Where do Universities Fit on the Professional Development Continuum in Australia? The Views of Advertising and Public Relations Practitioners

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1 Where do Universities Fit on the Professional Development Continuum in Australia? The Views of Advertising and Public Relations Practitioners Gayle Kerr, Bill Proud, Park Beede, Queensland University of Technology Abstract While executive education in Australia today is largely the province of industry organizations, it could provide a financial lifeline to many universities. This study looks at the executive education preferences of advertising and public relations practitioners in Australia. In examining their priorities, it finds some significant differences between the two disciplines, based largely on the relevance of the subject to their profession. It also finds some common ground in that both advertising and public relations practitioners are seeking strategic courses from executive education, as well as demonstrating a preference towards new disciplinary areas. Generic skills, a priority of undergraduate education and hire, are not strongly sought in executive education. Introduction and Purpose Changes in educational funding have forced universities to seek alternative sources of revenue, such as the recruitment of international students or introducing full-fee paying places. Another potential source of revenue for universities is executive education. Currently in Australia, executive education is largely the province of industry organizations such as the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI), the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and the Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA). However in markets such as the US, executive education programs are often used to augment professional practice in newer areas such as integrated marketing communication (Kerr et al, 2005). Latin American countries use executive education programs featuring visiting professors to update the knowledge and skills of local practitioners in areas where the university has little expertise (Kerr et al, 2005). With increasing pressure on the tertiary sector in Australia, where do universities fit on the professional development continuum in Australia today? Is executive education a viable option for Australian universities? If so, what would we teach and how? Much of the literature on marketing education has dealt with curriculum choices in undergraduate programs (Kelley and Bridges, 2005; Kerr et al, 2005; Kerr and Moran, 2000; Garcia, 1996). It has looked at the stakeholders in the education process such as government, universities and students (Ackerman, Gross and Perner, 2003) and at issues of curriculum content and accreditation priorities (Floyd and Gordon, 1998). However, few studies have looked past the traditional university programs to consider the role that universities could play in executive education. If, as McMorland (1990 in Burge, 1996) suggests, there is a continuum of professional development that carries a person from aspiring student to retirement, at what point do the educational responsibilities of universities finish and those of the professional industry bodies begin? Is the increasing popularity of postgraduate education a surrogate for professional development? Or is postgraduate education used to switch careers rather than to expand upon disciplinary knowledge?

2 This study explores whether advertising and public relations practitioners in Australia perceive that universities have a role to play in executive education. It canvases which kinds of courses professionals would consider taking from a university and looks at whether there is a difference in the professional development priorities of the two disciplines. This paper is important because it is the first Australian investigation of the role of executive education in marketing departments, and its potential contribution to the professional development of the disciplines and the revenue generation of the university. It also offers an analysis of the different perspectives of two marketing communication counterparts, advertising and public relations employers, and their potential usage of executive education. This provides fodder for further curriculum development in the marketing area. Literature Review Many practitioners begin their professional development in undergraduate university courses. McMorland s (1990 in Burge, 1996) professional identity development model suggests there are six stages of development that carry a person from initial aspiration to retirement in their career. These stages are aspirant, student, novice, licensed professional, mature practitioner to retired person. The first three of these stages align with career formation and lead to the later stages of career fulfillment. Aspirants select appropriate university courses and enroll as a student. Professional development is often part of their undergraduate studies. In fact, the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), an accrediting body for some universities such as QUT and the Australian Graduate School of Management, incorporate student skill development into their standards (Kelley and Bridges, 2003). However, other marketing educators argue that universities should not be involved in career preparation. Already over-stretched university budgets often preclude a specialist course. Other obstacles include overambitious course content, finding faculty to teach professional development and student resentment at having to practice skills rather than study content (Holter and Kopta 2001). The graduate becomes the novice, as theory is translated into practice (McMorland 1990 in Burge, 1996). With further industry experience, the novice becomes the professional, characterized by a capacity to master theoretical knowledge, to solve problems, to apply practical knowledge and a willingness to develop the self (McMorland 1990 in Burge, 1996). McMorland (1990 in Burge, 1996) summarises, Learning professionally appropriate behaviour is a long process of formal and informal socialization distinct from the acquisition of knowledge and technical expertise. Professional development requires the individual also to learn how to work within a matrix of social relationships, both with clients and with colleagues. The value of professional development is undeniable. But at what point on the continuum does formal education relinquish its educational responsibilities and the professional industry bodies take up these responsibilities? There are documented benefits of the value of professional development in university courses. For example, Kleine (2002) found that the stronger the student identifies with being a marketing major, the more they enact the behaviours that will ultimately lead to professional success. Greater professional identification leads to greater brand loyalty and makes the student an excellent on-campus spokesperson for the discipline (Kleine 2002). For this reason, it is important that students early in their major have contact with

3 aspirational reference groups. It is also at this point that students, viewed as a whole person, begin to define their career identity through social needs and self concept (Vondracek, 1992). Hoelter (1983) suggests that role identities are organized as a hierarchy, where the higher the role is ranked, the more important it is to the student s self concept. This ranking is based on two important predictors identity-related self evaluations and identity related social connections. In terms of marketing communication students, enhancing networking, applying industry symbols and rituals, enhancing self-evaluations and marketing related self image contributes to stronger professional development image (Hoelter, 1983). Another way to develop professional identity in university courses is to encourage industry collaboration in course design. Acknowledging that the employer is an important stakeholder in the educational process, their promised collaboration in course design often attracts students and attests to the real-world validity of the university programs. In addition, accreditation requirements such as the AACSB or the PRIA encourage stakeholder consultation as a measure of program improvement (Young and Murphy, 2003). As a novice, the student applies both generic skills such as personal characteristics and support skills, as well as discipline related knowledge and discipline related skills (McCorkle et al, 2001) in their workplace. These vocational skills are highly sought by employers, as on-the-job training is an expensive process and many employers are reluctant to invest in training new recruits (Garcia, 1996; Ducoffe and Ducoffe 1990 in Burge, 1996). In looking specifically at the marketing communication disciplines, a study by Kerr and Proud (2005) revealed many similarities and some significant differences in the priorities of advertising and public relations employers in hiring entry-level recruits. While the top three priorities were the same generic skills of communication, personality and strategic thinking, public relations practitioners weighed practical aspects such as experience in the field and internships as significantly more important than their advertising colleagues. Instead, advertising practitioners considered specific discipline knowledge as more important than experience. In another significant difference between the two practitioner groups, public relations employers felt that advertising graduates required less strategic skills than public relations graduates. On the other hand, advertising practitioners rated the skills of entry level recruits as similar across the two disciplines. In summary, professional development begins when people aspire towards career paths and ends with retirement. In between, there is a place for universities to contribute to marketing education, as well as a time when professional industry organizations may take priority. There is very little research in the field of marketing education that specifically looks at the role of executive education and what universities may contribute. Research Questions and Methodology The literature review has highlighted the lack of research on executive education in Australia. To fill this gap, this research asks two important questions. RQ1: What areas of content are advertising and public relations professionals most interested in studying?

4 RQ2: Is there a difference in the professional development priorities of advertising and public relations professionals? To answer these questions, a closed-ended questionnaire asked respondents to state their degree of interest in taking university-run professional training courses on a five-point scale from very interested to not interested at all. The items on the questionnaire relating to curriculum choices were taken from a previously tested instrument (Rose and Miller, 1994; Rose, 1994). The questionnaire was sent nationally to database of 240 senior decision makers in advertising and public relations firms, assembled from professional associations, industry press, the AdNews Handbook and a university database. A mailout was dispatched, followed by an blast two weeks later. A total of 87 responses were gathered (43 advertising and 44 public relations), yielding a response rate of 36%. Findings Predictably, the findings showed significant differences between the executive education preferences of advertising and public relations practitioners according to the subject s direct relation to their vocation. That is, advertising practitioners preferred advertising subjects such as corporate advertising, creative design, direct marketing, Internet, media planning, pan Australian advertising, principles of advertising, consumer behaviour and audience research significantly more than their public relations counterparts. Public relations practitioners indicated a preference for crisis management, issues management, consulting and finance. In many cases, however, while the preference was significantly different, it was not strong or in some cases even positive. For example, advertising units such as creative design, principles of advertising or pan Australian advertising were not strongly favoured, averaging a mean of close to the neutral position of 3. This is perhaps indicative of the skills-based nature of these units, which would have less appeal to experienced practitioners. In contrast, the most favoured subjects for executive education for both advertising and public relations practitioners were of a strategic nature. Subjects such as strategic planning, communication planning, creative strategy and message evaluation polled greatest preference from advertising and public relations practitioners. Also of interest were newer areas of study such as integrated marketing communication, crisis management and issues management. In terms of generic skills, subjects such as report writing and public speaking were out of favour with the marketing communication professionals, yet research subjects such as survey research, qualitative research and audience research were still popular executive education choices.

5 Table 1: Significant Differences in the Executive Education Preferences of Advertising and PR Practitioners Advertising Mean Public Relations Mean Significance Agency Mgmt Audience Research ** Com Planning Consulting ** Consumer Behavr ** Copywriting Corp Adv ** Creative Design ** Creative Strategy Crisis Mgmt ** Direct Mktg ** Editing Ethics and Reg Finances ** IMC International Internet ** Issues Mgmt ** Law Mgmt Mktg Mgmt Media Evaluation Media Planning ** Media Relations Message Evaluation Pan Aust Adv ** Political Campaigns Principles of Adv ** Promotions Psychology of Com PR Principles Public Speaking Report Writing Research - Survey Research - Qual Strategic Planning Theory of Com Conclusion and Further Research This study is a start to understanding the role that universities in Australia may play in executive education. It is critical, not only as an exploratory study in an unresearched area, but also for its financial consequences. Further research could widen this study to include other disciplinary areas such as marketing or other curriculum decisions such as the structure, timing and remuneration of executive education courses.

6 References Ackerman, D., Gross, B. and Perner, L., Instructor, student and employer perceptions on preparing marketing students for changing business landscapes. Journal of Marketing Education 25 (1), Australian Higher Education Commission, Achieving Quality. Australian Government Printing Service, Canberra. Bull, D., Waldersee, R., Employer Expectations of QUT Research graduates in the field of Business. QUT Publications, Brisbane, Australia. Burge, A., A Skills Development Model for Marketing and Advertising Programmes. Proceedings of the Western Marketing Educators Association Conference. California, USA. Floyd, C., Gordon, M., What skills are most important? A comparison of Employer. Student and Staff Perceptions. Journal of Marketing Education 20 (2). Garcia, L., Developing a Business-Based Advertising Management Program in Undergraduate Schools. Proceedings of the Western Marketing Educators Association Conference. California, USA. Hunt, S., Chonko, L. and Wood, V., Advertising Education and Successful Advertising Careers: Are they related? Journal of Advertising Research 27 (2), Kelley, C. and Bridges, C., Introducing professional and career development skills in the marketing curriculum. Journal of Marketing Education 27 (3), Kerr, G., and Proud, W., Hiring Graduates: Perspectives from Advertising and Public Relations Employers. Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference. Perth, Australia. Kerr, G., Kim, I., Kobayashi, Y., Patti, C. and Schultz, D., Integrated Marketing Communication: International Learning and Teaching Issues. Proceedings of the American Academy of Advertising Asia-Pacific Conference. Hong Kong. Kerr, G., Moran, C., Employer Expectations of Advertising Graduates. Proceedings of the International Advertising Association Conference. Miami, USA. Kleine, S., Enhancing students role identity as marketing majors. Journal of Marketing Education. 24 (1),15-24 Rose, P., Miller, D., Merging Advertising and PR: Integrated marketing Communications. Journalism Educator 49 (2).

7 Young, M., Klemz, B. and Murphy, J., Enhancing learning outcomes: the effects of instructional technology, learning styles, instructional methods and student behavior. Journal of Marketing Education 25 (2).

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