Inspiring education for future PR professionals

Written by Simone Bell, MPRINZ, PRINZ CEO

Dr. Rebecca Deemer from University of Indianapolis, presenting at a joint PRINZ and AUT event

PRINZ members were privileged to hear from Dr Rebecca Deemer (bio below) from the University of Indianapolis (UIndy) at a joint PRINZ/AUT event all about bringing together education and industry in very practical ways.

Rebecca’s faculty at UIndy leads the way in educating future PR professionals, so much so that students fly in from all over American to enrol. The student-led consultancy Top Dog Communications has twice won "Best student-run PR firm" in the USA (from the PRSA) and fostered student readiness for the industry.

Some of the innovative things she does, which count toward the student’s final grade, include: a weekly current affairs quiz, professional activity points for industry involvement and a client survey that measures project outcomes as well as professionalism, etiquette, timeliness, dress and other important work-ready aspects.

Setting the room a goal to improve the perception of the industry by 2020, Rebeca inspired us to take action. Her state has 2 million more people than New Zealand’s total population, so the changes she is making through educating future professionals are a drop in the American bucket. However in New Zealand we are small, nimble, well-networked which she suggests, can create change quickly.

Here are a few ideas to consider implementing at your organisation if you don’t already:

  • Give communications staff a set number of hours a year (10 perhaps) to invest their time into PR education.
  • Ask for reverse mentoring – get students to teach you the logistics (not the strategy) of using social media.
  • Take part in industry focus groups run by educators – ensure you are a voice for PR education because others will be and you don’t want to miss out.
  • Contribute your organisation’s data to academics (within ethics protocols) for research that will benefit both parties.
  • Consider sponsoring a student’s PRINZ membership or attendance at the annual PRINZ Conference.
  • To allay any fear a student may have about attending an event on their own, be open to meeting beforehand to host them, and then sit with them at the event.

About Rebecca

Dr. Rebecca Gilliland Deemer, APR, is the Distinguished Professor of Service Learning and a tenured Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Indianapolis (UIndy) in the USA. She is also the advisor for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Chapter at UIndy. In 2007, Deemer assumed responsibility for the student-run agency Top Dog Communication (TDC) and has worked as the faculty advisor for the agency since that time. She totally restructured the agency, centering on professionalism of the students, service learning, and applied experiences. Her dedication to excellence has guided her students to numerous awards, most notably two national PRSSA awards for TDC as the Teahan Firm of the Year (Most Outstanding Student-Run Firm in the Nation) in 2011 and 2013. Deemer has been invited to present at conferences and symposiums across the globe, providing strong foundations and careful elaboration on topics like curriculum development, student-run public relations agencies, and evaluative measures. She has also been named a Plank Fellow and a Fulbright Specialist. She has practiced public relations for professional sports teams, corporations, and non-profit organisations.