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Heather Yaxley*: PR Education should help you understand why to do something, not just how to do it « CIPR Students Blog
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Heather Yaxley*: PR Education should help you understand why to do something, not just how to do it

August 28th 2009
Тази статия част от Interview

Interview with Heather Yaxley for CIPR Student’s Blog

by Nelly Benova heather small1 Heather Yaxley*: PR Education should help you understand why to do something, not just how to do it

As a CIPR professor and long time practitioner do you think professional education is an essential requirement for PR practitioners?

 Anyone who is serious about their job and career in PR should want to have a clear understanding of best practice and studying for a professional qualification is one way of ensuring you are able to reflect the highest standard in your work.

What are the most important characteristics of the good quality PR education?

My belief is that that education should help you understand why to do something, not just how to do it. For practitioners to be able to work closely with senior management they need to have confidence in their recommendations and that comes with being able to justify an approach on the ground of solid evidence, not just instinct or experience.

Do you believe PR education is managing to keep the pace with the contemporary PR practice? Our question is mostly referring to the social media and the way they are taught in the PR classes at the moment.

In many ways, social media relies on the same core competencies that underpin all PR practice - such as managing reputation, engaging in dialogue with key publics, executing relevant campaigns, and monitoring public opinion.  What is different is the particular nature of some tools, methods of analysis and the speed and reach of online media.  Most certainly PR education can help you devise appropriate social media strategies for organizations and recognize the need to apply crisis management and other skills in the new environment. However, courses that show you how to set up a  Twitter account, upload video onto YouTube or begin blogging are simply focusing on tactics, which are very easily learned - ask any 10 year old.

At Apeiron Academy we are following your blog Greenbanana and we were provoked by a recently started discussion dedicated to the death of the press release? Do you believe there will be still press releases in the next… let’s say a decade? Or they will be replaced by a new PR tool, may be more interactive and informative?

The traditional news release emerged to help companies provide information to newspapers in the early 1900s, when typeface was still being laid out a letter at a time. I still believe there is a need to present factual, accurate information to the public, via the media - but already the mechanisms by which this is done have changed to reflect the fact that media today is 24:7 and produced digitally. I am against the PR practice that creates press releases that lack any real news value and simply seeks to gain free marketing coverage. This has arguably led to a lack of trust in newspaper content and by seeing press releases as securing free advertising, the relationship between professional journalists and PR practitioners has been harmed. Good relationship is at the heart of good PR and whether you brief a journalist via a factual news release, a quick email, a phone call or even a Tweet , it doesn’t really matter.  Legally, there will always be a need for issuing certain information in a clear and accurate manner.  There is also the argument that the online release should maximize the potential of multimedia and links - there is certainly no harm in adapting the traditional structure in order to be more interactive.

In Bulgaria, the PR profession has a problem with its identity for many reasons. Furthermore, there isn’t an appropriate expression that names the profession in Bulgarian. Apeiron Academy intends to provoke a discussion among practitioners with the question: what is the most appropriate definition what the PR/communication specialist is doing today. What is the situation in UK regarding this issue?

This is regularly discussed with options from reputation management, to corporate communications being suggested as alternatives. I like the term ‘public relations’ as it sums up the key role practitioners can play - helping their organizations to build relationships with key publics (that is those who affect or who are affected by the organization’s actions in achieving its aims). One of the issues in trying to change the name as a result of existing poor practice is that unless the reality changes, whatever alternate name is chosen it soon will attract that bad image again. I believe those who are not professionals or who focus primarily on spin, propaganda or chasing publicity should be called publicists or press agents.    

You are dedicating much of your time on managing public communications of the Motor Industry in the UK. What professional insights does this industry have to share with the other PR world?

Motor industry PR practitioners in the UK are highly respected for their media relations activities as there is a real understanding of what journalists need to do their job. Obviously the current economic situation has made it very difficult for the PR practitioners in industry. Budgets have been cut - but this has been viewed as an opportunity to reduce some of the unnecessary aspects - such as sending journalists around the world, accomodating them in top hotels to drive a new car for just a few hours. At the same time, the economy has heightened awareness of the need to invest in alternative technologies and so environmental communications and social responsibility continue to be important aspects of PR in the industry.  This reminds us that even when times are tough, you cannot compromise on recognizing and planning for the future needs of the business and society. Finally, I would point out how well the practitioners have coped with crisis management - particularly in a world where decisions made by parent companies in Japan or the US are instantly reported online. The need to communicate professionally, often when you aren’t even sure of your own job security, shows the real professionalism of a PR practitioner.

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 * Heather Yaxley is a PR specialist from UK with great practical and theoretical experience. She teaches the qualification programs of CIPR at Apeiron Academy, Accredited centre of CIPR in Bulgaria. You can learn more about her here.  

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