On the Business and Economics Education of Public Relations Students

By Claussen, Dane S. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

On the Business and Economics Education of Public Relations Students


Claussen, Dane S., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


A great deal of attention has been paid in this journal, professional journalism magazines, the newspaper industry, and other players to the fit between journalism education, the journalism profession generally, and the newspaper industry specifically with regard to blogging, citizen journalism, specialized journalism, midcareer training, and so-called converged news media. But what is the state of public relations education today?

The Commission on Public Relations Education two years ago issued its report, The Professional Bond: Education, Public Relations and the Practice, subtitled Public Relations Education for the 21st Century, which follows up on a 1999 report and delves into every nook and cranny of PR education that most practitioners and professionals could think of. Interested readers may find the report available online in full at www.commpred.org/report/pdf/research.pdf.

I focus here on one aspect of that report: what it says about educating PR students in disciplines and subdisciplines that traditionally are in business schools' bailiwicks. The report's "Research" section tells us in part: "understanding of business practices... were identified as deficiencies in entry-level practitioners." It adds under "What a Public Relations Curriculum Should Include": "the fundamentals of how organizations operate" and that at least graduate students should engage in "interdisciplinary study that might, for instance, include... management...."

The report's "Diversity" section implies that PR practitioners obtain some formal training in human resources management: "The diversity management aspect of public relations involves human resources, staffing, team, vendor and personnel functions."

The report's "Undergraduate Education" section implies that undergraduate students in PR already have been required or advised to take business school courses while at the same time reporting that "some of the content of those kinds of courses ['business and social/behavioral sciences'] is being incorporated directly into the public relations curriculum." But much more explicitly, the report says the "following knowledge and skills should be taught in an undergraduate public relations curriculum" and then lists, in part: "marketing and finance," "various... economic... frame works," "organizational change and development," "management concepts and theories," "problem-solving and negotiation," "strategic planning," and "managing people, programs and resources." Its general explanation reads, in part, that "Principles of public relations and management must be intertwined with and related to business ..... " and cites a "growing need for students to be completely conversant in principles and practices of business...." And its specifics for "Content of Undergraduate Courses" include: "financial and investor relations," "marketing, management and organizational behavior, finance ..... " with "directed electives" options including and starting out with "business management, marketing, accounting, finance, economics, consumer behavior...."

The report's undergraduate education section ultimately includes three different models, a "Journalism/Mass Communication Model" with "external requirements" including "accounting, marketing, business management and finance"; a "Communication/English/Liberal Arts Model" with "external requirements" including "statistics, economics...."; and a "Business/Management Model," which includes "marketing and finance," "marketing research and statistics," "marketing management," "consumer insight," and "business electives (e.g., public relations strategy, public relations planning, investor relations, crisis management, issues management, ethics, international business)."

But it is in the 2006 report's "Graduate Education" section in which the Commission made its strongest arguments in favor of more business school and business school-like education for PR students. Among its list of "Revised Content Areas" since its 1999 report is "Management sciences. …

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