ACADEMIC INSIGHT: SIMON GOLDSWORTHY, RICHMOND UNIVERSITY

Name: Simon Goldsworthy
University: Richmond University, Kensington Campus
Job title: Professor of Public Relations and Advertising
Website: Richmond University

What does your day-to-day job involve?
Running Richmond’s MA in Advertising and Public Relations and setting up its new MA in Public Relations and Journalism, as well as teaching on our undergraduate programmes spanning these subjects. I also help to run our Centre for the Study of Persuasive Industries (CSPI): last week for example we hosted a Public Relations Consultants Association Fellows’ panel discussion about the EU Referendum Campaign.

What does the PR degree at your university involve?
The second edition of the textbook I’ve co-authored, PR Today: The Authoritative Guide to Public Relations, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. It grew out of my and my co-author Trevor Morris’s experience in the classroom and is an updated version of what we teach. In addition to the all-important practical skills and the wider issues discussed in the book we like to put PR in context – hence our linking of PR to the study of advertising, journalism and the media. Intensive contact with the PR and media industries is another vital ingredient: we are a partner university of the PRCA and there are advantages to teaching in Kensington!

The rise and rise of new media is one of the reasons we’ve increasingly melded our teaching of PR with the teaching of advertising.

Have PR degrees changed much in the last ten years?
The rise and rise of new media is one of the reasons we’ve increasingly melded our teaching of PR with the teaching of advertising. The troubled state of journalism is a reason for focusing on journalism as well: wise journalists want to know about PR, and realistic journalists know that they may well end up working in PR. That said, the really crucial PR skills are timeless: after adjustment to new circumstances the pioneers of the industry would do just as well today.

Why study PR and not a general business or marketing course?
Perhaps because it’s more interesting, more varied and more fun? Many people are understandably fascinated by the media and specific areas of PR such as fashion and entertainment. Most of the PR students I encounter find marketing and business skills off-putting – something we have to combat, but saying you’ve studied business or marketing hardly guarantees PR excellence. A good reason for studying PR is that it displays interest in and commitment to a particular career path (employers don’t want to hire people who quickly find it’s not for them), and helps you to find your way if you can get through the door.

a masters can help you find out about the industry while enabling you to make contacts and display commitment

Is doing a masters or post grad PR qualification a good idea?  
If you haven’t studied PR or anything similar for your first degree, a masters can help you find out about the industry while enabling you to make contacts and display commitment. Acquiring skills in the classroom can also help to make you an attractive hire. Many of our students come from overseas: a year in London offers an excellent introduction to the industry.

What makes a successful PR student?
Apart from the usual platitudes which harbour some real truths (excellent written and oral skills really are vital; being positive, proactive and having a sense of humour are great assets; and a reputation for reliability will never let you down), there are some interesting characteristics which mark out good PR people. They display empathy – understanding others who lead very different lives (almost everyone they need to communicate with professionally will not be another young PR student!). And they are, whether they know it or not, dilettantes: they’re not the kind of people who know a vast amount about just one or two specialised subjects. Both these qualities fit in well with another important requirement: consuming a good, varied media diet.

stay familiar with current events

What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree?
Study hard for whichever A levels you like, but stay familiar with current events, keep abreast with the media and have a good time. Take yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time: experiencing new things will help get you the wider perspective you need. If I’m interviewing, be ready to think on your feet: what would you do in a particular situation?…There may be no perfect answer, but you’ll still need to respond.

What should PR students be doing along with their studies to make them attractive to a PR employer?
The points above continue to be important, but so increasingly does work experience. Get as much as possible, in as many relevant places as possible. You’ll be making more contacts, getting more potential referees, prizing open more doors and finding out what’s right for you. Cultivate guest speakers who lecture on your course, attend events, join if possible a top industry body such as the PRCA, and network hard.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
Life is busy, but anyone who wants to feel the pulse of the PR industry should follow Francis Ingham. Along with all the latest industry news and an opportunity to read ethical insights, the estimable Director General of the PRCA proves that PR remains amusing and life-enhancing. Behind the Spin also deserves praise.

 

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