Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Gaps in Advertising and Public Relations Education: Perspectives of Agency Leaders

Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Gaps in Advertising and Public Relations Education: Perspectives of Agency Leaders

Article excerpt


Those who teach advertising or public relations run the risk that preparations on Tuesday might become dated by class time on Thursday. The advertising and public relations industries have undergone major transformations due to the constant advent of new communication tools and more focus on global audiences. The boundaries between the two professions are blurring, as both advertising and public relations practitioners capitalize on the shift of audiences and media budgets to online media channels. Paid social strategies such as native advertising, sponsored posts and tweets are equally likely to be created and placed by advertising and public relations practitioners. As DVorkin (2013) wrote, "that means PR companies going after what they covet most - huge brand-marketing budgets controlled by ad agencies." With these changes, the question arises: are advertising and public relations educators keeping pace in preparing graduates with the skills needed for today's integrated workforce?

Paid online strategies are evolving due to the growth of programmatic buying of advertising (Carmody, 2015; Marshall, 2014), which refers to the use of algorithms "to target individual users, not just aggregated audiences based on their digital tracking data" (Vega, 2012). Industry trade publications estimated spending on programmatic buying in the U.S. at $10 billion in 2014, with projections of $20 billion by 2016 (Carmody, 2015). While public relations practitioners may aspire to manage campaigns using paid strategies, are educators equipping them with competencies in media planning, buying and market research?

Likewise, advertising practitioners are beginning to pursue community management roles for social media channels, an area where public relations had a head start (Neill & Schauster, 2015). However, managing social media channels involves more than just posting creative content. The task also requires social listening or monitoring to identify consumer concerns, a responsibility more in line with public relations' issues management and crisis communication roles. However, are advertising educators preparing students for crisis and issues management?

These realities associated with new communication technology suggest that communication practitioners need to be "willing to test the creative boundaries irrespective of traditional communication demarcations" (Kitchen, Spickett-Jones & Grimes, 2007, p. 150), which requires knowledge and competencies in advertising, public relations and marketing. Some universities, such as Northwestern University and the University of Kansas (Ross, Osborne, Richards & Fletcher 2006), have merged the two disciplines in response to calls from educa- tors and practitioners that advertising and public relations curriculum become integrated (Miller & Rose, 1994), but what are the current expectations of employers for new hires?

Scholars have encouraged regular examination of advertising education "due to the rapidly changing nature of advertising" (Blakeman & Haley, 2005, p. 6). Relative to changing practices and their impact on education, scholars have examined the perceived importance of international public relations curriculum among educators and practitioners (Hatzios & Lariscy, 2008); employers' perspectives regarding the desired skills among advertising creatives (Blakeman & Haley, 2005); the skills small IMC agencies are seeking among recent graduates (Beachboard & Weidman, 2013); how to teach media planning in a changing media landscape (Kim & Patel, 2012); and desired leadership qualities based on the perspectives of senior public relations executives and students (Meng, 2013). A limitation with previous research is the tendency to focus on either advertising or public relations education rather than provide a cross-disciplinary perspective. Furthermore, a cross-disciplinary perspective relative to new media practices specifically and their impact on advertising and public relations education is altogether missing. …

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