Internationalisation of Public Relations Education
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Published: Tue, 06 Mar 2018
The main theme of the dissertation is internationalisation of public relations education. It is quite a broad topic and can be reviewed and discussed from different points of view. In this regard the selected literature first examines international public relations concepts and secondly an impact it has on public relations education. Therefore, literature review has been divided into the following major themes: International public relations (IPR) and International public relations education (IPRE).
The chapter will begin by presenting the main debates about international public relations and its concepts alongside with a brief overview of factors influencing it. It will be followed by a section presenting state of research on IPR. The discussion will then move to section two – international public relations education, exploring the requisites and challenges for internationalisation. Finally the chapter will summarise the key themes and points identified. The major part of the literature review focuses on contemporary research, defined as 1989-2009.
A growing number of publications document the development and challenges of the public relations in every major continent and region of the world (Nally, 1991, Moss et al., 1997, Moss et al., 2003, Sriramesh and Vercic, 2003b, Van Ruler and Vercic, 2004, Freitag and Stokes, 2009). This research refers term global PR to globalisation of the profession, which is being practises and recognised in more countries throughout the globe, while International PR refers to the planning and implementation of programmes and campaigns carried out abroad or for international audience. Hence international PR education refers to the process of adopting professional training to International PR concepts and demand.
Public relations is still relatively new concern for management, even though its modern origins can be traced to the end of the last century (White, 1991). According to (Cutlip, 1994), a key researcher in the history of public relations in the U.S., the first international public relations agency ‘The Hamilton Wright Organization’ was founded in 1908. International communities of professionals and scholars are increasingly interested in transferring knowledge, experiences, and best practices from national to transnational scenarios. This advancement is generated by the increasing role of public relations which is driven largely by the influence of new information technologies and globalisation (Flodin, 2003). Drawing upon this, DiStaso et al. (2009) discussed the effects of globalisation, that began with the Maastricht Treaty and NAFTAA in 1992, the WTO in 1994 and claiming it had great impact on the public relations industry.
According to Szondi’s (2009, p.115)
International public relations is the planned communication activity of a (multinational) organisation, a supra- or international institution or government through interactions in the target country which facilitates the organisation (or government) to achieve its policy or business objectives without harming the interests of the publics.
There have been papers which presented international PR to be simply about how to overcome barriers that are created by other cultures, including language, laws or cultural issues, which are often indentified as problems (Wilcox et al., 2001), rather than opportunities or the manifestation of diversity. The most frequently referenced paper which stands against IPR has been Angell (1990) asserted that the variance between local countries was so great as to preclude any possibility of globalisation. A much different study, also highly referenced, has been provided by Pavlik (1987), who as early as the 1980s considered IPR one of the most rapidly growing areas of the profession, and one of the least understood. The problem with defining difference between domestically and internationally done public relations is that there is not enough research or critical assessment. While basic principles do not change, the way they are carried out from culture to culture and country to country, and the attitudes and values embedded within those different cultures or countries, are different (Wakefield, 2007b). A similar study was conducted by Botan (1992, p. 157), who argued that international public relations is always intercultural.
The existing public relations body of knowledge, and public relations curricula around the world, have a U.S. bias (Sriramesh, 2002). U.S. paradigm, however, strikes with the idea of that European or non-U.S. perceptions of public relations become more of value in the twenty first century. A US professor and professional Robert Wakefield (2007b), who have been practicing and researching in the area of IPR for almost two decades, believes that principles and practices of PR in Europe, emphasising social role of public relations, are more promising for effective PR in the multinational than the American-based PR-as-marketing-tool approach. He, alongside the majority of new PR schools, supports paradigms of PR incoming out of places other than the U.S. Therefore, need and call for the elsewhere theories and concepts was also a factor for a research in international/global PR.
Ovaitt (1988, p.5) made an interesting suggestion saying that it was not a popular idea with marketing and advertising experts when they started thinking about internationalisation decades ago and it was not popular with public relations practitioners back to late 1980s. The idea is that what these professionals do for a living might be done on a global basis – global in the sense of achieving some significant level of standardisation, not only of what is offered to customers, but also how it is presented and promoted. Public relations as a profession is not necessarily understood and practised in the same manner all around the world. This is not news per se, as several scholars (Sharpe, 1992, Vercic et al., 1996, Taylor, 2000, Rhee, 2002, Valentini, 2007) for many years have underlined that public relations requires a global understanding of cultural differences. Different studies (Kent and Taylor, 1999, Lee, 2005) show that public relations practitioners are increasingly required to be able to communicate with different international publics, no matter the size of the organisation they are working for, or whether it is private or public, including non-profit organisations.
After the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Excellence Study yielded a review of normative principles (Grunig, 1992), Vercic et al. (1996) explained the importance of identifying five contextual variables that influence the practice of the normative principles. Vercic, Grunig, and Grunig (Vercic et al., 1996) proposed a global theory of public relations that was elaborated by Sriramesh and Vercic (2003a, 2003b, 2009) in their Global Public Relations Handbook and by Sriramesh (2009) in a special issue of PRism. Their global public relations theory attempted to answer the question of whether public relations theory and practice should be unique to each country or culture or whether it should be practiced in the same way everywhere. Authors answered this question by theorising that global public relations should fall in the middle between standardisation and individualisation (Grunig, 2009). The theoretical framework of Sriramesh and Vercic (2003) has been used to assess the status of public relations in countries around the world. Contextualised studies are the core component of the global public relations concept. As Vercic (2009) reported, international PR practices should represent the best practices anywhere because of their necessary complexities and reach. Global theory is not a positive theory, which describes a type of public relations that currently is practiced everywhere in the world. Research, such as that reported in Sriramesh and Vercic (2003, 2009), does show that there are many idiosyncrasies in public relations practice around the world that reflect cultural differences. It also shows that the one worldwide universal in public relations practice is what is J. Grunig have called the press agentry/publicity model (Grunig et al., 1995)-the least effective of the models. Rather, their global theory is a normative theory that argues that public relations will be most effective throughout most parts of the world (Grunig, 2009, p.2).
Emphasising cross-cultural effects on reputation in multinational organizations Wakefield (2007b, 2008) argues that there still is an important distinction between global and domestic public relations practices, and that understanding those differences will contribute to better global practice. More specifically, recent research has also called into questions of need to understand how culture affects public relations. There are numbers of key researches (Grunig et al., 1995) who have written papers specifically on the subject. A similar study was conducted by Neff (1991), who has indicated that economic development is leading public relations firms down a path requiring knowledge of culture and language in addition to public relations. Perhaps one of the most influential recent publications on multiculturalism in public relations education was produced by Sriramesh (Sriramesh, 2002, Sriramesh, 2003). He has also reported that public relations education has not kept pace with the rapid globalisation that has occurred since 1992 (Sriramesh, 2002). Sriramesh (2009) called for a need for a more thoughtful representation of many of the ‘generic principles’ of public relations practice to suit the ‘local environment’, so that the body of knowledge is more holistic and relevant to global demands. However, there still is a room for an assumption that not all the practitioners require international training and international perspective.
RESEARCH / CRITICS:
Since the advent of the Internet, it is even more tempting to view PR practice as the same anywhere, and therefore it decreases attempts to produce research or principles that need to view â€œcross-border PR’ as different’ (Wakefield, 2007a). Despite the numerous calls for research, reviewed works and studies on global (national) public relations released in the 2000s (see table 1) (Portugal, United States – see table) have recorded that this area of research is underrepresented. Despite global trends underlining increased internationalisation, these results can be interpreted to indicate that Researchers have not paid enough attention to the international perspective. An important indicator is the place international public relations occupy in the list of priority research topics. One recent example is a ‘Study of the Priorities for Public Relations Research’ conducted by Deputy Dean of Media School of Bournemouth University (UK) Tom Watson (Watson, 2008, Watson, 2007)  .He sent 26 public relations topics to a Delphi study panel and the Top Ten PR research topics were identified, however, international perspective was excluded from the list. A US professor and professional Robert Wakefield responded critically to Watson’s Delphi study:
First, I was surprised in finding that the topic fell all the way out of the top ten. After all, aren’t PR issues and challenges, along with its overall scope of practice, becoming more international with each passing year?(2007a, p. 6)
Nonetheless he added:
â€œThere really are no more studies being done on international public relations now than have been done over the course of the last three decades. Those that are being published are increasingly making such statements as â€œthere is no such thing as local PR anymore,’ or â€œtoday, everything is global.’ Well, if this represents what academics and practitioners are thinking, then it would stand to reason that no real different research needs to be done-that ANY PR principles, even if they are all traditionally domestic in nature, would suffice for research or practice anywhere in the world’ (2007a, p.7).
The seminal critique in this area is also by Sriramesh (2009, p.6), who argues: â€œWhen scholars think of, and discuss, public relations, the global perspective is often overlooked’. Sriramesh’s (2009) critique of Mackey (Mackey, 2003), who claimed to introduce the various contemporary theories of public relations in the inaugural issue of Prism is also indicative:
â€œThe author attempted to review â€œthe changing vistas in public relations theory’, there was not a single mention of any advances in global public relations theorising in that piece even though by 2003/that time there were several advances worth reporting'(2009, p.8).
Another example is Distasso (2009). Authors surveyed 312 public relations executives and educators to examine how well practitioners and instructors perceive public relations students to be prepared for the practice, the content and value of public relations curricula and, the future of public relations education in the United States. Even though scholar mentioned globalisation as a factor increasingly influencing public relations practice he had not included it in the questionnaires or research questions.
Somewhat it contrast are papers from the annual International Public Relations Research Symposium Bledcom, which reflect the diverse and up-to-date research traditions amongst scholars working in the field of public relations both within the USA and Europe (Moss et al., 1997, Newman and Vercic, 2002, Moss et al., 2003, Sriramesh and Vercic, 2003a, Sriramesh, 2004, Van Ruler and Vercic, 2004, Van Ruler et al., 2008, Sriramesh and Vercic, 2009). These are scholars, who systematically examines the priorities for PR research and determine international agenda
These differences in research agenda … are reflected/explained, to some degree, in the/by
Scholars like Sriramesh, Vercic, Wakefield and others highlighted the important point that an issue of international public relations is not reflected enough in the research questions.
International public relations education (IPRE)
As a corollary to the process of globalisation has been the recognition of the need to make public relations education more internationally focused and future public relations professionals more internationally and interculturally competent (Lane & DiStephano, 1992) / Huthcings et al., 2002 There have been numbers of calls for new public relations curricula aimed at educating staffs that can understand and meet increasing international social, economic and political complexities and challenges. (Pratt and Ogbondah, 1994, p. 13). The International Association of Universities (1998) supported the need for business schools to be more international in their strategy, claiming higher education must integrate an intercultural dimension into its teaching and research, if it is to fulfil its role and maintain excellence. (Hutchings et al., 2002, p. 58). Another rationale for an international public relations course is the accelerating pace of societal and technological change today. These changes call for adaptations in academic curricula and professional development programs.
There were written dozen papers on justification of international public relations education based on research in the different areas.
Some went radical claiming that â€œany curriculum that excludes international public relations courses is ineffective in addressing student and practitioner needs, particularly in the next century’ (21 century).(Pratt and Ogbondah, 1994) p.9
Factors what influence the development of IPRE are mostly the same, however they have different interpretations. The need for international courses in public relations is demonstrated further by the growing global recognition of public relations degree programs and education, a phenomenon that Cantor (1984) predicted more than twenty years ago. And indeed, previous investigation has established that the call for internationalisation of public relations education has been there for a long time and comes from both industry and academia sectors (Neff, 1991, Cottone et al., 1985). However, disagreements between practitioners and educators on a blueprint for international public relations education have also been documented (Pratt and Ogbondah, 1994). A decade old survey of U.S. public relations educators and practitioners that explored the state of curricula and content in public relations education found that both practitioners and educators perceive need to incorporate courses and content that will prepare future practitioners for the global landscape (Neff et al., 1999). A Public relations is a multidisciplinary area of study and practice that must change as rapidly as the context and society in which it exists (Baskin, 1989, p. 35). As public relations continues to be a globalised profession, curriculum should be updated to reflect the practice. Ten years later similar study has recorded, that having a global perspective and experience with a variety of cultures are necessary but lacking skills for advanced level practitioners (DiStaso et al., 2009, p.269).
An important consideration in providing students with some skills in achieving cross-cultural understanding is the recognition that, as future business professionals and leaders, they will live in a society increasingly characterised by international labour mobility and multiculturalism. The international manager or employee will be an individual who will spend their working lives in several distinct job areas working for several organisations as well as making several sojourns to various international postings. This means that the new style employee will need to be cosmopolitan, multilingual, multifaceted and what Schneider & Barsoux (1997, p. 157) refer to as a capacity to operate â€œacross national borders somewhat like James Bond’. Public relations education at all levels and in both communication and MBA programmes should educate students to practise public relations globally (Grunig and Grunig, 2002). However, not only do students need to be trained and prepared for this mobility, but even those who do not move to another nation face the recognition that the domestic work environment also requires some responsiveness to differing cultures (Hutchings et al., 2002, p. 69). Sriramesh (2009, p.6) makes a reasonable argument that even textbooks in the US and the UK should contain more ‘global’ cases and interpretations so as to give their own students a more international and holistic education, thus broadening their horizons. It is indicated that authors of university’s level public relations textbooks have not yet realised the growing importance of international public relations and thus deal marginally with it.
The International Public Relations Association (IPRA) has drawn on its international membership to research and recommend standards for public relations education and has established the results of its work in two ‘Gold papers’ in 1982 and 1990 (IPRA (1982) Gold paper No. 4, A Model for Public Relations Education for Professional Practice, and (1990) Gold Paper No.7, Public Relations Education – Recommendations and Standards). (White, 1991) p.184-185 Not much has changed since that time.
Number of general papers were designed in response to the need for public relations education to produce well-trained, culturally sensitive practitioners (Miller, 1992, Ekachai and Komolsevin, 1998, Burbules and Torres, 2000, Bardhan, 2003, Dickerson, 2005, Tuleja, 2008). With the increasing importance of international communication, some educators had considered creating a course dedicated to international public relations (Pratt and Ogbondah, 1994, Taylor, 2001). In a special edition of Public Relations Review on developing teaching related materials, Taylor (2001) offered guidance to public relations educators on how to develop an international public relations curriculum because: â€œNew communication technologies and global communication processes create more frequent international communication’ (Taylor, 2001, p.2). Nevertheless, some of the Taylor’s conclusions sounded far too decisive: ‘The most comprehensive way to internationalize the public relations curriculum is to offer a course dedicated to international public relations’ (p. 74). Creedon and Al-Khaja (2005) analysed how adding cultural competency to the list of skills and competencies required in educational programs presents an opportunity to educate a generation that will accept difference and value a global culture separate from national identity. Then again the study was rather limited – the authors conducted a survey of accredited programs to determine whether or not a history course was required of their majors. Another empirical-based study argued that just talking about the importance if IPR in the classroom is not sufficient, students have to be able to live international public relations in order to understand its relevance (Bardhan, 1999, p. 19).
An important portion of literature on international public relations education suggests the necessity for students to learn about other countries through immersion. According to Porth (Porth, 1997, Tuleja, 2008) the international study tour course may be a legitimate answer to critics of education who urge business schools to â€œgo global’ and to create stronger ties with the international business and academic communities. More specifically, recent research has also called into question the assumption of studying internationally. For instance, Hutchings et al. (2002, p. 58)suggests that the challenge for the education is how to devise a short-term study program that is effective in exposing international concepts to the student. Yet, foreign travel alone is not the panacea for internationalising PR education because it is difficult to manage even if having resources. Hutchings’ study is focused on going abroad, even so it may make some contribution to understanding of global consciousness characterised as moving towards a recognition and appreciation of increasingly global diversity and interdependence.
Arguments about which is the best approach to international public relations education, courses and its numbers, or changing the context with its live experience and observations, largely missed the important point that methods have to be fit for their purposes. For some purposes, this is the best, and in other cases the choice will be this and that. Furthermore, although those approaches rest on very different use of resources and possibilities, they can be complementary in the hands of future research and need to be incompatible. Many studies would benefit from mindfully using each approach for different purposes at different stages of the internationalisation. Fuller discussions of this are to be found in some public relations papers, including (Neff, 1991, Dibrova and Kabanova, 2004, Peterson and Mak, 2006, Chung, 2007/8, Dolby and Rahman, 2008).
Authors such as Kalupa and Carroll Bateman (1980) have suggested that public relations educators have failed maintain the currency of the teaching in relation to the practice. On the other hand, Holbrook (1985, 1995) has been one of the most prominent critics of the idea of selecting research topics based on what is of interest to practitioners. He has argued that such an orientation tarnishes the purity of the academic endeavour. Amongst other challenges Bardhan (1999) recorded that educators feel unprepared at present to handle the task effectively and lack of interest among students. Falb (1991, 1992) has claimed that because of putting public relations curriculums in either Mass Communications or Journalism public relations has been inhibited in its growth in academic and professional areas. Similar study was conducted by (Pincus et al., 1994), who argued that communication topics do not rate high in MBA programs:
â€œIf public relations faculty do not champion the recognition of public relations topics in MBA programs, the profession will never realize entry to the highest levels of corporate decision making’ (1994: p.55) .
Making an analogy, this statement might be extended by claiming that If public relations faculty do not champion the recognition of international public relations concepts in Postgraduate programs, the profession will lack behind present state of research and practice. This statement finds a reflection in recent research as well. Papers like Sriramesh (2002) claim that it is time for educators to integrate experiences from other continents into the PR body of knowledge, thereby building PR curricula that contribute to training truly multicultural PR professionals.
Sriramesh and Vercic (2003) underlined the compelling need for a text describing and explaining public relations practices and body of knowledge in different parts of the world. Their call for research has been taken up and largely because it proposed a framework, which made it easier to facilitate global research. Thereby, by critically examining the framework scholars in different countries enrich international public relations body of knowledge and provides prove or counter-arguments to the Global theory. Nonetheless, it might be argued that among those five factors, which have been put forward by Sriramesh and Vercic (2003), one is missing – professional PR training. In this regard it can be concluded the following. Firstly, such indicator as level of professional training can be considered as a sixth factor influencing practicing public relations in country. Secondly, on the basis of a global concept can be developed a similar concept and subsequently applied to the study of international public relations education. Thirdly, basing on data provided from the five factors, it allowed to determine the degree of standardization vs. localization of IPR programs and courses and to identify barriers and obstacles.
Achieving internationalisation of public relations education is concluded to be important for three reasons. First, because many graduating students will be finding employment internationally and benefit from having been educated to be effective in differing cultural settings. Second, because rapid changes in national immigration policies have meant that many more nations are considerably more multicultural than they have been in the past and citizens need to be more conscious of diversity in their national and organisational surroundings. Third, because the pace of changes in the international political economy necessitates that people must be responsive to international economic and business forces. Thus, students who receive an internationally focused public relations education should be more culturally and socially aware and prepared to cope with the demands of rapid international economic, political and social change (Hutchings et al., 2002).
Professional education and training are one of the major issues in every country in which public relations is practised. Even the US, where there are hundreds of public relations education are frequently expressed, and senior practitioners rise questions about the value of existing public relations education programmes (White, 1991, p. 184). Sommerness and Beaman (1994) found only few offerings of university courses emphasising international public relations across the United States at that time. However, most recent study has shown that some authors (Hatzitos and Lariscy, 2008) report an increased interest in scholarly research in international public relations and an effort to internationalise the public relations curricula at many U.S. universities. Despite the fact that significant gaps were found between desired outcomes and those actually found in the opinions of both practitioner and educators, certain surveys (Neff et al., 1999) have revealed strong agreement between educators and practitioners regarding the training, experience and expertise outcomes needed for career development in public relations. Thus, while the goals of public relations education to certain extent seem clear, the means of achieving those goals, including curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, may not be as clear.
However, studies such as examining perception, asking whether or not IPR should be emphasised – doesn’t really contribute anymore as the concept have solidly grounded. There have been dozen papers reporting that call for a development. What more valuable for this particular research is the fact that international public relations education requires to be integrated into global PR perspective. International experiences, approaches and cases must be studied and shared between international academic societies. The literature review recorded a substantial gap in international public relations education research elsewhere than U.S. Therefore there is a need in further researching and describing development in IPRE globally. This particular study will explore perceptions and state of IPR education in two countries – the United Kingdom and Russia.
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