As academics do, I've been involved in some research lately. One subject related to what I'm working on is the idea of "enncroachment"--namely, when professions other than PR do what is essentially a PR function.
Academics study this because it relates to theories of which model of PR is practiced in an organization, whether PR is treated as a management function, and so forth.
So it was interesting to read in the past few days that journalist Kevan Chapman of WGVU radio will take over the press secretary function for Rep. Vern Ehlers, replacing long timer John Brandt. Meanwhile, former politician Jerry Kooiman has been hired as community relations manager for the MSU College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids.
Now, I know Kevan and Jerry and respect them both. I was a journalist before I went into PR. They probably both will do good work. But, I do worry a wee bit that hiring people without a degree in PR runs the risk of perpetuating perceptions of PR that aren't entirely accurate. Will PR be portrayed as merely getting publicity, a journalist's common understanding? In the case of Kooiman, he speaks of making the new MSU college part of the fabric of the Grand Rapids community, which is exactly what I teach my students about community relations. But how will he do it? And will he and his colleagues realize that this is PR?
Without licensing the PR profession, there is no way to prevent professionals from other backgrounds doing PR work. So those of us long-timers have a responsibility to engage them and ensure they are well equipped and have the PR perspective, and join us in "enhancing the profession."
Memo to the membership chair of WMPRSA--send packets immediately to Kevin and Jerry.