With a degree now the minimum requirement for most professional fields, we ask two PR professionals if the same should be expected when it comes to public relations…
“YES” says Houri Elmayan, Account Director – Lifestyle Practice, TOH PR
Individuals with a broader communications education are more versatile and have the opportunity to practice PR for any industry with well-developed skills
Although many people can work in the industry without a media-related degree, coming from a communications background, I would highly recommend that some sort of certification or degree in the field be obtained prior to starting a job in PR. Not only is it a fundamental source of knowledge and form of training for the profession, it will also help you discover if this is the field and lifestyle you want to pursue as a long term career.
Often, we see banking or finance graduates pursuing financial PR. While their prowess within the subject matter helps them excel, they still need to acquire significant PR skills, contacts and know how. On the other hand, individuals with a broader communications education are more versatile and have the opportunity to practice PR for any industry, with well developed, albeit basic skills in the field.
For example, as someone without a banking and finance degree, I had the opportunity to represent a global British bank and American financial product service provider for many years and was able to achieve results. Later I was able to work with IT/technology companies and then on to retail and consumer PR. Each subject is very distinctive and has its own language. However, having the education as a background programmed me to become tactile and the boundaries of PR-able industries have become limitless.
Studies in communications also offer the following opportunities:
· Developing the ability to learn to write from a communications perspective
· Understanding the fundamentals of journalism and the general approach to media personnel
· Developing skills such as assessing quantitative and qualitative information, interviewing and investigative thinking – which is an asset when writing on behalf of a company or a brand
· Acquiring an understanding of behavioral psychology when working to change opinions and perceptions of stakeholders
· Learning international business management and how to deal with people from various parts of the world – that is a very useful skill to have in the GCC
· Mindfulness and the ability to analyse and evaluate situations and apply problem-solving skills
It also helps create your own ethical stances, opinions and values and that will play an important role when faced with certain situations while working in the industry.
As in any profession, practice makes perfect and so training and working in the field will make you better in the job. However starting off with a media-related degree and presets for the skills required equips you more for the exciting and broad career ahead.
“NO” says Swaleha Calafato, Junior Account Executive, Active PR
I do believe that public relations is a field where nothing teaches you the necessary expertise as much as actually being on the job – the learning curve is steep enough
Is a degree in public relations required in order to be successful in the world of PR? I think not.
Public relations is an intricate and multifaceted field. It is important to keep in mind, however, that formal public relations programs were only incorporated into academic programs over the last 20 to 25 years, whereas PR as a profession has existed since the early 1900’s.
Undoubtedly, a degree in public relations offers a strong foundation based on theory, as well as comprehensive knowledge of public relations practice rudiments.
Though a strong background in writing is essential, as well as robust communication skills, I do believe that public relations is a field where nothing teaches you the necessary expertise as much as actually being on the job – the learning curve is steep enough.
Public relations has developed over the years and become more strategic. Just having a degree in the field does not promise success – it takes a great amount of understanding of the profession and industry, as well as being open to learning and adopting new practices.
A degree in PR is not an indicator of whether a person will be good at the job. Passion, originality, good writing skills and whether an individual has the outlook, ambition and determination to be successful at what they do is imperative. Personality traits contribute significantly to success in the world of PR – it’s a job that requires people to socialise and interact at all levels, be it with the media, clients, or even your colleagues for that matter.
A degree in the field offers in-depth theoretical knowledge that is an advantage when starting off ones career; however it will not sustain or assist in career growth. Individuals with completely different backgrounds can easily pick up the ropes without necessarily needing a PR degree to be successful in the field. Public relations does not require technical skills like other professions such as the likes of engineering – it’s a field that individuals can transition into. Personally, I know plenty of individuals with unrelated majors who are fantastic and successful PR practitioners.
Nothing can out do experience.