This is the English version of the interview.
Specially for this issue of UAPR Bulletin, Lada Brunova (as a student) and Gaetan Giannini (as a professor) agreed to talk about Western (from the Ukrainian point of view) PR education.
Gaetan Giannini – Assistant Professor/Chair at Cedar Crest College
Department of Business, Management & Economics, Allentown (Pennsylvania, USA).
Education: MBA Marketing, International Business, Seton Hall University.
Lada Brunova – student, studying marketing and PR at University of Jyväskylä (Finland).
She was previously an account executive at Czech PLEON Impact/KETCHUM PLEON.
Education: Marketing Communication & PR, Charles University (Prague, Czech Republic).
Gaetan, from your point of view, what are the pros and cons of the PR education in your country?
Gaetan Giannini: While there are a lot of good things going on in PR education in the areas of ethics, accountability and the use of technology, I find it sadly lacking in the recognition of the marketing aspects of PR. It is my view (for which I have been widely chastised) that PR is a core element in the branding of a product or company and is ultimately one of the chief drivers of sales in a firm. Yet Universities tend only to approach PR from a journalism or humanities/communication studies point of view. Marketing and corporate strategy are under-emphasized or missing altogether, and this is a mistake. This fact should be self-evident given the proportion of PR people who work primarily to build or support a brand or otherwise cultivate publicity for a company.
Lada, what competencies are necessary to start a PR career in your country? Do employers have special requirements?
Lada Brunova: There are no written standards for entry into PR career but a college degree combined with the experience (usually gained through an internship) is considered great preparation for PR work. Of course, a good education background opens you a door onto your professional life but many employers in the Czech Republic pay attention especially on your previous PR experience: the projects you made and clients you were working for. Another advantage which college offers is helping students gain part-time internships which they can use as their reference. Internships provide experience and training which is so valuable. Of course, the ability to write and speak well is essential.
What I can see nowadays as a trend is that many journalists have started work for PR agencies. Some firms even seek college graduates who have worked in electronic or print journalism.
What are the specific features of studying in your universities? What would you like to change?
Gaetan Giannini: I encourage my marketing student to spend some time studying PR from the “classical” point-of-view. I just wish more classical PR professors would encourage their students to learn something about marketing.
The study of crisis management & PR writing are also somewhat underserved, but I think there is some progress being made in those areas.
Lada Brunova: At the Charles University a lot of teachers are working in high positions in Czech leading PR agencies and have great experience. They have many case studies and are able to tell students what worked and what did not. In small groups we study how to use online communications, do presentations, learn to prepare PR plans and work under the pressure.
And the last question – has your university knowledge proved useful in the real life work?
Lada Brunova: Studying at Charles University gave me a lot of knowledge and especially valuable connections. But a real life learns you the most. Nobody at the university told us about unpaid overtime which is more than common in a PR job J.
What you learn with time is that public relations offices are busy places, work schedules are irregular and frequently interrupted, and you will have to be at the job or on call around the clock, especially if there is an emergency or crisis. Schedules often have to be rearranged to meet deadlines, deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel out-of-town. But all these things make life of PR people fun and unpredictable.
Inna Imas, copywriter, Pleon Talan