Yesterday, I had the privilege of being one of about a dozen industry experts asked my views on how the University of Winnipeg’s department of Professional, Applied and Continuing Education should shape its public relations program in the future, and to comment on proposed changes to the program.
The UofW’s program competes locally with the more established Creative Communications program at Red River College. In my opinion, both are needed to serve a growing demand for well-trained communications professionals.
Over the past couple decades we’ve seen technology disrupt just about every industry. While some industries have hadÂ their existences challenged, corporate communications is one area that keeps growing. Whenever I speak to communications students (which I’m lucky to be invited to do regularly), I tell them they’ve chosen a career in a fast growing profession.
Corporations, governments and non-profits are all publishers today. They need to create content constantly for multiple channels – website, blog, news media and social media. They need to create different kinds of content too, from status updates, blog posts and videos to news releases, annual reports and newsletters.
My hope is the training and education keeps pace with the changing face of our industry. I was glad to see UofW engaging communications professionals to ask them what changes we’d like to see to their program.
From my point of view, communications grads need to come out of school with certain core skills. First and foremost, they need to be good writers. That’s more important than ever before. Consider this: most organizations assign junior employees to their Facebook and Twitter feeds – frequently working on their own with only a social media policy pinned to their walls as guidance. That’s like swinging on the flying trapeze without a net. Those people need to be confident writers and that only comes with practice and training.
Most of the time, communications is about solving problems, and that requires creativity, so communications grads also need to be open to all kinds of options when planning a campaign. That means they need to be unafraid to learn new technologies and use new tools. Those tools will continue to change rapidly in the years ahead, but today’s communications pros need to be confident in theirÂ abilities to experiment.
The most successful communications grads will be those who can see the big picture. What are the issues that are challenging your organization today? How is the landscape changing? How can communications support a successful future for your company or non-profit?
I look forward to seeing what changes the UofW introduces to its program to meet the needs of its students.