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Each semester I go back to student comments, look over student projects, meet with other PR faculty and have local PR professionals look at student projects, digital portfolios and writing samples. All of these help me identify the things our students need “more of” before they leave for the real world.

When I first arrived at LSU the PR campaigns class at the Manship School of Mass Communication had “Cases 4.5” in it (or just additional case studies after they had just taken MC 4004: PR Case Studies). I wanted them to get some more experience with social media writing, so I added blogging to the course (See former student and current campaign blogs in the blogroll on this site). They also only had traditional (i.e., printed) portfolios, so I added digital portfolios to the course.

Much of the rest of the course was going over the same ROPES process they had been taught since Intro to PR. Needless to say, this was not an efficient use of time (and several students noted this on their evals). The students have to complete a full campaign for a client during the semester. Using class time for “Cases 4.5” or rehashing ROPES was not helping them complete their campaigns.

So, after looking over the comments regarding the campaign books from last semester, I saw some areas students needed some additional insight in. They were:

  1. Branding, reputation management and corporate social responsibility;
  2. Crisis management and communication;
  3. Audience segmentation and targeting;
  4. Strategic message planning; and
  5. Event planning.

Seems I was telling the students that all these things were important in my lectures, but I was not showing them “how to” or having them apply their knowledge to actually doing them. They were expected to complete each of these things in their capstone campaigns — but had never done any assignments where they had to think through the steps of creating these. So, I added assignments on:

  1. Creating their own agency’s identity via a style guide (logo, colors, fonts, mission, letterhead, business cards);
  2. Creating a strategic message planner so that each communication has one clear, consistent voice, colors, logo, etc.;
  3. Creating an event plan memo for the client to “see” what will happen at their event.

I’ve also suggested (hint, hint) that they create a crisis communication plan and a media list for any client that does not have them.

Overall, I wasn’t preparing them for the real world where a client (or a boss) would tell them they needed something ASAP – for example, a crisis communication plan – and they would be able to create one. My goal is not to make students do more “busy work” in my classes, but to be able to identify different communication tactics and feel comfortable creating them.  In many cases this will include the student looking up, “Googling” and researching what that communication should consist of. Which leads me to the last change in the class — the PR tools research paper.

The PR tools research paper is not simply an assignment to get students to discuss a new tool or technology to make their PR lives easier. It is an assignment where they learn a very important skill that employers are looking for: problem solving (see Korn Ferry for more information on the top competencies employers are looking for).

In sum, my PR Campaigns class lectures, assignments and discussions now address all the top 10 competencies employers look for (across disciplines – see Korn Ferry/Lominger Model):

  • Action orientation
  • Dealing with ambiguity
  • Creativity
  • Decision quality
  • Problem solving
  • Motivating others
  • Planning
  • Priority setting
  • Strategic agility/thinking ahead
  • Time management

I’m hoping this will make them better prepared to graduate in May and work in the real world.

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