ACADEMIC INSIGHT: ELLIOT PILL, CARDIFF UNIVERSITY

Name: Elliot Pill
University: School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University.
Title: Senior Lecturer and Director of MA International Public Relations and Global Communications Management.

Twitter: @elliotpill
LinkedIn: Elliot Pill
Web: www.cf.ac.uk/jomec

What does your day-to-day job involve?
It is so varied as the culture is so dynamic. Team meets, Lecturing, dealing with course admissions, Skype calls to academic colleagues and former students in other parts of the world, meeting student reps, catching up with former PR industry colleagues, reading and developing research, all figure at some point most days.

What does the PR degree at your university involve?
Intense work in a dynamic ‘family’ environment with fifty plus students from all over the world. It is a pretty unique culture. The course is so popular as it mixes theory AND practice and provides global internship opportunities. The content alters each year to reflect changes in both practice and academic landscapes. We also take a broader approach to communications and have expanded the subject base to embrace all  forms of promotional culture and not just PR.

Have PR degrees changed much in the last ten years?
Ours has and if others haven’t I don’t know how they are still going! Students need to be far more business minded and entrepreneurial to be successful in the industry. They also need to understand the digital opportunities and be great storytellers as well as being sensitive to global issue movement and cross cultural difference. 

Why study PR and not a general business or marketing course?
Reputation should be the preserve of the “PR”. They are the natural guardians of corporate reputation as they understand the nuances of all stakeholder groups and understand how an issue could affect an organisation. If you are focused on purely the buyer/seller relationship  (as marketers are) or the bottom line profitability (as business students are) you miss the bigger picture issues affecting an organisation. That can be expensive and that’s why you should do a PR degree.

Is doing a masters or post grad PR qualification a good idea?
I think it certainly is if you link it to your own personal development goals. I think so many miss the point about PG education. It is a unique learning and growing experience, yet many seem obsessed with grades and potential job status. It gets in the way of growing personally and academically and most important; thinking differently. In agency life people buy from people and they buy difference. You can explore how you can be different during an involving and thought provoking year of specific PG study. Myself and the teaching team have so many notes from students all over the world who have been through our course citing the experience as life changing. That’s priceless.

What makes a successful PR student?
Mm, good grades is the obvious answer but I’d suggest the following from my experience of working at leading global consultancies and with many talented students. Don’t think you have to smile all the time and people please. Think of yourself as a management consultant who specialises in communications rather than the limited and loaded descriptor of “PR”. Network. Don’t exist inside your course bubble. Universities are amazing spaces with some amazing people talking about life changing things. Go and listen and learn. Work hard and value what you do. Ask questions. Clarify. Don’t answer things you don’t understand! Be kind and pull your student group together. Be tough when you have to go that extra mile to lift group work or shape that disjointed presentation. Turn up. Being there is so very, very important. 

What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree?
Don’t underestimate the breadth of skills you will need to develop to complete the degree or think it an easy option. It bounces between and across so many different academic disciplines.

What should PR students be doing along with their studies to make them attractive to an employer?
Develop authentic digital content in both written and visual form. Blog. Create a business. Develop your entrepreneurial skills. Take any opportunity to present and search for feedback on your style and learn to alter that style for different situations and audiences. 

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
Well Twitter is just one big PR blog so I’m on that quite a bit. Global Alliance web pages are useful for international issues and I consume a wide range of news media from around the world so I understand the issues affecting my students and build this into our programme. 

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