As the warmth of early summer began to embrace the UK, my mind was transported back to this time last year when I was at the crossroads: jumping into the workforce or pursuing further education. I used to think that I could focus on one facet only, neglecting the fact that there is an interplay between education and practice which was still under-represented. After coming to the UK, I was still wondering about that. Therefore, when I saw the notification about the conference “Where Practice Meets Academia”, I decided to take it as a sign to explore the intersection and uncover potential opportunities from their synergy.
A dynamic community of PR practitioners, researchers, lecturers, and students gathered in FOUR Communications (London). After Gabriela Weiss – conference coordinator, kicked off the conference, Thomas Stoeckle delivered a speech about their research “Future of PR and Social Impact”. Before his presentation, I kept thinking about how the pandemic dramatically changed our life and did not know how they discovered the future of this unpredictable industry. But I was attracted to his slide with only one sentence “PR is bridging role in turbulent times.” It seems that the more volatile the society, the more essential the role of PR is. The study showed that the future of PR is the shared point of three main areas: stakeholders’ conflicting interests & demands, social value & social impact, and education & training.
Next, during the Newcastle University Alumni panel, graduate students shared how education influenced their current work. They mentioned some practical knowledge they learned at university, including planning strategy management, crisis management, and media relations. Moreover, Yoko Tochihara answered that university taught her to “understand why a campaign works”. Indeed, evaluating a PR plan is an essential but difficult skill requiring a strong knowledge foundation.
The last panel discussed the findings from a research student’s views on working in PR, which Sian Rees delivered. It was intriguing to look at the figures: 40% of PR students initially chose marketing, psychology, or journalism, and a smaller proportion chose politics, sports, and healthcare. Coincidentally, I talked to two PR students with a bachelor’s degree in Law that day. Moreover, half of the participants expect a starting salary between 20K and 30K GBP and others expect between 30K and 40K GBP, which leads to the need to raise awareness of entry-level salaries for students. Moreover, 2/3 of participants seek a combination of flexible and hybrid working arrangements and highly prefer work-life balance. Besides, students also want to work in the office to be a part of team collaboration. These findings will benefit companies and the PR industry in training and recruiting talents.
This conference was also a chance for PR students to practice the skills learned at universities. During the conference, my friends and I represented Leeds Beckett PR students to be involved in the PR and events team, while Newcastle students managed the media. The involvement of PR students in this conference also well demonstrated how theory turned into practice.
The conference was filled with insightful discussions. I could clearly see that for the long-term development of the PR industry, everyone is trying to close the gap between academia and practice. The event ended, and I bid farewell to London under the pouring rain. I am grateful for my decision last summer and inspired to pack up the knowledge and skills for the upcoming professional journey.