Experiential design for learning public relations

The project is designed as a simulation of a professional PR firm with 8 departments. It facilitates the transfer of knowledge and theory in practice and enables students to gain a first professional experience, by simulating for a limited period of time a real job. Also, the project contributes to student placement by ensuring a first experience that counts when he/she candidates for a first job. On the other hand, the project links the university with the professional field and enables the companies or agencies to discover potential new talents.
It is developed since 2007 in year I and II (from 2014 onward) in College of Communication and Public Relations, SNSPA Bucharest, on the space of the main PR course (Theories and practices of Public Relations). One series participates a full semester, on a sequential time basis (only for the tasks in which they are involved). Since “Intelligent communication” is designed as a simulation of a professional PR firm, after applying for the project as for being hired in a PR agency, students are interviewed and selected for an appropriate position. The number of students was different from year to year, approximately 44-48 students in most of the editions. After being formed, the teams received real tasks that were designed to be solved in teams. They receive feed-back from teachers or from the professionals, after which they improve their tasks and deliver them in a final form. The average number of tasks solved by a team is 2-3 in one semester. Starting from 2010, some of the teams received real tasks from small companies and NGOs and they executed them on a pro bono basis.

 


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Impact

What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

The project addresses several challenges: the application of theory in practice (difficult in all fields), students' lack of soft skills, and the demands of experience when students apply for a first job.
The project offers to students the occasion to play the role of employee, being involved in real tasks. Students receive help from supervisors to understand how the theoretical concepts function in practice, and also to develop the soft skills (the capacity to learn to cooperate in a professional context, to communicate with colleagues and managers in order to deliver a task).
Further, many of the participants placed this project in their CV and presented their activities as a reason to be selected for a real job, while some other received recommendations. In 2016, the best of them were selected by the partner agency for a 3-months internship finished with employment.
The feed-back of students was (after each edition) extremely positive, as helping them to understand the nature, principles and instruments of the profession. They appreciated the occasion to see the stages of preparing and delivering a task, and learned that their professional role is a construction that starts with the recruitment, continues with communication with team members and/or the interaction with clients, and with the delivering of tasks.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

The dissemination of the project to more organizational actors and in the public space might facilitate the success by attracting more agencies or companies which could offer prizes and create a more intense motivation to students. Also, dissemination would contribute to enhancing a fine reputation for this project and for simulation in general, attracting more talented students. Also, the project should receive more institutional support by formal partnerships and facilities.

Constraints

What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

A first constraint is the lack of budget. The effort of the manager of the project should be considered as a part of a teacher activity and counted adequately. There has to be a budget for the coordination of project and for logistics (rooms for meetings, materials as video cameras, laptops, printers and materials for printing).
Many agencies could be reluctant to involve in the project since the efforts to integrate students as young professionals are not to be neglected.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

The practice could be extended easily in all areas. It requires a fine coordination between university and companies/agencies. In order to ensure the quality, a clear model of organization and activity should be implemented, and incentives should be available for students and teachers/professionals involved. As a budget of time, more time is spent by university actors (teachers, organizers) in comparison with the professional actors.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

Most of the participants indicated that, among all the aspects they have learned, the most important lesson referred to their responsibility towards colleagues and clients, to be able to deliver a task with the requested features before a deadline.
The coordinators learned to be more effective from year to year in the designing of this context, but also in communication and feed-back.

Context

Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

In Romania, the partnerships are in many cases informal (there are no documents signed) because the bureaucracy inside institutions and universities is important and requires a lot of effort.