Gaps in Advertising and Public Relations Education Are Due to New Roles in Social Media, Baylor Study Finds

  • Gaps
    (iStockphoto)
  • Gaps
    Baylor researcher Marlene Neill, Ph.D. (Courtesy photo)
Nov. 30, 2015

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WACO, Texas (Nov. 30, 2015) – Blurred boundaries between advertising and public relations professions due to new roles in social media raise the question of whether educators can adequately prepare their students for a career in those growing fields, according to a Baylor study.

That topic is addressed in the article “Gaps in Advertising and Public Relations Education: Perspectives of Agency Leaders,” published in the Journal of Advertising Education.

“Educators need to address the deficiencies identified in this study and find ways to build these skills and competencies in their courses,” said Marlene S. Neill, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “In the study, we have provided some specific and practical recommendations on how to do so.”

Recommendations include:

  • Business literacy: Have advertising and public relations students read and analyze investment reports and financial statements, as well as take current events quizzes from business and trade publications.
  • Math: Require advertising and public relations students to take a statistics course.
  • Online community management: Have advertising and public relations students conduct social listening/social media audit and develop evaluation reports using social media analytics. Advertising students should consider taking electives in public relations to learn about crisis and issues management.
  • Media planning/buying: PR students should consider taking advertising electives to learn about paid media strategies.
  • Neill and co-author Erin Schauster, Ph.D., an assistant professor at University of Colorado-Boulder, interviewed 29 executives in advertising and public relations agencies to identify emerging trends and their impact on advertising and public relations education. The executives represented 10 states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Among the sample, 13 (45 percent) worked in public relations agencies; 10 (34 percent) worked in advertising agencies, and the remaining six represented a media planning and buying agency, two consultants, two digital agencies and an integrated marketing communications firm.

    The researchers found that while traditional advertising and public relations skills, such as writing and presentation, remain foundational, other skills are now necessary for success in both fields. Areas of deficiency among recent graduates included math skills and business skills, including reading and interpreting financial documents; budgeting; applying business vocabulary; and understanding business challenges.

    Some new services and roles being filled by recent graduates in today’s workforce include social listening, online community management, native advertising, social media analytics, content amplification and programmatic buying.

    “We concluded that as public relations executives begin pursuing more paid online media strategies, they may need additional training in media planning and buying, particularly in the areas of programmatic buying, search engine optimization and search engine marketing,” Schauster said. “Likewise, as advertising executives assume online community management roles, they may need additional training in issues and crisis management.”

    ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

    Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

    ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

    The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 24 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

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