to endorse your product or service?
This is where there’s a difference between PR students and other students. I have been specially ‘trained’ if you like, through live client briefs at university, work experience placements and employment in the industry, to know how to handle the stress of a career in PR, to understand that clients often need 24/7 care, to monitor media using tools including google alerts to ensure that I am on top of everything going on with clients. I have been taught all this to ensure that when I start my PR career after university I can hit the ground running. Something that students of other degrees may not be able to do.
However, although PR students may be better equipped when they first enter the industry others will soon catch up and that’s what we need. PR is one of the most diverse industries when it comes to previous experience and education, which is a good thing! It’s through a diverse mindset that we can achieve more. Everyone needs a devils advocate every now and again to point out the flaws and what could go wrong with a campaign and for that you need to have different expertise, experience or just a different mindset. PR students may have the advantage and training to begin with, but without other degrees and other expertise the PR industry would not be where it is now!