Social media’s blurring of the boundaries between advertising and public relations raise the question of whether educators can adequately prepare their students for a career in those fields, according to a Baylor study and related article, “Gaps in Advertising and Public Relations Education: Perspectives of Agency Leaders,” published in Journal of Advertising Education.

Marlene Neill, assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and co-author Erin Schauster, an assistant professor at University of Colorado-Boulder, interviewed 29 executives in advertising and public relations agencies to identify emerging trends and their impact on advertising and public relations education. 

They found that while traditional advertising and public relations skills, such as writing and presentation, remain foundational, other skills are now necessary for success in both fields. Areas of deficiency among recent graduates included math skills and business skills, including reading and interpreting financial documents; budgeting; applying business vocabulary; and understanding business challenges.

Some new services and roles being filled by recent graduates in today’s workforce include social listening, online community management, native advertising, social media analytics, content amplification and programmatic buying.

“We concluded that as public relations executives begin pursuing more paid online media strategies, they may need additional training in media planning and buying, particularly in the areas of programmatic buying, search engine optimization and search engine marketing,” Schauster said. “Likewise, as advertising executives assume online community management roles, they may need additional training in issues and crisis management.”

Recommendations include:

  • Business literacy: Have advertising and public relations students read and analyze investment reports and financial statements, as well as take current events quizzes from business and trade publications.
  • Math: Require advertising and public relations students to take a statistics course.
  • Online community management: Have advertising and public relations students conduct social listening/social media audit and develop evaluation reports using social media analytics; advertising students should consider taking electives in public relations to learn about crisis and issues management.
  • Media planning/buying: PR students should consider taking advertising electives to learn about paid media strategies.