Integration of Advertising and Public Relations Curricula: A 2005 Status Report of Educator Perceptions

Article excerpt

The communication environment has changed significantly during the last two decades. While many advertising and public relations professionals embrace a more integrated approach to communication, it is not clear how educators are responding. This study explores the current status of curriculum integration from the perspective of the educator. The most striking findings are (1) a strong association between educator attitudes toward integration and the current level of integration at their institutions, and (2) the similarity of perception between advertising and public relations educators about what skills are most important to teach students.

Tracking the beginning of what has become known as strategic or integrated marketing communication is akin to trying to pinpoint exactly when audiences became so segmented or when individual thinking empowered consideration of so many consumer options. What were thought by some to be simply 1980s buzzwords grew into a trend of the 1990s and a mainstay of communication approaches today.

As industry began to apply integrated communication techniques more frequently, advertising and public relations educators debated the impact this integration should have-or not have-on curricula. A decade later, the discussion continues. A spirited panel session on the blurring of lines between advertising and public relations curricula at the 2003 summer Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) convention showed the interest this topic holds for educators and researchers.

A variety of studies shows that more clients, agencies, and organizations are using an integration of advertising, public relations, and marketing concepts. Rose and Miller conclude "that there is a perceived need for integrated communications by many corporations and agencies and that IMC is here to stay."1

Limited analysis of educator attitudes and curricular integration of the two fields, however, shows a need for research to be done among advertising and PR educators.

A 1998 study by Griffin and Pasadeos showed advertising educators were more eager to include other marketing elements than PR educators, who viewed marketing as only part of their role. Both groups recognized that advertising and PR students lack some skills employers want as they enter the job market.2

By building on the research of Griffin and Pasadeos, this study will provide an updated status report of integration in advertising and public relations education. Do strategic communication and integration appear to be passing or growing trends?

Purpose of the Study

This study explores the current status of curriculum integration from the perspective of the educator. An integrated curriculum is defined as integration of advertising, public relations, and marketing concepts in undergraduate programs through a strategic communications or integrated marketing communications approach.

Literature Review

Communication Integration Reflects Societal Changes. Integrated or strategic communication evolved in the 1980s and 1990s as markets changed from mass markets to tightly focused market segments. With the evolution, a need for scholarly research in both theoretical and practical issues emerged. Nowak and Phelps wrote in 1994, "few academic advertising scholars and researchers have taken seriously marketers' interest in integrated marketing or advertising communications."3 Schultz and Kitchen agreed formal research and theory development were slow in coming and launched studies in 1997 and 1999 that showed use of integrated communication in U.S. and international advertising agencies was widespread.4

Despite increasing evidence of high levels of acceptance of integration within the advertising industry, a debate among scholars emerged, and continues, over co-mingling public relations theory and practice with that of advertising and marketing. Some felt one should not taint the others. …