Thursday, February 04, 2010

FAQ on Ad/PR Education Program

I get asked a lot of questions, and receive a lot of unsolicited advice, about the Advertising & Public Relations program at Grand Valley State University. If I took to heart all the suggestions and sentences from professionals that begin "You should..." we would keep students here til they're 40. The fact is, our Ad/PR major is the way it is for a reason, or several reasons. I thought I would share them here. Since this is based on questions I get frequently, it is in FAQ format:

Why is Advertising/PR in the School of Communications at Grand Valley?

While some colleges around the country locate advertising and PR in a Journalism Department or a College of Business, in fact the majority of advertising and public relations programs that are complete majors are located in a communication department or school[1]. At GVSU, the Ad/PR major is appropriately located in a School of Communications along with seven other majors: Broadcasting, Communication Studies, Film/Video Production, Health Communication, Journalism, Photography, and Theatre.

Where a program is placed affects how it is taught. With the Ad/PR major in the School of Communications, the emphasis is on communications. Some might argue that people working in advertising and public relations need to have a good understanding of business and thus the major should be part of a college of business. However, many advertising and public relations professionals—including our graduates--do NOT work in businesses or exclusively with business clients. Many work in the non-profit or government sectors. For such students, additional courses in public administration or political science would make more sense, and placing public relations in a business school would in fact limit instruction to a marketing focus. Therefore, we ground our students broadly in advertising and public relations from a communications basis, and encourage them to minor or take electives in business, political science or whatever courses best suit their specific career goals.

Why Integrate Advertising and PR into One Major?

There are a variety of ways that colleges and universities structure their advertising and public relations programs. Of the 185 colleges represented in the 2008 “Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations” brochure, 40 have programs that integrate Advertising/Public Relations. Of those 40, 12 offer a full Advertising/Public Relations major. Others have Advertising/Public Relations as a sequence or emphasis or track as part of a more general communications or other major. Still other schools have a separate advertising major and public relations major.

Some educators are opposed to blending advertising, public relations and marketing programs because of a fear of “encroachment,” in which other disciplines change the nature and focus of what they are trying to teach. The alternate view is that integrated marketing communications (IMC) or integrated communications (IC) is a reality in the workplace and an integrated program better prepares students for their careers. [2]

At GVSU, we share both views. In our Advertising/Public Relations major, the majority of the courses the students take are the same. But they emphasize either advertising or public relations by taking a unique set of three courses. In this way they can emphasize one discipline but understand the other well enough to perform related skills or work with colleagues in an integrated communication context in their careers.

Do You Emphasize Theory or Practical Experience?

The School of Communications at GVSU stresses the integration of liberal and professional education as part of its mission for all of its majors, including Advertising/Public Relations. This integration of theoretical and practical learning experiences is important to prepare students not only with technical communication skills, but also with the ability to engage in critical thinking and to understand that their role as a professional is to contribute positively to the well-being of society. Also, we affirm that "nothing is as practical as a good theory" in the sense that theories explain and predict attitudes and behavior on the basis of generalized empirical study. Understanding theory gives experience legs.

The Advertising/Public Relations major achieves this integration in two ways. One, our faculty includes tenure-track professors who have professional experience in advertising and public relations as well as doctoral degrees. This enables them to teach from a broad theoretical and empirical perspective as well as provide the validity that comes from practice. A variety of visiting, affiliate and adjunct professors enhance the program with their varied professional experiences in different aspects of advertising and public relations work.

But we also believe, to paraphrase Sophocles, "to DO is to learn." So, the Advertising/Public Relations major gives students hands-on learning. In addition to a required internship for all students, four of our courses involve students completing projects for clients in the community. This is consistent with programs across the country, although many only engage students with real clients in the campaigns course.[3]

What is The Curriculum?

The specific courses Advertising/Public Relations majors take are consistent with what is expected by professionals and advised by educators. In fact, the GVSU Advertising/Public Relations major curriculum reflects the recommendations in the 2006 Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education.

Our curriculum is as follows:

School of Communication Core Courses (9 credits)

COM 101—Concepts of Communication

COM 295—Theories of Communication

Plus one of the following:

COM 201—Speech

COM 215—Storymaking

Advertising/Public Relations Major Core (36 credits)

CAP 105—Technology in Advertising and PR

CAP 115—Advertising/PR Research

CJR 256—Newsreporting I

CAP 210—Fundamentals of Advertising

*CAP 220—Fundamentals of Public Relations

PHI 325—Ethics in the Professions

*CAP 400—Advertising/PR Campaigns

CAP 490—Internship

Ad Emphasis must take: PR Emphasis must take:

CAP 310—Advertising Management Cases CAP 320—PR Management Cases

CAP 315—Advertising Copywriting *CAP 321—Media Relations Writing

CAP 413—Media Planning *CAP 423—Corporate Communications


COM 495—Issues in Communication

Electives (6 credits 200 level or above)

* = coursework involves work on project for real client.

Many professionals ask us if we have a course in a specific subject. We keep up with changes in the field by offering “special topics” courses and/or by incorporating social media, design, promotions, branding etc. into the pedagogy and lesson plans of the required courses.

[1] According to “Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations?”, a brochure/directory of U.S. programs edited and updated each year by Billy Ross, Ph.D., of Louisiana State University and Jef I. Richards, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin

[2] Larsen, Phullis V. & Len-Rios, Maria E. (2006). “Integration of Advertising and Public Relations Curricula: A 2005 Status Report of Educator Perceptions.” Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. 61(1) pp. 33-47.

[3] Benigni, Vince, Cheng, I-Hui, and Cameron, Glen T. (2004). “The Role of Clients in the Public Relations Campaigns Course.” Journalism & Mass Communications Educator. 59(3) pp.259-277.


Karen Russell said...

Great idea for a post, Tim. Love that you cited some Grady grads, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Is a basic JRN class a pre-req for the media relations writing?

How do the health communications and PR degree differ? I've always been intrigued by a specific health comm major but wonder if those students get enough writing experience/exposure.

I spoke to a health comm class this fall and not a single student raised their hand when I asked who was involved in PRSSA. I was very disappointed. Are health comm majors allowed in GVSU PRSSA?

Anne V.

Tim Penning, APR said...

Thanks Karen. Those Grady grads are everywhere!

Anne--yes the JRN class is a pre-requisite for the media relations class. As for Health COM, these majors take a variety of health science, communications, and APR classes. While they don't have all the same requirements, many take the PR writing classes as electives in the Health COM major.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how you can ignore the lack of curriculum for the advertising side of the major -- Ad Agencies don't hire people based on their PR skills, and the current emphasis is severely lacking (if not to a damaging level) for creative classes.

PR may want an advertising background, but including PR for Ad majors to such a degree is harmful to their education.

GVSU needs to offer Advertising routes that drop into account or creative and lighten up on the PR.

Source: Went to GV, now in Chicago advertising, and it was grueling thanks to GV.

Tim Penning, APR said...

Actually the program is pretty even. The only purely PR class Ad emphasis students take is Fundamentals of PR. But all the other classes--research, technology, ad fundamentals, ad copywriting, media planning, ad cases and management, and campaigns--prep students for careers as AEs or in account planning. Those who want to go into 'creative' meaning copywriting certainly get that. Those who want to enhance production skills such as video, graphic design etc are encouraged to take electives or minor in those areas. Sorry your transition into a Chicago agency wasn't perfect. Other alumni have related more positive stories.

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