There is some interesting debate going on across several blogs about the positioning of PR in in unversities - basically where should it be rooted, in media or in business? The exchanges come as UK academics are getting to grips with a significant new textbook, Exploring Public Relations, by Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans, both of Leeds Metropolitan University.
My first impressions are very favourable, not least because Exploring PR fills an large hole in UK reading lists. That is not meant to be a criticism of existing books, more a reflection of the fact that PR is maturing as an academic discipline and Tench and Yeomans have brought together a good range of respected writers who in many cases have gone beyond their contributions to previous texts. It is also very well presented for Level 2 students - engaging but still challenging, serious in intent and delivery.
Its significance to the broader debate lies in the framing of content. As one of the contributors, Richard (PR Studies) Bailey himself notes, it is located much more firmly as a business text than in media. Like Richard I accept that media relations is only a part of PR and that some PR has little or no connection with traditional media.
But at the same time I am very happy to be teaching at a University which locates PR firmly in Media & Culture. Our graduates leave with a strong grasp of both PR theory and its practical applications. they also understand something about journalism - again its practice but also its key skills, being able to write in a simple and effective way.
And they also gain an understanding of how PR shapes the world in which they will live. I am pleased that almost everyone who leaves wanting to work in PR will go on and get a job in the industry. But I am also pleased when students develop a critical understanding of PR and media which takes them in very different directions.
Exploring PR is good news, but by its very nature it is far from the whole story. Far from it being a weakness, or a problem to be addressed, I think we should welcome the fact that in the UK PR is taught in both media and business schools - the contrasts and tensions between these perspectives helps to deepen all our understandings.