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PR misses out on talent by not promoting itself and failing to support new starters, claims new report

A new study commissioned by the PRCA has highlighted a significant need for better promotion of public relations as a profession to young people if the industry is to benefit from the best and brightest global graduates joining its ranks. The new report issued this month, Seeking A New Way of Working in the Public Relations Industry - A Global View from Emerging Young Public Relations Professionals, is based on research with undergraduate and postgraduate public relations students in early 2023, from a wide range of different countries of origin, currently studying in universities in the UK and the US.

Key findings

One of the key findings from the report was that nearly half of the students involved in the study did not actually choose to study public relations, but moved over to a public relations course once they had a taster of the profession from learning about it in a university module. A discussion forum hosted by the PRCA in May 2023, which involved representatives from academia and the industry, highlighted the decreasing number of undergraduate courses on offer and cited this as a key problem. The issue is a catch-22 situation. If there are insufficient prospective university students demanding and applying for public relations courses, then the current market environment approach to higher education means that those courses will not be offered. The recommendation from the report is that both academia and the industry together need to work to promote public relations as an attractive profession to pre-university age young people.

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Offices are vital

The other key focus for the research study was to find out the expectations of emerging public relations professionals in terms of the kind of workplace environment and benefits they would be looking for. A significant theme emerging from the study was that the new generation of young professionals would like the benefits of hybrid working, but are also keen to spend time working in an office in order to learn from colleagues, benefit from mentoring and to take part in on-the-job training to support their transition into the workplace.

What are the characteristics of the ideal workplace?

Lack of role models

Equality, diversity and promotion opportunities also came out strongly in the study. Current students are acutely aware of a lack of BAME role models in the industry and are seeking workplaces that nurture their mental wellbeing and provide clear routes to progression and promotion. Whilst these themes may not come as a surprise to many working in the industry, it is clear from that the report that a proactive approach to emphasising appropriate role models and highlighting training and welfare support is important if we are to encourage the best students to choose public relations over other allied promotional and creative disciplines.

In your opinion, is the PR industry diverse?

Article written by professor Sian Rees, Swansea University

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