Public Relations Education: A Matter of ‘Degrees’

A Guest Post By Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

I had the opportunity at the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference in October to learn about a new initiative being undertaken by PRSA called the “MBA Initiative.”

As a former public relations professional now teaching the next generations of public relations pros, I applaud and wholeheartedly support this innovative approach to ensuring that future generations of business managers and others gain an understanding of the importance of public relations in successful business management.

Although some of my academic colleagues have expressed concerns about varying aspects of the program, I am wholeheartedly in favor.

Perhaps it’s because, unlike some of my colleagues, I had decades of public relations practice under my belt before diving into the world of public relations education.

Perhaps, too, it’s because, unlike many of my academic colleagues, I do not have a degree in public relations…or even communication, for that matter (much to the delight of my undergraduate PR students at Curry College!). My degrees are in English and Business Management…with the capper of an MBA.

My public relations “education” was thanks to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s public affairs internship program through which I gained hands-on education and experience in the art and science of public relations.

But I wanted to know more than just how to write news releases, plan and stage events, and interact with the media.

I wanted to understand how businesses operated…how business leaders thought…and how I might be able, as a public relations professional, to contribute to the success of a business. Thus the business degrees.

The result has been (although some might disagree) a successful career providing public relations guidance to a variety of organizations ranging from technology to health care and nonprofit.

The MBA Initiative is not intended to teach business leaders how to write a news release or pitch a story to the media.

Rather, it is designed to foster an appreciation for how public relations…the relationship aspect of the discipline…can contribute to mutual understanding between an organization and its many and diverse publics.

Research has shown that business leaders are beginning to recognize…sometimes through the “school of hard knocks”…the role that public relations plays in their success.

The MBA Initiative will help ensure that future generations of leaders will be better prepared to both communicate with their external and internal publics and appreciate the advice and counsel of their own public relations professionals.

I look forward to the continuing adoption by colleges and universities across the country of this program…and (hopefully) the continuing growth in positive interactions between business leaders and their publics.

Kirk 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 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.