This morning, I read in PRWeek that Arizona State University is hiring former Edelman U.S. President CEO Mark Hass to teach strategic communications in both the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and the W.P. Carey School of Business in the fall. For years, PR agency leaders have been asking for this convergence - and Arizona State is doing its students a major service. PR has long wandered college campuses as an academic discipline. Some universities host public relations education in the journalism school, making the case that PR's close relationship to traditional media requires a firm grasp of AP Style, elements of news and solid reporting. Many of those journalism schools have incorporated new media with courses in video, web, design and other tools used across strategic communications disciplines.
Those are all valid points and important skills...but the missing piece is business acumen.
Too many PR students are graduating without a basic understanding of managerial accounting, economics or marketing - all subjects that translate to everyday necessities for running a PR agency and counseling clients on the impact of strategic communications on business outcomes.
On the flip side, PR's other academic home is the business school. There, students may receive a more holistic study of marketing, but journalism fundamentals may be overlooked. Young professionals earn respect and quick wins from solid media relations and writing skills, and it's important to give them that strong start.
I've lived in both camps, actually, and strongly believe that successful PR agency professionals need training in both journalism and business. I graduated from a fantastic journalism program (where I later taught). After a few years of experience, though, I found a gaping hole in my understanding of business - and back I went to UT's business school to earn an MBA. I wouldn't change that path for myself, but students can save time and money by seeking out that balance early in their journey.
Bringing seasoned agency professionals, like Hass, into both journalism and business school classrooms provides the well-rounded education students need for successful careers in strategic communications, public relations and integrated marketing.
Bravo, Arizona State, for taking this first step. I hope other universities follow your lead.