This Signature Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education has great import given the multiple organizational and societal recalibrations underway in the five years since the last study, and with change accelerated by the pandemic: hence our title choice, “Navigating Change.”
As with any large-scale crisis, the result is that we come out of it changed. Yet, despite the profound transformations in the work of organizations and public relations, this report reaffirms many of the key abilities expected by practitioners and taught by educators, including the continued essential value placed on writing, communication and storytelling.
But it also lays bare the additional critical requirement for professionals, new and experienced, to be able to take a systemic ethical approach to the practice, and approach the practice from a broader world view, informed by the seismic changes in technology, society, politics, the economy, and global conflicts.
What we have recognized over a year’s worth of discussions and research are increased professional expectations for undergraduate education that center on the need for talented entry-level practitioners who are critical and strategic thinkers, who understand the impact of data—and who have learned the standards for ethical practice, the need for addressing the issues of DEI, and the role of public relations in contributing to social change.
This CPRE report recommends several directives to educators to adapt to the evolving learning styles of individual students while maintaining their adherence to best practices in pedagogy and standards, and identifies six broader public relations industry expectations of future practitioners. It also reinforces the need for educators and practitioners to remain wholly connected to, and involved in, shaping the direction our educational institutions take now and in the future.
Approach and Methodology
With the involvement of CPRE’s 65-member board, preparations began in the spring of 2022 with CPRE members participating in four brainstorming sessions to generate topics they felt should be addressed in the 2023 report. Consensus topics were crowdsourced in April of 2022 in two surveys of the CPRE Board members and members of the PR Council. Topics were refined in two focus groups of Page Society members conducted in September 2022. Then, member teams developed questions for a quantitative survey to obtain benchmark perceptions of six topics. The Research Committee included curriculum-related questions from past surveys as well, for comparative purposes. Survey participation by public relations practitioners and educators representing United States and international public relations associations yielded sufficient numbers to allow advanced data analysis and interpretation.