Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is a New Educational Model Needed?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the way we teach students subjects and issues related to corporate communications, brand, reputation and the like. I have been in dialog with a number of leading educators and professionals about this issue. I think we are all coming to the same conclusion: that something needs to change.

Currently, students are coming from departments, schools and colleges of communications, as well as from business. I have taught in both areas. My experience has found that communications students are far more wanting of knowledge of business than business students are wanting of communications skills. What does this mean for the future? I think that what it will mean is that many of the jobs in communications will be filled by the business students who may be better qualified. It is already happening. Not only are business major desired, but many communications jobs are filed by non-communications majors.

Communications training continues to focus heavily on "campaigns", as if strategy and management were something other disciplines do. While business students may take such campaign courses in advertising and marketing classes, they move quickly into strategy and marketing management classes. As such, business graduates, in my opinion, come out with a deeper and broader understanding of how communications issues impact business. Communications students seeem uninterested in business--trying to avoid it in large part; moreover, the communications faculty come from traditional communications educations or, if they come from "industry", they typically have background in agencies where their natural inclination is campaigns. When I have taught brand and reputation classes in communications programs, I have found that students have not even understood simple business concepts of assets, capital and the like.

Ken Makovsky, President of Makovsky and Co., a PR firm, has posted a blog calling for a new educational initiative for PR students that separates it from communications and puts a heavy emphasis on business studies. I applaud Ken's perspective. The issue for educators, however, is how to provide the needed business courses. In some schools, communications schools hire in adjunct business faculty. However, most try to impose upon the business schools to provide the needed courses. As business schools get more crowded, they cannot accomodate the communications majors, and so the vicious cycle continues.

Something has to change and soon. The industry and the external environment is changing. While education is slow to change, one has to wonder how long communications education will be via