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Educational Rigor as a PR Asset
By: Doug Bedell
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Credit Heather Yaxley, of Bournemouth, England, and her Greenbanana blog with adding some heft to the subject of the proper preparation for work, or a career in, public relations. She argues that "we have to stop bashing academic study and intellectual understanding" in favor of a "fire-fighting" or "busy work" approach to the craft. Instead, communication studies should be a rigorous, life-long pursuit.

We agree, and regret that we have not taken that "academic" precept seriously enough during our own communication-based career.  

Heather notes a post on PRmoment advising that the majority of PR pros (67 percent) say their career development has come from magazines, followed by training (54 percent) and books (43 percent). There are some great magazines out there, especially if the category includes academic journals — like The American Scholar. But, unless one really studies a favorite magazine and takes thorough, reflective notes, they're more for insights on-the-run than in-depth learning.

Heather Yaxley notes that Edward Bernays saw public relations practitioners as a bridge between thinkers and doers. We'd put the emphasis on thinking before doing, the more profound the better.

Citing Stephen Covey's four-quadrant time matrix, Heather sees PR as adding the "most value in the important and not urgent quadrant. This is the place of pro-active, results-oriented matters; where it is necessary to 'act to seize opportunity, to make things happen.'

"Instead, many practitioners seems (stet) to spend their time oscillating from the stressful situation of fire-fighting the important which is urgent and the pointless position of trivial, busy work."

In our view, the ideal PR mindset is a well-informed, weighty one that enables a practitioner to spot opportunities in a time of headlong change (like the present) — in short, a well-educated, continually honed one. 

By the way, Heather explains that the "Green Banana" of her blog title is "a meme for continous (stet) improvement," or lifelong learning. Neat (though her blog could use some proofreading). 

Heather, incidentally, lectures part-time at Bournemouth University, runs the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association Ltd., and is currently studying for a PhD at Bournemouth University on Career Strategies in Public Relations. "A paper I presented on the History of Careers in PR at the 2nd International History of PR Conference in 2011," she advises on her "About" page, "will soon be published in Public Relations Review."


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About the Author
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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