A couple of weeks ago, I had a rather bizarre experience. I received an email pitch from a PR/social media agency. I say it was bizarre because I’m used to being on the other side of the process: drafting the brief then picking up the phone or sending an initial email that would be followed up at a later date.
Being viewed as a target for coverage felt pretty surreal – but also flattering.
The agency in question was representing Bournemouth University and its new range of short courses for media professionals. It’s an intelligent approach that allows working individuals to ‘mix their own MA’ and pick the modules that will be most useful to them in their careers. A number of modules are also delivered in partnership with the BBC which adds further credibility to the qualifications, in my opinion.
While I can certainly see the value of this kind of continuous learning and the development of specific skills required for this career, I have never been convinced that trying to gain this expertise before actively doing the job is such a good thing.
I’ve worked with a number of colleagues who have PR and/or marketing degrees, but in all honesty I’m not sure whether those three years of study have made much of a difference to the individuals’ careers in the long run. In fact, I very much doubt that those particular qualifications gave them an edge when they entered this industry fresh from university.
My thoughts on the subject have been compounded by the experience of working with others who have completed degrees in subjects as wide-ranging as business, literature and law who I found to be just as driven, competent and suited to careers in PR and marketing.
I don’t doubt that you can teach almost anyone to write a passable press release. I’m sure that you can also teach them the fundamentals of good media relations. But it’s that flair for the work and innate aptitude that is much harder to find. If an individual has “it”, I highly doubt that any astute employer would turn them away simply because they chose to study a more diverse subject at university.
Besides, they can always add to their academic prowess at a later date with a masters degree, on-the-job training, a specific marketing qualification – or a short course for media professionals…