If you could define the college syllabus for a PR professional, what courses would you consider mandatory? Armed with my years of experience, here are the classes I would study if I could do it again.
First, the obvious.
English Composition – Every communications professional needs the skills to compose a clear, concise sentence. Sentence structure and word selection are the keys to communicating thought. We have a responsibility to practice correct grammar: Starting a sentence with “Me and my friends…” is not acceptable.
English Literature – To learn how to write, we need to read. Reading good literature engenders good writing. Poetic license has a time and place; using it wantonly makes it poetic crime.
Journalism – What makes a good story, and what makes it compelling? We need to enter the mind of the journalist to successfully engage it.
Business Math – Whomever said that math is unnecessary has never read – or understood – a balance sheet or income statement. We need to be fully aware of viability of the businesses we represent.
Economics – How well our companies do is always relative to the business environment. Understanding economic forces and how they can affect the companies we represent enables us to anticipate and plan for success.
Foreign Language – Globalization. Enough said.
Sociology and Psychology – Our audiences cry out to be understood. Discovering what moves them is central to message development and delivery.
Elocution and Debate – We are called on to be persuasive and to defend the position statements we develop for the products and companies we represent. Successful elocution and debate are the result of sound research and planning.
Computer Science – There is not one medium untouched by the electronic age. Understanding the rudiments of telecommunications, with its growing influence on message delivery, is becoming an essential skill.
Graphic Arts – Sometimes it is not enough to paint a picture in our audience’s mind. There are times when a graphic or photo is necessary, and we need the skills to conceptualize one, if not actually compose and produce it.
Next, the not-so-obvious.
Philosophy – Learning about different schools of thought expands our ability to look at situations from multiple angles. The ability to critically dissect an idea enables us to better understand it. Studying ethics helps us practice ethical behavior in the real world.
Drama – Effective messages are rarely delivered in monotone. Inflection makes messages richer and more memorable. Successful campaigns are usually great drama. Note that I don’t equate this with melodrama.
World History – Public relations campaigns are similar to military campaigns, with objectives, strategies and tactics. Successful military campaigns were backed by propaganda and manipulation of perceptions.
Finally, the unusual.
Martial Arts and Self-defense – The ability to think on our feet and strategize on the run are the touchstones of flexibility and creativity. After we build the box that we think will do the job, we need to be able to repair, extend and restructure it for success.
Community Service and Volunteer Work – Life shouldn’t be all about you or the money. We all need to give without expecting a return on the investment. The intangible rewards will help us move beyond the here and now, giving us a sense of optimism that everything we do can have a positive effect.
Theology – The study of belief empowers us to practice it. We need to believe in something to successfully promote it. And, deep down, we need to believe in something grander than ourselves – regardless of our religious practices – to put everything in context.
What courses would YOU choose?
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