As the spring semester begins and my focus shifts to my public relations classes, I’ve been thinking about what “tweaks” may be needed to update my syllabi. As the industry shifts and emphasizes new technology, new platforms and new approaches to social media, so does the classwork. But how much of the “old” PR techniques still hold, and how much is truly “new?”
For example, the final project in my PR Fundamentals class is the production of a press kit for an imagined client. Each student must create original material in standard industry formats for press releases, backgrounders, bios, media advisories, and other supporting documents. But this raises a question: Is this the kind of work our students will be doing after they graduate in a couple of years? Or is the practice of putting together a press kit, housed in a two-pocket folder, made obsolete by electronic and social media? Some professionals have suggested that the press release itself is dead, let alone an entire paper press kit. Should this no longer be taught?
The newest required course in Hofstra’s public relations program is PR Tools. Here we review the skills PR practitioners need to do their jobs; we survey social media platforms, learn how to create blogs, practice photography and video production, do some desktop publishing, and assemble online portfolios. I’m wondering if the amount of time we spend in each area is quite enough, given how much of these skills are now being used in real world PR. Should web-based platforms and desktop skills become the primary focus of the public relations major?
So to my new students: welcome to the spring semester. You’re part of an amazing evolution–maybe even a revolution–within the field you have chosen to study. Take it all in, make suggestions, add to the debate, and do your research. You, too, will be contributing to the fast-paced changes we PR veterans are witnessing. Ultimately, you are the future of our industry. Your thoughts?