Continuing Education…Is It “Learning” or “Information Overload”?

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A Guest Post By Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

I’ve finally come down from the “high” that I always experience after attending the PRSA International Conference. In a nutshell, the conference was four days of learning, learning, and learning along with nonstop networking opportunities.

The beautiful part was the opportunity to hear from (for me, at least) folks who are a lot smarter than I could ever hope to be. The variety of topics covered was such that I can’t imagine anyone anywhere complaining that “there was nothing interesting to attend.”

My happy dilemma each morning and afternoon as I was frantically weighing “Session A” against “Session B,” both offered at the same time, was just how to prioritize and decide which to attend.

When I got back home and my bags were finally unpacked and stowed, I took some time to reflect on what I had experienced…and learned…over the past few days.

Simply put…WOW!

I am blown away by how much new information I stuffed into my pea-sized brain. And every single thing that I’ve learned is something that I can apply directly to my “day job” of teaching public relations at Curry College.

Then the questions start.

Is everything I saw and heard really going to be of value? Or was some of it just nice to know? And…drum roll, please…is there a point where your head just gets too full and stuff starts to leak out through your ears?

As the wise poet said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or…(or…what?!?)

Public relations is an ever-evolving, constantly-changing profession. What’s new today is tomorrow’s doorstop. Which means, in turn, that we, as PR professionals, are faced with the challenge of not just keeping up with, but…if possible…staying ahead of the proverbial curve.

So, we take advantage of national conferences, local programs, trade news (PRSA produces several excellent publications – Public Relations Tactics, Public Relations Strategist, and Public Relations Journal) to help us stay abreast of the latest “tricks of the trade” so that we can, in turn, feel confident that we are providing advice and counsel based on the latest knowledge to our clients or employers.

As I’ve written before, successful public relations professionals have a “yearning for learning” that drives us to be continually seeking out this knowledge. And, as we do this, we also are fulfilling one of the tenets of ethical public relations as defined in PRSA’s “Code of Ethics,” that of “enhancing the profession.”

So there is no “information overload,” in my opinion. What there is is a burning desire on the part of those of us who are committed to excellence in our work to be just that…excellent.

Hazlett_KirkKirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. He also is Visiting Lecturer, Organizational and Professional Communication (Graduate), at Regis College in Weston, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk is a former member of PRSA’s national Board of Directors and has held leadership positions with PRSA Educators Academy and PRSA Northeast District as well as with the Boston and Hawaii PRSA chapters.



4 Responses to " Continuing Education…Is It “Learning” or “Information Overload”? "

  1. Janelle Allen says:

    I think about this even now as a graduate student. Personally, I feel that the public relations industry is experienced based. So even though I’m constantly learning about the history of the industry and how it’s evolving, it means nothing unless I have the chance to put it in action. Most of the things that I’ve learned from undergrad until now, make me question my decision on continuing in a higher learning program because sometimes I feel like, I just get it. Despite my conflicted view, I think the answer to your question is — the answer lines on the fence. Yes, sometimes it is just a consumption of “extra” information, but I honestly believe that sometimes it is the experience and the opportunities that come from these continued education programs, conferences, or networking events. Plus, you never know when something you heard or learned three weeks or months ago becomes relevant to your “right now.”

  2. Monica Wood says:

    Janelle, I tend to agree with you. And in response to the original posting, I am happy that you are afforded such opportunities. However, even as a seasoned PR (20 years) with my own firm (10 years in 2014) I am challenged to find the funds and time to attend since becoming self-employed. I also find it sad that many pros and emergers are simply unable to glean because of financial challenges. There are sone amazing PR pros and emerging pros who knock it out the park each day, but can’t either get their employer to invest or they can’t personally invest to enhance their professional development.

    So, I am again happy you had the opportunity. I pray one day others who are on the grind will be able to have the same experience.

  3. I agree about continuous learning. I attended the PRSSA National Conference and gained valuable information that I was able to apply to my internship. The more knowledge we have, the more we are able to serve our clients. Neurologically, learning increases our neural connections, which can enhance critical thinking skills. This then allows us to produce better work for the clients we serve. If you can’t attend conferences, look up the speakers and see if they have written any books. Start there and think of new ways to develop professionally. There are other ways besides conferences to learn, but if the funds are available, I do encourage going based on a few I had the opportunity to go to.

  4. It’s so important to constantly find new opportunities to learn and grow in our profession. From conferences such as PRSSA and PRSA to Meet Up groups, and social networking, there is no shortage of events or communications professionals who want to share knowledge. Meeting professionals with different backgrounds and areas of expertise and then taking the time to learn from them is a great way to expand your frame of reference.

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