Universities think PR exists in a fantasy land!!

23 July 2010 By Northern Lights

Universities think PR exists in a fantasy land!! image

Waheedby Mohammed Waheed, Intern at Northern Lights PR

Student with high expectations

When you attend university you think you are the “bee’s knees” and you will learn everything you need to know to be very successful in your future profession, however, not everything is what it seems.

University PR

At university I was taught all about marketing communications and how to do certain things, without actually being taught (if that makes sense). We are taught about all these wonderful things we could do, but what they fail to mention is that in reality this is not the case.

Some of things we were taught included:

  1. Living in a fantasy land where you have endless amounts of money. So you can do whatever you like and you will be successful. However, this “lala-land” is not what happens in the real world and you have to adapt to your surroundings.
  2. We are also not really told about how to attract the media, except it is more a case of if you do something the media will come. There is no mention of how you would get them to attend.
  3. Networking is not seen as being key and not something that is even taught. We get told all about these wonderful things but fail to learn about how to effectively network.

Real life PR

Whilst on the PR programme I learned how the real world operates. That, it is not easy and involves a lot of hard work, however, it is very rewarding when you see the results. I was taught that creativity is a key aspect and you will generally work with small budgets as I did with the projects that were given to us.

Whilst at Northern Lights I have been taught many things including:

  1. How to blog effectively
  2. How to structure a press release
  3. How to utilise social media
  4. How to write for different audiences
  5. Steps to take in a crisis, and finally;
  6. That networking is essential.

The master classes were full of fresh insight and it was nice to get a worldly perspective of PR rather than the fantasy one created at university.

BAME community in PR

PR is not seen as an option within the BAME community, as there are not many success stories, or individuals who have pursued a career in PR. PR is not seen in the same light as other professions, however, with Northern Lights offering such a great programme they are aiming to change this. Northern Lights have already influenced 5 interns and from a personal point, it has made me actively seek others to pursue a PR career. Since being with Northern Lights I have been marketing PR through word of mouth, which I see as the best form of marketing. I have already interested a friend to apply for the Northern Lights programme next year and shared my experiences with him. I have also been quizzed by my sister about PR as she looks for a career. My sister has now accepted that PR is a possible career for her and is now actively researching the PR market to see if it is for her.

Do you agree with my views? Are there other steps that could be taken to attract more BAME graduates to take up PR?

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Written by Northern Lights


  • It’s true that universities tend to teach principles rather than practice.

    One good reason for this is that it’s impossible to anticipate exactly how people will be practising 10 years from now. So we teach principles that should still be useful 30 years hence.

    Which is harder – principles or practice? Most university lecturers emphasise theory in the belief that learning it is a worthwhile challenge (because it’s difficult). My view is that public relations is easy in theory; it’s only ever difficult in practice.

    Some classroom and textbook learning combined with some work experience should be the ideal combination (as long as you can make the connections between the two experiences, and not leave them in separate compartments).

  • I completely agree with you Richard. I think there needs to be more real life case studies applied to the principles taught. So something like getting a local business involved and getting students to design a PR campaign would integrate the theory into practice.

  • Mohammed,
    It’s a bit scary that you believe your university delivers fairy tales! And that you are not encouraged to network! The analysis of case studies aims to help you apply theory to practice in the academic environment, but there is no doubt that the best way to enhance your learning is by experiencing ‘the real thing’. At the same time hopefully a university education helps to develop your critical and analytical skills ensuring that you are an asset to the employing company.
    We are keen for more students students to take up the opportunity of internships, so please spread the word about the benefits.
    Sarah Dixon, Incoming Dean, Bradford School of Management

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