Thursday, 31 December 2009

Personality or Education? Which is actually necessary to practice public relations?

In completing some research for an assignment on the professionalisation of public relations,I discovered that some of the conditions for achieving professional status include a code of ethics, an overall governing body as well as standard educational criteria to enter the field.

However, Jacquie L'Etang indicated in Robert Heath's Handbook of Public Relations that there are arguments to suggest that there is no specialist knowledge required to work in public relations, but rather a specific set of personal skills and qualities. Jacquie L'Etang lists some of these qualities as “creativity, lateral thinking, flexibility, articulateness, persuasiveness, common sense, and integrity.”

And although the public relations profession has evolved, with more and more practitioners becoming suitably qualified through undergraduate degree programmes, postgraduate degrees and others, these specific personality traits still remain an acceptable ticket into the field.

Furthermore, after speaking to several persons here in Barbados who work in public relations, I have discovered that many of the veterans do not possess any particular qualifications, but instead, they have a passion for the field.

They either started their business or began their career because of a love for the practice and never believed that there were any specific educational requirements. However, most of the younger persons employed in these organisations are well- qualified, and have completed degree programmes and even vocational programmes. They explained that academic qualifications were pursued as a result of an interest in the field, and believe that simply possessing characteristics such as those mentioned above was not sufficient.

Personally, I agree that specific personality traits are a necessary element of a successful public relations practitioner but I believe that these should be supplemented by specific academic qualifications. Not only would it bring public relations a step closer to achieving full professional status, but it would also ensure that well-trained individuals enter the field and enhance public relation's reputation.