Mediations: Philip Young

  • Mediations comments on public relations theory and practice, with an emphasis on social media and communication ethics. Philip Young is project leader for NEMO: New Media, Modern Democracy at Campus Helsingborg, Lund University, Sweden. All views expressed here are personal and should not be seen as representing Lund University or any other organisation.

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    If I'm honest, I'm glad Sunderland's PR degree is focused on media/journalism rather than business. Call it a hunch but I personally feel I've got more out of my degree studying media than I would have if business was a core requirement of the degree.

    For example, I feel I've grasped the implications of blogs, social media and citizen journalism quite quickly, primarily due to my studies in journalism; The media training helped me through my two brief radio interviews and I've also developed a keen interest in the mainstream media/news agenda/ values etc which wasn't there before starting Sunderland.

    Even interviewing people for a news release I feel more confident.

    Learning the business element of PR is without doubt essential to know, but I feel that the media aspect should be learnt first and foremost.

    Admittedly, I don't know a great deal about business (although we do cover it in level 1) but I think that knowledge will come over time perhaps.

    I received my BS in Mass Communications, which was located in the College of Communications along with Journalism and Film at Boston University. It made a lot of sense for it to be there. However, my non-comms concentration (of which we were required to do one) was in economics. But that was in the College of Liberal Arts, not the School of Management. I didn't take anything out of SMG.

    What is the right course? I'd suggest that putting into comms/media is best for undergraduates. But I think that for MBAs there needs to be a strong comms component to their work. For example, you can have MBAs with a finance, marketing, technology etc. concentration. Why not with communications?

    As someone working in PR without a professional PR qualifiction I believe (perhaps unsurprisingly) that the culture/media model is the best way to... you can learn business skills in a business, but not necessarily PR skills in a business.

    And although Richard Bailey's post nods towards other PR avenues (ie charities) hence what he terms 'management skills' rather than 'business skills'... having worked in-house for charities my media knowledge served me much better than any management lessons.

    Two provisos though: I suspect Elizabeth's point that media at an u/grad level may work best is probably true; management skills in non-commercial roles (eg charities) may actually be beneficial in large, international charities - which probably function organisation-wise like coporations anyway.

    This is semantics.

    PR should be taught in PR Schools. It is too wide for communications, to much a social science for business, too economic for social science and too timid to tell the Vice Chancellor. Thus PR is taught, as it is in most Universities, in a shed borrowed from Marketing.

    Or do I hear the mouse roar?


    Hell, communications is at the core of being human. You are right, David, it is broad and needs understanding of business, culture, sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, etc. etc.

    That is why, today, I have gone back for a graduate degree in media arts/communications philosophy. And happy to be doing it now after 15 years of practice so I can better judge theory through the window of practice.

    I feel like I don't know enough about communications (broadly) and as we move ever closer to a ubiquitious computing environment (what Adam Greenfield calls "everyware") that has enormous implications for communications and the meaning of being human in a completely technologically mediated world. I am trying to understand what this might mean and share what I learn/think with others.

    Ok, I am blabbing on a bit, but I just read the Jenkins-Murray debate and I think all this "to blog or not to blog" is really completely missing the bigger point, which I have described above.

    Enough beckons.

    The University of Regina established a school of journalism and communications several decades ago, and staffed it almost entirely with journlists. A few years ago I was talking to the then-director of the school, and heard her describe the characteristics of public relations -- deception, obfuscation and muddification.

    Needless to say, the "communications" aspect of the degree long ago withered away to nothingness, and they now more accurately call it a school of journalism.

    I have no complaint about them choosing to eliminate communications from the curriculum, but hearing it referred to (until recent years) as a school of communications was galling.

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