The Commission on Public Relations Education is the authoritative voice on public relations education. Since its founding in 1973 by the Public Relations Division of the Association for Education in Journalism, joined by co-sponsor the Public Relations Society of America, the Commission has provided recommendations on public relations education for universities and professional associations across the globe. These recommendations have been adopted and adapted to positively impact undergraduate and graduate public relations education. The Commission’s work also produces essential data and recommendations informed by research and honed by experienced practitioners and educators, and used by educators, educational administrators, students, practitioners and industry leaders. The Commission also strives to offer a forum for advancing public relations education with a global perspective.
The Commission’s recommendations throughout the years have also included criteria for creation of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapters, standards for PRSA Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) and the work of practitioner and educator associations around the globe.
The Commission seeks to establish benchmarks for teaching public relations that are current, research-based, sensitive to culture and language, and applicable to preparing public relations students for careers in practice, research, teaching, or a combination of all three. The Commission chooses projects from the full spectrum of activity in the education field including researching and identifying factors that help students understand the expectations for a career in public relations.
A Brief Historical Overview
The Commission’s raison d’etre has its roots in a paper commenting on the “unsatisfactory and disparate state of public relations education in the U.S.,” delivered to the PR Division of AEJ (now AEJMC) at its 1973 meeting by industry legends J. Carroll Bateman and Professor Scott M. Cutlip. Their paper, referenced in the 1975 report, “A Design for Public Relations Education,” available on the CPRE website, is well worth a read, as is the 1973 report.
The concerns in 1973 will sound, ironically, too familiar to us today: the lack of public relations professionals in the executive suites, practitioners not trained in public relations but rather “retreads” from other fields, multiple names for the profession, a shortage of public relations degree programs, and “There is a pretty general complaint from employers that the students they hire ‘can’t write.’”
The first report covered topics still important today – what subjects to teach, qualifications of teachers and teaching methods, public relations research, transitioning from campus to profession, and “liaison between public relations practice and the campus.”
The report was reprinted in 1981, and the Commission’s tradition of developing and disseminating research-based reports was solidified.
In 1987 another report was created, “The Design for Undergraduate Public Relations,” focused, as its name infers, on undergraduate education. While the first report focused on identifying courses that should be taught, and the 1987 report delved into content for those courses. The Commission itself had also changed – membership had grown to 26 members, and included representatives from additional organizations in addition to founders AEJMC and PRSA.
Fast forwarding since 1987
In 1999, the Commission published “A Port of Entry.” This report made recommendations for undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education. In regard to undergraduate education coursework, the 1999 report identified a list of courses which were identified as “ideal:”
- Introduction to Public Relations
- Case Studies in Public Relations
- Public Relations Research, Measurement and Evaluation
- Public Relations Law and Ethics
- Public Relations Writing and Production
- Public Relations Planning and Management
- Public Relations Campaigns
- Supervised Work Experience in Public Relations (internship)
The authors also noted that this was a long list and that some of the courses could be combined. As the recommendations were put into practice, it became customary to include four courses (intro to public relations, research, writing, and internships), plus an additional course or combination of the other courses (law and ethics, planning and management, case studies or campaigns).
In 2006, the Commission published “The Professional Bond.” This report presented recommendations for undergraduate and graduate education. The goal of this report was to “demonstrate, facilitate and encourage the kind of linking of public relations education and practice that is the hallmark of any profession.” Specified in this report was what has become known as “the five-course standard”:
- Introduction to public relations (including; theory, origin and principles)
- Public relations research, measurement and evaluation
- Public relations writing and production
- Supervised work experience in public relations (internship)
- An additional public relations course in law and ethics, planning and management, case studies or campaigns (a standard that has evolved in actual practice to focus primarily on case studies and campaigns).
In 2010, the Commission published two reports:
- “A First Look: Analysis of Global Public Relations Education”, which presented the findings of research conducted in 2010 on how public relations is being taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels in countries around the world.
“Philanthropy for Public Relations Education”, which presented the findings of research conducted in 2010, extending the original research of the Commission of Public Relations’ 2006 study that produced a first ever “Sampling of Major Gifts to Public Relations Education.”
- And in 2012, “Standards for a Master’s Degree in Public Relations: Educating for Complexity” was published. From research conducted in 2011, this report provides recommendations for graduate-level public relations education that will benefit those going into academia and the practitioner world.
The Commission Today
Today the Commission remains “the authoritative voice” on behalf of public relations education, with a board representing 18 different organizations and groups, and between 50 and 60 board members on an annual basis. In 2018, following the publication of this report “Fast Forward: Foundations and Future State. Educators and Practitioners,” the Commission will be pursuing an aggressive effort to develop action plans to unite educators and practitioners in addressing six to ten of the major recommendations of the report. We are committed to going beyond disseminating the recommendations and encouraging that they be adopted in education and industry, and will be working with all member organizations to identify solutions and tools for use by educators and those who employ entry-level public relations practitioners, to make sure the recommendations become reality.