The Changing Role of Public Relations in Higher Education
Despite the sphere of higher education faces numerous challenges, the role of this stage of formal learning is incredibly important. For the majority of people, higher education has become an admission ticket to rewarding and well-paid jobs, personal development, career growth, and, finally, an access to a middle-class lifestyle. Generally speaking, the benefits of having a college or university education are numerous and, at the same time, not limited to graduate salaries and promising employment prospects. The current paper aims to explore and evaluate the changing role of public relations in the field of higher education. In other words, much attention will be paid to the trends of public relations in the past and the changing role of present influences of PR on the sphere of higher education. In order to cover all the important information concerning the relations between higher education and PR, the following aspects will be embraced: the impact of social media on public relations in higher education, the role of technology in public relations in this industry, qualities and skills that are required for PR practitioners, and, finally, the effects of globalization processes on higher education.
Brief Overview of the Industry
Higher education focuses on the level of professionalism that gives the chance to students to continue their studies after graduation at different establishments, especially high schools, gymnasiums, and, finally, secondary schools. Despite higher education is an optional stage of formal learning, the industry is large and continuously growing because there are more and more individuals in different countries willing to obtain a wide range of personal, financial, and many other lifelong benefits from such training. The most common challenges the sphere of higher education faces are directly linked to the high costs, “skills gap”, and the growing need for meaningful reforms that will considerably increase the value of the product, accessibility to this formal learning, and, the quality of college and university education.
Public Relations in Higher Education in the Past
In spite of the fact that public relation practices drastically differ from public relations in many other spheres, effective promotion is critically important for successful functioning of different higher education institutions. According to the estimations of the researchers who explore the close link between higher education and PR practices, the quality of public relations influences individuals and society as a whole. Nowadays, effective PR methods and techniques are considered to be the most powerful and influential tools that promote the increased value and significance of higher education. In other words, the primary purpose of public relation practices and techniques in the past was to contribute to the creation of a favorable image of educational establishments. Taking into account the historical perspective, the main reasons that explain the penetration and strategic integration of PR practices in higher education are linked to supporting the main objectives and missions, raising the profile, and, finally, promoting the success of universities. In other words, public relations in the sphere of higher education in the past were primarily aimed at conveying to public the reasons making each higher educational institution different.
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The Changing Role of PR in Higher Education
Taking into consideration the finding of the researchers, the role of public relation practices has enlarged with time. With the primary purpose to extend the breadth of opportunities and increase the contributions of PR to the field, public relations have become an effective strategic tool that maintains good rapport among the stakeholders, decreases conflicts as well as promotes cooperation between higher educational establishments and different constituents. Therefore, scholars and practitioners who work in the sphere of public relations agree upon the fact that promotion is effectively used nowadays as tools that give the chance to maintain a positive image of the institution. Because in modern globalized world commitment of educational establishments to cultural diversity is a crucial characteristic, PR practices hape perceptions and commitment of colleges and universities. In general, public relations researchers agree upon the fact that rapid globalization contributes to complex demands and functions of PR in higher education. In addition, international integration has shaped PR in higher education as it has drastically increased the need of establishments to address numerous issues associated with diversity in culture, political economy, and expansion of technology. In spite of the fact that the phenomenon of globalization has started in the early 1990s, the processes have brought new levels of significance to the higher education PR in the 21st century.
Furthermore, technological innovations and new media shape the functioning of PR in higher education. For instance, the Internet gives a valuable opportunity to PR scholars and practitioners to collect important information, participate in an open dialogue with legal authorities as well as the public as well as monitor public opinions. Different social platforms, email client response facilities, and popularity of electronic news are bright examples of public relations practices shaping higher education. Nowadays, every person who has an access to the web has an opportunity to reveal and publish up-to-date information for potential global consumption of concerned individuals. It is important to emphasize that technological innovations and advancements has increased the amount of positive skills, qualities, and capabilities that should be possessed by PR practitioners in education. To begin with, well-developed writing and communicative skills are traditional attributes essential for public relation professionals in different spheres and industries. In addition, public relation practitioners should express creativity and critical-reasoning skills as well as be ready to leave their comfort zones and take risks. Therefore, modern PR practitioners should be “technologically intelligent” in order to be familiar not only with the myriad of traditional communication channels but also with the digital ones. Because content development is considered to be one of the most critical characteristics of effective PR campaigns in higher education, the practitioners in this sphere should be able to experiment with all available forms of content.
To sum up, after having analyzed varied aspect of PR profession long before and nowadays, it is possible to conclude that the role of public relations in the field of higher education is enormous because PR practices encourage higher educational establishments to build credibility and good reputation. In addition, PR in higher education assists universities not only in meeting the needs but also in exceeding the expectations of the third parties. Finally, technological advancements and globalization processes have the power and shape and change PR practices in the field of higher education.