|HOW CAN WE IMPROVE OUR PR GRADUATES?|
There’s been a complaint circulating among the local PR industry: “New graduates don’t know how to write press releases. Graduates don’t speak good English.” If you think it’s a vicious smear campaign targeted at PR practitioners, brace yourselves for the truth. Yes, the statement is a harsh reflection of the kind of PR graduates in the employment pool. These shortcomings of fresh graduates are a threat to the industry, but what can we do about it?Mind your language
In the business world, English is the lingua franca which transcends nationalities, cultures and borders. It is imperative that students pursuing a future career in public relations, or communication studies for that matter, have an excellent command of English, both written and spoken. Usage of the language results in the full impact of the communication process. Hence, a student with poor English has to buck up or find him or herself sorely lacking a fundamental skill.
Personality traits – Aptitude and Attitude
Mass Communications is gradually becoming one of the more popular art stream courses in the country. Mistakenly, many have a misconstrued impression of it being glamorous and exciting. Well, if your idea of “glamorous” is slaving 48 hours non-stop to prepare an “exciting” crisis situation press conference, then you’re on the right track! It’s no surprise to hear of fresh graduates’ ideals shattered by real-life confrontations.
Remedial actions should be taken by educational institutions. The scale should be tipped for quality rather than quantity. Instead of merely accepting students into communications studies, students should be assessed not only the academic performance, but also their aptitude. In this aspect, career guidance counselors must question:
- Does the individual have the passion and determination to survive in the media jungle?
- Does the individual practice constructive and analytical thinking?
- Coupled with interest in the subject, is the inner drive of motivation present?
Such questions look inward at the personal attributes of the students, which play an important role in shaping the PR person’s psyche. Although a pre-examination of the student’s character might seem to be too autocratic or elitist for some, its implications should be considered in foresight. In the long run, educational institutions must decide if they want to churn out mediocre or exceptional communication graduates.
Fancy some economics ?
It’s disappointing to hear that students seldom pay attention to the business section of the various media. Some confess that they only read it out of necessity, like when they have to complete an assignment. Ironically, the often full-to-the-brim business pages become the research basis and foundation of PR work.
Usually, apart from the communications theories gleaned from textbooks or lecture notes, students have an insipid view of the corporate world and socio-economic issues. The impact of real-time economics on businesses and how it affects a company’s image and alter people’s perspective, should be emphasised and given due attention.
There should be a revision of sorts in the current media-oriented curriculum of Mass Communication and PR studies. As a starting point, students should be introduced to corporate environments, economics and finance, and not relegated only to economists, accountants and financial analysts. For example, the often overlooked subject of financial public relations should be promoted by the institutions, for increased marketability of PR graduates. Although financial PR focuses primarily on corporate relations, a better take on this subject would be providing economics studies to students as well. “Boring” reading materials like annual reports and prospectuses should be analyzed, and monitoring of the business pages will teach students how to spot economic trends that have a ripple effect on a plethora of industries.
Back to the question: how can we improve our PR graduates? Well, for starters, there should be a reprioritization of the Mass Communication and PR subjects:
- The standard of English must be raised, with more emphasis on writing styles and techniques.
- Students be assessed for their aptitude prior to taking up the course to avoid jeopardizing the future quality of PR graduates.
- A big picture view of world-local economics, will enable PR graduates to make better business judgement when tackling issues or analyzing trends.
Therefore, it is imperative that educational institutions should include a compulsory industry placement period to introduce students to the real rigours encountered by PROs in their line of work. There are lots of room for improvement for our PR graduates, and any form of change would depend on proactive measures taken by the educators. As an alternative, Continuing Professional Education (CPE) courses will enhance that body of knowledge.