What are PR and marketing students being taught these days?

Even though I didn’t study marketing or PR at university, I was flattered to be approached by a student who is currently studying PR in London. I remember how difficult it was to make industry contacts when I was just starting out so I was delighted to be able to help.
Source: mbarronconsulting.com
All that was required was fifteen minutes of my time for a phone interview about my current role, my career to date and my experience of working in the industry.

I was a little concerned, though, when my interviewer wasn’t able to understand my answer about success and coverage evaluation. I was talking about advertising equivalent values (AVEs) and how the PR value is often calculated by multiplying that figure by three – but I’d lost her with the acronym.

Even when I explained what AVEs are and how some organisations use them to measure PR success, she admitted that this was an entirely new concept that hadn’t been touched upon during her course.

AVEs have always been a topic of much industry debate (are they useful; are they useless; are they relevant at all?) so I’d have thought they would have at least been mentioned at some point during the four year course. If not, it begs the question: what are marketing and PR students being taught these days if fundamentals like measurement aren’t being covered?

I’ve always thought that the subject of your degree doesn’t necessarily make you a better or worse candidate for PR/marketing roles and this revelation further strengthened that belief. If students aren’t being taught these basics that could better prepare them to enter the industry, surely a psychology or law degree would be just as useful.

It may be a bit of a harsh view (and I accept that some courses will be more comprehensive than others) but I’m sure that work experience and on-the-job training are far more valuable than classroom-based study. I’d love to work towards a professional qualification, but only if it was applicable to my day-to-day role. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Businesses walking a fine line with social network exploitation

A former colleague of mine at Berkeley PR wrote a thought-provoking blog post this week about Gap’s logo redesign.

In case you haven’t heard; the fashion retailer recently trialled a new logo that was swiftly slated by social media users. I added a comment beneath the post:

It seems to me that the logo fiasco was actually a PR success for Gap. Whether you believe that “all publicity is good publicity” or not, it certainly got everyone talking about the clothes retailer and its strong, well-liked, established brand.

It also showed the world that this company is listening to its audience via social media. That’s a positive, forward-thinking message to be sharing with the market.

Not a bad result for such a naive branding error!

While my comment demonstrates that it initially seemed like Gap had made an honest mistake, people quickly began to wonder whether it was actually a sly move by the retailer designed to simply grab some headlines. The question on everyone’s lips became: is it a publicity stunt or a terribly misguided re-branding exercise? We may never know. It seems highly unlikely that the Gap team will come clean if it was a sham.

It has left me wondering, though, whether PR “stunts” will continue to succeed as people become savvier about how organisations can manipulate users on social networks. Could these kinds of exploit increasingly backfire, with companies being resented for employing such sly tactics?

It’s certainly food for thought.