Academics in Residence: a solution to bridging the PR academic-practice divide?

Why is there such a disconnect between PR academia and practice? Most other professions welcome and encourage collaboration and see academia as a contributor to innovation, knowledge enhancement and professional development. Not so PR.

Often PR academics are looked at with suspicion especially if we use words like epistemology, ontology and constructs!

I was taken with Sarah Williams’ really great blog about this last year which neatly sums up some of the issues:

“practitioners were reluctant to engage with some of the different ways of seeing and thinking about industry problems envisaged by the academics; they felt that academics were out of touch with their reality. Conversely, academics felt that the practitioners were too focused on technical issues relating to the day job; too obsessed with academics delivering ‘oven-ready’ graduates rather than the broader industry issues; they felt that practitioners were out of touch with their reality.”

At LCC where the Network for Public Relations and Society is based, we are lucky in that we have a great bunch of practitioners who operate as Associate and Special Lecturers to ensure that our students on the BA and MA programmes remain grounded in practice. I know other universities do the same. They are our ‘practitioners-in-residence’ and they are brilliant.

Yet it’s also right that we stretch and challenge thinking about our own profession so that it is fit for both the 21st century  and the 22nd century. Isn’t that the role of academia? Our job is to inform, discuss, debate, question, challenge and transform. Crumbs, isn’t that PR?

Shouldn’t practice be doing this too? Why not think about ‘academics-in-residence’ who can work with agencies and in-house teams to share and spread the knowledge coming from universities and other research centres (like this Network) – all of which have the potential to make what PR does more effective.

At the same time, the needs of practice can be brought back more efficiently into the research agenda. Let’s challenge practice to “adopt an academic” and let’s start speaking the same language – our passion for this fantastic thing called PR.

This is something we’re currently developing and look forward to developing, rolling out and telling you more about.