I'm leading a #commschat Twitter discussion later on the theme of learning. What can academics learn from practitioners? What can practitioners learn from academics? How do we all keep up, let alone try to keep ahead?
Let's start by addressing two stereotypes.
Professor Ivor Y Tower
Professor Tower is intellectually impressive (a towering force?) and proud to be known on the international sociology circuit. Though he has made his name as a public relations scholar, he's disdainful of the practice because it's too compromised by money and by imbalanced power relationships. So he prefers to create perfect models of how public relations should be practised.
Though easy to mock, there is an argument in favour of pure academic research. If nothing else, academics should be free to 'think the unthinkable'. In this regard, they are similar to monks. Though their thoughts are impractical, it's better for us all that some people are dedicated to an otherworldly pursuit of perfection.
Alan has traded off his deputy editorship of the local newspaper and still has a good list of local clients for whom he provides media relations and crisis management services. He's recently become a fan of social media, but is proud to say that he's never had a day's training let alone pursued a qualification in public relations. Why would he need to when it's all just common sense? He has similar views of the CIPR and other professional bodies. And as for PR degrees, don't get him started. He left school at 16, began as a runner on the local newspaper and worked his way up from there.
Alan is a characteristic figure. He's not unintellectual, but rather anti-intellectual: one of life's perpetual outsiders. The challenge he faces is to update his twentieth-century business model, which he's trying to do by becoming a social media advocate. He certainly represents the past, but does he have a future?
Hopefully our discussion will go beyond stereotypes and reveal that curiosity and a desire to learn are a requirement of all successful PR practitioners.