‘Core’ versus ‘extended’ PR competencies–do you buy in?

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In a manual written for his students in 2005, Emanuele Invernizzi (Professor of Corporate Communication at IULM University in Milan and co-organiser of the 2008 Euprera Conference to take place in Milan) distinguished between the concepts of ‘core’ and ‘extended’ public relations competencies. He regards ‘core’ competencies as media relations, public affairs, organisation of corporate events and ceremonials while ‘extended’ competencies, in addition to the above, includes planned support to other functions (e.g. human resources, finance, marketing, and procurement).

These concepts have briefly been referred to in several posts on this blog, most recently by Toni in my post The Institutionalisation of the PR ‘Educationist’ Role. Since these are important concepts in the institutionalization process, I have asked Prof Invernizzi to further explain the differentiation. His comment follows, originally posted here. 

Quote < With these, I tried (mainly for students but not only for them) to describe the boundaries of the professional field given the very rapidly changing, expanding and growing importance of public relations contents within organizations as well as the different points of view of scholars from various fields (namely management, micro economics, sociology and public relations), practitioners, professional associations, and managers/CEOs of non profit and for profit organizations. 

‘Core’ pr refers to a concept of public relations focused on its specific professional activities, mostly related to its historical roots and development. This is the concept and the definition that scholars in the micro-economics and management field as well as the managers/CEOs usually use both at a conceptual and at a practical level. Core pr includes institutional (or if you wish external) communication, media relations, events, public affairs, CSR, crisis and environmental communication as well as all the reflective and measurement activities. 

‘Extended’ pr refers to an enlarged conceptualization including, besides the core activities, all relational and communicational activities traditionally carried out in organizations by directions/functions different from the communication/pr one. This is the concept and the definition of public relations that scholars in the pr and sociological field, as well as the practitioners and their associations, use both at a conceptual and at a practical level. Extended pr includes marketing, financial and internal communication > unquote. 

The value of these global conversations, in my opinion, is to compare concepts and approaches across geographic boundaries, find out where we differ or are similar, how we could move closer, who has a better label or another concept for what one is trying to describe in an effort to better understand what PR is all about. Any comments on these core and extended competencies of PR? Do you know of similar/different conceptualisations in your country?

18 COMMENTS

  1. Benita, just to update my 2005 definition of core and extended pr competencies, it could be useful to add a few more words, also from my comment to your post “The Institutionalisation of the PR ‘Educationist’ Role”.

    Quote: “Today I fully agree with those (all?) of you who think that internal/employee communication, including the educational role, has become a core pr activity. This is not just because internal communication is now part of the communication/pr direction/function in a large and growing (50 to 75% according to Fraser) majority of organizations.
    It has also to do with the pivotal position that internal pr is assuming within the entire net of the stakeholders communications/relations.” Unquote.

  2. Sorry, I should have copied your whole comment to provide your updated views. But in light of the views you just expressed in it, what is your opinion on the PRSA article that Judy provided re Chrysler moving its PR division to report to HR? Surely Chrysler could have achieved its strategic goal of a culture change through strategic co-operation between PR and HR? If next time Chrysler wants PR to support marketing, are they going to move the PR function to marketing?

    While you can see my comment re this matter on the original post, I am particularly interested in your view on the statement in the article that “Public relations is a service for the entire organization and has to be its voice”. Does this mean that PR is only a ‘service’ (which I interpret to mean a ‘support’ function) and not a strategic function in its own right? Maybe I should explain this better.

    In another post on this blog, Ultimate purpose of public relations , I referred to my differentiation between the ‘strategic’ and ‘support’ roles of PR. I think that we all agree that potentially, PR can support any other function with its tools. It can organise an event for marketing (e.g. a product launch); or publish the annual report (for finance); or design the website (for information technology). These are activities in pursuit of another function’s goals and here PR provides its (technical) competencies as a ‘support’ function. (Frankly, as a pure support function PR can report to any function, but even that would be negative in that it would limit the ‘support’ it provides to other functions. E.g. with PR falling under HR in Chrysler, is it still going to provide support to marketing or to finance re investor relations? Probably not).

    But even if PR is an independent function and performs its support activities on behalf of other functions, this is not a problem per se and does not necessarily create an identity crisis–certainly not when PR also performs its strategic role in the organisation. But when it doesn’t, this usually leads to an identity problem as we are currently seeing in many parts of the world (worsened when PR actually reports to another function because its activities are then most often used to support the goals of the other function, as is often the case with marketing). The result is that after a while top management and everybody else see PR and marketing (or PR and HR) as one and the same, because they become indistinguishable in their activities/ techniques. (In other words, PR loses its identity in the pursuit of the other function’s goals).

    If PR does not have a strategic mandate in the organisation, it will only perform its ‘support’ role. When it does have a strategic mandate, senior practitioners (PR strategists) perform the function’s core competencies. I see these as assisting the organization (or institution) to adapt to its societal and stakeholder environment by feeding intelligence with regards to strategic stakeholders (and their concerns or expectations), societal issues and the publics that emerge around the issues, into the organization’s strategy formulation process. PR strategists also influence organizational leaders to address the reputation risks and other strategic issues identified in this process by aligning organizational goals and strategies to societal/stakeholder values and norms—serving both the organizational and the public interest. By acting socially responsible and building mutually beneficial relationships with the organisation’s stakeholders and other interest groups in society on whom it depends to meet its goals, an organization obtains legitimacy, garners trust and builds a good reputation. Public relations also influences organizational leaders to state the organization’s position on, and practice two-way communication with external and internal stakeholders about, issues of strategic importance.

    So if PR performs this strategic role, it is well positioned to co-operate strategically with other functions to achieve strategic organisational goals (e.g. with HR re the culture change that Chrysler wants to affect, or with marketing to bring about a service culture internally, or with info technology to combat technophobia, etc.). In so doing, we might move closer to the meaning of ‘core competency’ in the sense of the strategic management domain, as defined by Prof Craig Fleisher in another post.
    Prof Invernizzi—your views on this? Are we miles apart?

    Craig, maybe you can chime in. This is your field rather than mine. I fully realise that most of my conceptualisations re strategic management of PR and PR strategy do not fulfil the criteria of the strategic management domain. All I am doing is to borrow from the latter domain that which is relevant to our context, to where PR stands at the moment. And this is not pie in the sky, as many undoubtedly think. Should our PR people get the right education (for me this spells more strategic/management training) there are already instances in my country where it is ‘working like a charm’.

  3. I’m glad Professor Invernizzi added the comment about employee (internal) communication.
    There is such a grey area between the “core” and “extended” competencies. I can sympathize with the Professor’s efforts because I recognize that students really only care about one thing in a PR program– What kind of job is this education going to land me. Categorizing these competencies makes it far easier to explain the roles and responsibilities of a PR pro.
    The reality, though, is that what is core and what is extended varies depending on sector and organization. I work for a small organization where I am a team of one. You can bet that what I consider core competencies are far more encompassing than a PR specialist at a large organization, where they may have an entire team devoted to the same roles. Similarly,a not for profit organization may value media relations over internal communications, whereas a government body may be vice versa.
    I hate to answer anything citing relativity, but this has to be an exception.

  4. It is reassuring to know that a practitioner/ previous student recognises why an educator is forever pouncing on new concepts — nothing is so rewarding as finding a new concept that you know your students will understand and that will add value to their learning experience.

    Being the only PR practitioner is tough–but I found that the advantages far outweighs the disadvantages. You can practically write your own job description and be very innovative. There isn’t a boss who feels threatened because of your college education and you don’t have to waste your time on internal politics all the time. Rather, you can use it productively to learn new competencies (which you will need). But if you are half-way smart, you can make your mark. The buck stops with you. It does however place considerable responsibility on young shoulders since you have to do everything. But there is no quicker way of learning!

    I know you only meant to give an example, but it was my experience while working for government that pretty little attention was given to internal communication. It has possibly changed now, but except for a newsletter that informed who was engaged and who had a baby, it didn’t exist. Maybe in the First World where you live–not in the Third World where I live!! All the attention was on media relations.(Before you ask why I didn’t try to change it–I wasn’t in the PR Dept at the time, but the PA to a Cabinet Minister–so I was on the receiving side).

  5. I take a much different view prefering not to make any distinction between core and extended ‘competencies’. My issue is primairly with ‘compeetncies’ . PR professionals have in my opinion reached a point where their competency transcends the specialised functions such as marketing or internal communications, consultations etc. True there are some skills that are core to what we do but if one applies the defintion of PR as most of us would describe it- that includes all aspects of relationship managament. Be that with employees, suppliers, stakeholders or consumers. So I fail to see the distinction that Prof.Invernizzi makes. To me organisations have different needs and soemtimes the need is greater in internal communications, sometimes it is in marketing or traditional PR activities. As professionals, we have to be able to apply our competencies- those learned in schols and through experience- and our PR skills to any situation requiring understanding, analysis and communication to achieve whatever is the objective.

  6. Hi Jean,
    this is a very interesting perspective, which, if I do not misunderstand, goes along a similar line that estella de beer’s voiced yesterday in commenting yet another post on this blog which reads like this:

    quote
    ….In many cases the traditional PR function has disintegrated into divisions called government relations (public affairs), media relations, investor relations, customer relations (marketing), community relations (CSR or corporate citizenship)etc. It seems as though the trend is now to divide the function even further into the technical (perceived by the business world in South Africa as PR) and strategic(perceived by the business world in SA as strategic communication management)functions.
    In my humble opinion and experience it is the technical PR functions that are moved to other divisions like HR, Marketing, etc. (It is often regarded as something that “anyone can do”, especially now that people can easily develop their own newsletters, websites etc and obviously arrange their own functions – in most cases the secretary is used for these PR tasks, as is currently the case in one of the largest JSE listed companies in South Africa).
    If the abovementioned is a trend, then we need to align the strategic part our function with the strategic management division/team in the organisation. The Excellence Study (and subsequent studies on the same topic) has shown that senior management wants us to play a strategic role. Since the management of stakeholder relationships; communication; and corporate reputation are now regarded as strategic processes and part and parcel of the strategic management process in the organisation, it is only logical that the strategic part of our discipline should be aligned with the strategic function of the organisation – the enterprise AND the corporate strategy. (I know Benita will differ from the latter statement.)
    unquote

    let’s elaborate…
    if we separate the roles and disperse the technical one across the organization, clearly the managerial one will tend do disappear or thin out substantially…then there is the so-called strategic role which becomes central, including of course,as you say, all the necessary competencies required by that specific organization, in that specific time in puruse of those specific objectives.

    If I understand correctly, you imply a situational perspective in the institutionalization of the function process.

    Before I continue elaborating, please confirm that I am ot misinterpreting you.

  7. Today’s magic word allowing me to write here is “brand.”

    Several things from me:
    1/ I’ll write something about my views on academics, correcting misquoting and/or twisting of my words, sometime fairly soon, but that’s got to do with a different thread.

    2/ In regard to >”The value of these global conversations, in my opinion, is to compare concepts and approaches across geographic boundaries,…” <

    I think the distinctions (Toni’s “cconcepts and approaches” are a lot closer to home than across national boundaries. They can be betweeen two different companies on different floors of the same office building.

    And I’d bet that chances are pretty good that someone at some Italian company may be closer in thought to someone at an Australian company than he may be to another Italian.

    We keep trying to “distinguish by nationality” when there are many, many more/other ways to distinguish.

    3/ About the good professor’s core plus extended idea. Yes, plus…

    Over in another thread names are mentioned of PR teachers at Humber College, Centennial College and Seneca College, all community colleges in the Toronto area. Maybe teachers from each would prepare a list of what is taught in the PR courses at each of their schools. The first problem, of course, is that the three schools don’t all call the coures “Public RElations.” Humber does, when last I looked, and Seneca and Centennial don’t. But Centennial “Something other than PR” students were active and welcome members of the Canadian Public Relations Society student societies when I was education chairman of CPRS Toronto. But some were also members of the International Association of Busienss Communicators student chapter, so they must have thought they were business communications students, and IABC must have agreed with them.

    There’s a couple of other Toronto-area colleges with PR courses, too, maybe or maybe not with “public relations” in the names.

    So, if anyone wants to say what core compencies make up PR, they’d better define PR and let us know if corporate communications and business communications and organizational communications and mass communications and journalism and marketing, and any other titles of the education are covered.

    3/ Accreditation; For years I complained to both the Canadian Public Relations Society and the Intrnational Association of Business Communicators that their accreditation programs was badly structured and unfair — there’s many reasons both are terrible, but the point I was most often making was that the exams were for generalists and there were lots of really good specialists who deserved the recognition of accrediation, perhaps with a note. i.e APR-Publicity or APR-Public Affairs.

    4/ The good professor refers to public affairs. Is this the same as government relations or the same as community relations, or the same as both? Bribing a congreesman or giving money to a disease?

    5/ And back to “Brand.” What part of advertising falls to the PR pro? At two companies where I was a big shot in the PR department (actually said PR on one of my cards at Northern Telecom, although I had another card, and said Public Affairs at Northern Telecom, too, and at another company my title was Director of Public Affairs but I thought I was still the PR guy) no product or service ad could run without my agreement.

    When I stop typing here, I’m going back to designing (the color and type and shape aspects of design) a flyer advertising a home renovation product for which I’ll write the words and take the pictures, all for a client where our general assignment is “make this company and its product famous.” Is that core or extended PR, or something else?

    BAK

  8. Jean, my interest in the concept of competencies is educational. Even if practitioners use their competencies situationally, we have to equip PR students with the ‘core’ competencies in the compulsory subjects and the ‘extended’ competencies (whatever they may be) in the electives. So we have to know what they are – not now, but 5 years down the line.

    Not only that—a curriculum can only take so much content. With social media having entered the equation, with activism taking off on the Internet, with managerial and strategic PR becoming increasingly important (using communication to achieve strategic goals such as sustainability, corporate governance, good reputation, etc), some things have to go. It is a daunting task to decide what they are. So we need all the help we can get—from people like you and from concepts such as core and extended competencies.

    I think though that Brian and Jean touched on the core of the competency debate. I want to agree with Brian that “if anyone wants to say what core competencies make up PR, they’d better define PR.” And that is just what Jean did by mentioning relationship management as the purpose of PR (indicating that, to him, relationship building competencies would be core).

    Also, I want to pick up on Brian’s statement (from now on I am quoting him verbatim!!) that I cannot/should not compare concepts and approaches across geographic boundaries since ….” chances are pretty good that someone at some Italian company may be closer in thought to someone at an Australian company than he may be to another Italian”. Yes, Brian, I agree with you on this one.

    However, it has been my impression since I joined PRC that there are quite a few things that might be different in South African PR practice or PR education from North America, for example. I might be generalising (and biased), but it seems to me that we place more emphasis on the strategic role of PR. For instance, at the Univ of Pretoria, Prof Puth started teaching strategic PR to post graduates in 1995 already. I started teaching it to undergraduates in 1998 since I considered it a core competency in our environment. (And Brian, I had to throw out Business Communication in order to do so. I am sure I would be lynched in the US for this. But life consists of tough choices. And relationships are not built by writing reports). The reason for needing strategic communication skills more might be that countries in transition (like ours) are subject to tremendous change in the workplace, and the competencies needed by PR practitioners would thus differ.

    Coming back to core competencies then, it is only logical that we in SA would place great store in leadership communication and strategic communication (e.g. to assist CEOs in the minefield of Black Economic Empowerment and diversity management). I would also consider Intercultural as well as Development Communication to be a core competency of PR people in SA. (But since we have used mainly US textbooks, this is unfortunately not the case in practice). So Brian, maybe First World countries don’t differ much even though they are thousands of miles apart. But the needs of the many billions in the Third World are different—and therefore their issues and their PR and thus the competencies needed to manage it would also differ, to some extent. (On the other hand, it continues to amaze me that the PR principles remain the same. So yes, Jean, in most cases it is ‘generic principles and specific applications’).

    Toni, I leave the situational perspective to you and Jean to debate for the moment. I just want to mention that there are research findings in SA that support your hypothesis that the PR manager role is thinning out (and will tend to disappear) and the so-called strategic role is central. (I described these findings in an article titled ‘The Strategic Role of Public Relations is Strategic Reflection: A South African Research Stream’, to be published in the ‘American Behavioral Scientist’ later this year):
    • It included research that I conducted in SA in 1999 which found that (CEO expectations for) the strategic PR role and (CEO perceptions of the performance of) the technician PR role were the strongest while the PR manager role was weak.
    • In the study by my student Mateboho Green, conducted in Telkom SA (mentioned in the recent PRC post on the ‘Role of the PR Educationist’), the PR educationist and PR strategist were the strongest roles while the PR manager was the weakest.
    • In a study conducted by Gene van Heerden, lecturer at the Univ of Pretoria, in South and East Africa in 2004, the role of the PR strategist was the strongest while the PR manager/technician role combined into one. I quote Gene in the conclusions to her master’s dissertation: “It seems as though the role of the (PR) manager as conceptualised in theory does not exist in the African context.”

  9. Toni and Brian: An international comparative study also provides evidence of some of the points you referred to in your comments above. Danny Moss and his team conducted a study on the PR manager role amongst 1000 members of the IPR in the UK. They found 5 PR roles. Danny then requested that we replicate this study in SA to investigate the influence of another global and cultural context and see whether there is a difference.

    One of my master’s students, Tery Everett, conducted this study amongst 800 PR managers in SA–finding only 2 roles namely the ‘strategic PR manager’ and the ‘operational PR manager’. The significance is twofold: 1. That she used the same questionnaire as the UK study with different results, pointing to the different cultural and global context. 2. That her findings indicated basically the same PR manager roles as the SA research stream I talked about in my comment above, which was measured by a totally different questionnaire–providing evidence that there are indeed two managerial PR roles in SA. Furthermore, her ‘operational PR manager role’ was weaker than her ‘strategic PR manager.’ So in all 4 studies in SA, the strategic PR role was stronger than the middle management role.

    This of course does not mean that all PR managers in SA are ‘strategists’. Definitely not. But conservatively interpreted, here are the first indications of a trend (which will be worthwhile for a master’s or doctoral student to explore further). Why here? Maybe our tumultuous environment,the terrible strain our executives are under, coupled with managerial and strategic PR education in a number of our tertiary institutions and PRISA over the last 13 years?? I am open to suggestions.

    But let me tell you guys in the First World one thing: You all think you are experiencing change — I don’t think you have a clue what ‘devastating change’ really means. (Alvin Toffler would have had a field day if he saw what was going on down here).

    One last remark to Brian re his first comment–I am very sorry if I ‘twisted’ your words in the other post. I didn’t mean to and therefore apologise. I know I was a bit provocative, but that was only because I really wanted you to comment. So please do (in the other post) and tell me how I got you wrong, what you really think, and how academics could learn from this.

  10. Interesting debate.

    Benita,
    yes I do see your point and of course agree that from an eduicational perspective you need to teach core skills that will hopefully transmit to competencies of future practitioners. The GA curriculum project should be revealing on what one considers core competencies to be taught.
    Toni, I take the situational approach because for me any organisation, depending on its activities, needs different things from us. If one is focussed on providing the stratgic focus on relationship and be creative, innovative and practical about the managmement of a PR program -in line with the defintion that we have posted on the wiki see here: http://definingpublicrelations.wikispaces.com/ed
    – you can conceivably have different divisions executing and managing activities that are PR without having to have them located in the PR shop. I have a big problem if the PR shop is exploded into a bunch of satellite operations and unco-ordinated without a clear focus on relationships and managing a coherent PR program.
    Hope this helps to clarify my thoughts.

  11. I will take a look at the wiki. I also have a big problem with exploding it into satellite operations. The first thing that happens is that there is no strategic communication management then (as already pointed out in the Excellence Study in 1995).

    Should one have a ‘reflective strategist’ at top management level but no communication services division for implementation reporting to this person, the technical aspects could of course be outsourced. But would that make sense when there are some PR practitioners in company divisions such as marketing or HR, only keeping themselves busy with that specific function’s activities and reporting to those managers/execs (i.e. dislodged from the strategic role)?

    Efficiency wise that wouldn’t make sense. Rather have the strategist at top management level with a services division tied to him/her, overseen by an ‘operational PR manager.’ This services division can provide PR/ communication services to any function needing it. In addition, they can also provide the technical communication skills for top management’s communication and for those communication strategies flowing from strategic issues and reputation risks identified by the strategist.

  12. Brian, a list of the courses I took this year in Centennial’s Corporate Communication and Public Relations program:

    – Media relations
    – Communication management
    – Business
    – PR writing (1 and 2)
    – Event planning
    – Copyediting
    – Design
    – Client project
    – Career management
    – Internship

  13. 1/ RE>(And Brian, I had to throw out Business Communication in order to do so. <

    The “Business Communication” in IABC’s name came out of renaming an association mostly made up of newsletter editors for companies. But it certainly makes sense, to me, that people might interpret business communications to include how to write a letter, what words to use in order to get someone to pay an overdue invoice.

    We have an operation within First Principles Communication (no s at the end) that we call “Interpersonal Business Communications” and we have a dozen courses we teach that cover such things as how to listen, how to make a presenation to a small group, how to manage a meeting, and so on.

    It’s a long way from editing a full color 24 page quarterly magazine published in five languages and sent to 35,000 employees in 9 countries, which is also business communications.

    It’s almost as if we need to include a glossary with the applicable definition whenever we write something, acknowledging that the same words can mean different things in different places.

    (Another example of confusion — is PR the same as publicity, or something different?)

    2/ Brandon, thanks for the course list, and I note that the course now has Public Relations in its name.

    BAK

  14. Looking at the positions (entry-level and intermediate) we filled in our organization (part of the Canadian Public Service) over the last couple of years, I notice that in several case, we went for those who could bring non-core skills into the organization (stakeholder relations, internal comm, social marketing, new media). In retrospect, I realized that was done for two reasons: our needs are changing and we are getting more done in those areas; and the old PR pros within the organizations rarely have those skills, so the new blood is most welcome. So I would certainly encourage students to develop those.
    One thing doesn’t change though, as far as I’m concerned: they must be able to write good copy. It’s till a basic skill.

  15. Brian, I always wondered where the ‘Business Communicators’ in IABC came from. Now I know.

    When we taught Business Communication (BC) at Univ of Pretoria in the late 90s, it referred mostly to writing skills. In Steyn & Puth 2000, Gustav and I described BC as follows:

    Quote: “Business communication is traditionally concerned with the structural component of writing style, use of language and report format, and can be seen to focus on skills. Business Communication developed in the management sciences from English (as business language), to Business Writing, to Business Communication.

    As a field of study, it can be seen as skills training for business students with the aim of countering their ineptness to communicate effectively. It focuses on written communication, but also includes presentation skills, as well as interview and meeting procedures. It is ‘unashamedly pragmatic in orientation’.” Unquote.

    I won’t swear on it, but I think BC developed in MBA programmes. But what I would swear on, is that few of my BC students, not even the top ones amongst 500 management students, would have been able to edit quote: “a full color 24 page quarterly magazine published in five languages and sent to 35,000 employees in 9 countries”. So I don’t consider the skills learnt in BC to be equal to this task — rather, it seems closer to PR or journalism competencies to me.

    I think the confusion around PR being equal to publicity arises mostly when people are not trained in PR theory. Publicity was the first PR model (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). A lot of people and companies got stuck there and still see publicity as the only purpose of PR — especially those in marketing.

    There is nothing wrong with that–use it that way if that is what your company needs. But I expect more from well-known marketing academics like Kotler who, at some stage in the 80s, substituted ‘publicity’ in the marketing communication mix with PR, in his well used textbooks –thus creating the impression amongst millions of marketing students world-wide that PR equals publicity.

    I wonder whether this is not where one of PR’s big problems comes from, because a large percentage of marketing managers and MBA trained top executives would have been taught that this is the only purpose of PR. That is why it is so important to teach strategic or even managerial PR in MBA programmes to enlighten future top managements as to other PR models.

    So, while publicity might have been the only purpose 100 years ago, now it is only ONE of the purposes (paradigms or worldviews) for PR. Historically, governments used to regard public information (2nd model) as the purpose of PR, while marketing still sees persuasion (3rd model) and publicity as its purpose. For most at PRC, the paradigm is relationships or 2-way symmetrical communication (4th model). I see (mutual) reflection as PR’s ultimate purpose (incorporating relationships into this view). Some stick to their world-view, while others switch between the models, using the different models situationally.

    Thanks, Final Spin, for your comment because it is proving a very important point of this post. What is happening in your organisation is a manifestation of a paradigm shift in PR — ‘changing PR models’ so to speak. New skills and competencies are needed because the paradigm is shifting. You went for quote “those who could bring non-core skills into the organization (stakeholder relations, internal comm, social marketing, new media)” unquote. Well, stakeholder relations and the others mentioned might have been ‘non-core’ in the old PR models but they are core competencies in the relationship and reflective approaches/ models /paradigms. And that is why you need them–you have acknowledged that you are changing to new PR models. That is also why you need people with new media skills.

    In a strategic approach to PR, I would see stakeholder and issues management as core concepts/ pillars. For that, strategic research skills are needed or at least the PR ‘strategist’ has to know enough to be able to commission such research or do it informally. We are talking here at least about:
    –environmental scanning and monitoring;
    –social auditing (what effect has the organisation had on its stakeholders and how to correct it–measuring the organisation’s performance as a corporate citizen);
    –PR auditing (identify stakeholders and evaluate the organisation’s standing with each. Here the focus is on perceptions, attitudes, involvement and issues with the organisation); and
    –corporate reputation studies.

    In relationship management these skills and competencies are very important. So is issue identification and analysis if you want to engage with those who are adversarial stakeholders or members of other interest groups.

    So we are talking here about research skills and management/strategic skills. University education, especially in management, is not a prerequisite for success in the strategic management of PR. But it sure would help to obtain these skills and the right mindset.

    In my opinion this strategic mindset has to be obtained straight away–one shouldn’t use a technical approach to teach an undergraduate student and then change it to strategic in post-graduate education. Once students obtained a technical worldview for PR, it is difficult to switch. Most don’t, in my view –is that not one of the big problems in PR today? So we should teach them technical skills in their earlier years–but they should have the bigger picture from Day 1. (Anyhow, most of them never get to post-graduate education at all).

    Brian, thanks for reminding me about the importance of definitions before one writes anything. So, at this late stage of the post, and also because I have been switching between the terms, here are some definitions:

    ‘Skills’: Attewell (1990) defines skill as “the ability to do something, but the word also connotes a dimension of increasing ability. Thus, while skill is synonymous with competence, it also evokes images of expertise, mastery, and excellence”. Boyatzis (1982) proposes that skill is the “ability to demonstrate a system and sequence of behaviour that is functionally related to attaining a performance goal…it must result in something observable i.e. planning ability is a skill”.

    ‘Competencies’: Skills are made up of related sets of actions. Competence in a particular skill is how well the actions are performed and sequenced to attain a goal (Boyatzis 1982:33).

  16. Hi all
    An interesting result I found in my PhD study on the contribution of public relations practitioners to organisational effectiveness in South Africa, is that practitioners themselves tended to differentiate between ‘core’ and ‘extended’ areas in public relations when allocating their work time.
    This finding is of value as it indicates that the view the practitioner has on what public relations is, will in the end determine what tasks they spend most of their time on.
    So if a practitioner view public relations as only technical, they will allocate their time accordingly i.e. supporting other functions. And in that case they could be incorporated into the ‘other’ function. However, practitioners that viewed the discipline more strategic, tended to spend more of their time on strategic tasks (not limited to certain functions in the organisation, but to the organisation as a whole). These practitioners however did in many cases experience tension between having technical tasks to finish and strategic tasks that need their attention. (As the organisation has not got enough money / think it is important to employ another PR person).
    It would in my mind make sense if I can find a clear link between education and the view the practitioner holds of public relations. There might also be a connection between years of / and type of (as strategic function or support function) experience in public relations and the view the practitioners holds of public relations, thus how they see core and extended functions.
    This does however, stay a very interesting debate!

  17. Tanya, please also share your other findings as they become available!

    As you say, it makes sense that one would do first what you want/like to do (because that is what you believe in). However, I also remember research done in previous years that found that when there is only one PR practitioner in a company, he/she gets bogged down in technical tasks and then never get to the strategic tasks. The reality is often that that which you want to do is not necessarily what you get to do. But that is mostly when there is a resources problem. If you are appointed to play the role of the PR strategist or manager, that would be different since one can then focus without a problem.

    With regards to the link between worldview for PR and education, did you ask questions/obtain data in this regard in your PhD so that you can investigate this link?

    I have never done such research, but my personal experience as a lecturer points in this direction. As you know, I exposed the 400 3rd yr students at the Univ of Pretoria to strategic communication in their final semester. As management students, they had no problem understanding the content and (automatically) adopted the world-view behind it. (This was not surprising, since they didn’t know anything else). However, it was interesting that when Lauri Grunig did an external evaluation of the UP Communication Management degree in 2000, she said that undergraduate US students would never be able to cope with this kind of content. (This is not surprising to me — they aren’t management students and are taught from a technician world-view with a technician skills set).

    Now comes the interesting part – at the same time as the 3rd years, I taught the coursework master’s classes, where topics were provided with a list of sources that the students had to go and find themselves (and often couldn’t get hold of them all, especially the books from overseas). With regards to educational background, the classes were usually split down the middle—around 10 students would be UP alumni (communication management background). The other 10 would be from other universities where they were educated in Faculties of Arts/Humanities, resulting in a technician mindset (and skills).

    In my opinion, there was quite a difference between the students but of course I couldn’t say anything about it! However, the students themselves talked about it a lot. The students from the Arts Faculties (practitioners with a lot of experience) slowed the classes down, didn’t know basic management concepts and caused quite a bit of frustration to the communication management students. More important, they had a hard time switching to the PR relationship paradigm since their education prepared them for a communication paradigm. But after two years of classes, they all made the switch!

    Now comes an even more interesting bit—in 2002 we started the web-based model for masters (this was when you enrolled). I was so frustrated with the problems around obtaining the books that I scanned all book chapters and provided electronic articles—all you had to do was READ. This time the mindset switches were much quicker. At the end of a semester (after 6 months) when the subject ended, all the students were on the same page—strategic worldview for PR! The rapid change seemed to be the consequence of the concentrated reading.

    Then I moved to Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and here the time allocated for each web-based master’s subject was even shorter. So the masters students had to do all the reading (and assignments on the readings) for a subject in only 3 weeks. Remember, I didn’t see them during this time and mostly had administrative contact. So they were influenced by the readings only (not by me personally)! But when we met at the contact session a few weeks later, they were all on the same page—strategic worldview for PR! And most of them were from Faculties of Arts/Humanities. There were no UP alumni amongst them! So in this instance it took only three weeks (of VERY concentrated reading) to switch paradigms—from technical to strategic worldview. To me, that is amazing. But I have now taught this course for 6 years and the same things happens every year. Therefore there is no other conclusion to draw but that the only thing that makes them switch mindsets so rapidly was the articles they were exposed to. Obviously they were not exposed to such info before. But that was all they needed.

    One could argue that it was politically correct to talk the way they did in the classes. But it wasn’t talk only. They really made the switch in mindset. This is proved by the fact that many of them start looking for other jobs—within the first few months of the course–and find them! For instance:

    • Lynne found a job at Boomtown in Port Elizabeth (consultancy). Her title: ‘Communication Strategist’.
    • I had an email from Mandla just two days ago. I quote: “I have been appointed as Senior Advisor: Stakeholder Management and Communication at Eskom – in the strategy and business planning department. I will be reporting to the Executive Manager: Strategy and Planning — Enterprise Division”.
    • Mark went from Publications Officer (doing the Social Responsibility Report for one of SA’s biggest companies) to Chief Transformation Officer – 3 promotions in 18 months—catapulted straight into the C-suite.
    • Vernon went from Dir: Communication, local govt to become Communication Executive, Shell Africa.
    • Heidi went from a small teacher training college in the rural areas to Communication Manager of the Mediclinic Group.

    I could go on—there are many more. So something is happening here. I can speculate as to what it is:
    • Proba bly because of the turbulent and rapidly changing external environment, there is a ‘window of opportunity’ in South Africa at the moment for PR strategists.
    • Knowledge of stakeholder and issues management, scanning the internet, new media, relationship building, a societal view of PR, communication strategy, corporate governance, PR research, CSR, reputation management and being able to differentiate between PR and marketing (both at technical and strategic level, and the paradigms each operates from) are providing these students with knowledge and skills that employers find useful (and need).
    • These core skills students are learning are right for the moment. Maybe not in 5 years time, but right now. Anyhow, one doesn’t train masters students for 5 years down the line. They want to start implementing (and can do so and do so) the very next day in the workplace.
    • It is EDUCATION that is enabling them to get positions that were unheard of for PR practioners 5 years ago.
    • It is EDUCATION that is liberating them from limiting mindsets, learnt in earlier years.

    So, Tanya, in my mind there is no doubt that there is a link between education and world-view. It is therefore important that educators and PR leaders identify the world-views students need and should have, and equip them with the knowledge and skills to operate from such world-views.

  18. Tanya: To back my personal experience up with research findings: A significant link between education and a managerial-oriented perception among PR practitioners was found by D. Berkowitz and I. Hristodoulakis (1999) reported in the Journal of Public Relations Research, 11, 91-103. The article is titled “Practitioner roles, public relations education, and professional socialization: An exploratory study”.

    Also, research on PR roles in international settings indicate that the ability to shift from technician to managerial role-playing is directly linked to the ability of practitioners to obtain an appropriate PR education in their countries. If you haven’t done so already, have a look at:
    • J L’Etang’s (1999) article titled “Public relations education in Britain: A historical review in the context of professionalism”, published in the Public Relations Review, 25, 261 and
    • HM Culbertson & N Chen’s (1996) chapter in “International public relations: A comparative analysis” (pp. 397-414), published by Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Since I prescribed Dozier, Grunig & Grunig (1995) in your web-based masters :), I am sure you revisited their findings on the knowledge base of PRPs as a prerequisite to run an ‘excellent’ PR department.

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